Watford have appointed Rob Edwards to succeed Roy Hodgson as their new head coach following his controversial exit from Forest Green.
Forest Green chairman Dale Vince accused Watford of “doubling down on deceit” after Edwards left the club earlier on Wednesday and entered advanced talks for the position at Vicarage Road.
Edwards helped guide Rovers to the 2021/22 League Two title, finishing ahead of Exeter on goal difference, but the club confirmed he had left his position “with negotiations taking place behind our backs” over a switch to Watford.
Watford confirmed the appointment in a statement, saying Edwards “had a contractual provision allowing him to leave Forest Green Rovers at any time to discuss employment opportunities at other clubs”.
The 39-year-old took over at Forest Green 12 months ago following spells in charge of Telford, Wolves U23s and England U16s.
Edwards moved into coaching following a playing career that saw him represent Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Wolves. He was handed his first-team debut for Villa in December 2002 by Graham Taylor, the iconic former Watford manager.
Edwards will take over from Hodgson, who is due to leave the Hornets at the end of the current campaign after failing to save the club from relegation from the Premier League.
Watford are currently on a six-game losing run and their drop back into the Championship was confirmed on Saturday after a 1-0 defeat at Hodgson’s former club, Crystal Palace.
Hodgson took over at Watford in January to become their third head coach of the season after Xisco Munoz and Claudio Ranieri, but has won just two of his 15 games in charge.
The former England boss has also been unable to turn around the Hornets’ home form, with his side currently on an 11-game losing streak at Vicarage Road.
‘Deal done behind our back’: Forest Green fury at Watford approach
Vince was left less than impressed by the developments, revealing he had called Edwards on Tuesday evening as speculation mounted.
“As soon as he started speaking, I knew that it was real,” Vince exclusively told Sky SportsNews. “[He told me] that he had been in negotiations [with Watford] and felt it was a great opportunity for him.
“Overwhelmingly for me the feeling was disappointment, because in football people come and go all of the time. The important thing is the manner of it.
“I wish him well, but it is poor from Watford, who claim to be starting a new era, and it is poor from Rob as well. He has let us down, but he knows it, so there it is, and we will move on.”
Vince stressed Rovers should have been approached by Watford initially, so negotiations could commence in the proper manner.
“Watford advised Rob not to tell us specifically, so for me that doubles down on the deceit,” Vince added. “It is the kind of thing which gives football a bad name and the kind of thing which shouldn’t happen but occasionally does.
“I believe Watford have reached out today, so now there will be some more formal, more proper process to end Rob’s time here and for it to start at Watford.”
Rovers will now begin their own search to replace Edwards, who took over at the club during the summer of 2021.
“We have got a shortlist already and will just crack on with it,” Vince said. “We will find another up-and-coming young coach who has got all the attributes we looked for in Rob and will go again. We just move on.
“It is hard not to let it take the shine off us what has happened, promotion and winning the title, but it won’t get in the way of what we do in the future because we will carry on operating in the way we do – open and honest with everyone.”
Vince added: “I think everything will be fine – and if there is Karma in football, we will meet Watford in the Championship in a few years’ time.”