Ken Sema has been at Watford long enough to know how things work.
Players and managers come and go on a regular basis and while such a model has proven largely successful over the years, it makes it difficult to create a sense of unity within the squad.
There was certainly very little of that last season as Watford were relegated from the Premier League. The club have had three head coaches over the course of a tumultuous season, and midfielder Dan Gosling recently described it as “quite possibly the worst dressing room I’ve ever been in”.
However, new manager Rob Edwards is trying to change that and unify the squad.
Sema has been at Watford for four years and this summer that he can remember was the first time he took part in team bonding activities where the team went white water rafting. Team nights were also held and players were encouraged to talk about life outside of football so they could build connections.
“Because of the change of coach, we haven’t done that much at this club,” says Sema standard sport.
“Sometimes people are here for three months and don’t have time for team activities because they are focused on getting results.
“Rob is trying, but it will take time. You can’t believe that today is going to change and suddenly everything is just amazing. But it looks and feels like it’s the way to go.
“It is very important not only to have good players but also to have good people. For me it’s the person who makes the player, not the player who makes the person.
“You can have a player who is decent but an amazing person and the player will grow. But if you take a player who is very, very good – but doesn’t really fit into the team as a person – it’s going to be like a bad apple for the group.”
Some of the difficulties in forming a cohesive group come from players who are all of different nationalities. Sema admits that players are naturally drawn to those from the same place, but there’s a feeling that may be changing now after last season’s pain of relegation.
“When you’re back in the Premier League you have all this excitement but then it was a really bad season,” he says.
“We had three coaches in one season and you can’t really do that to get results. You have to have a game plan, maybe two, but three is quite a lot – and they were three completely different coaches.
“Xisko [Munoz] was energetic, smiled a lot, was all about happiness and being the best version of yourself. [Claudio] Ranieri was experienced, he had won the Premier League before, he was close and he was a bit old-fashioned. It was a different path than Xisco.
“Roy [Hodgson] was also very different from Xisco, but when he came, he came to try to save the team – but the team was already in a bad place.
“People were against each other. Some players who didn’t play were really pissed off. When he walked in, it felt like there was already some bad air and he was trying to fix it, but he might have been too late.”
Sentiment has improved under Edwards, who players have warmed to for his personal approach. Sema says it reminds him of the time when Xisco was appointed, with the Spaniard being particularly popular in the squad.
Edwards has also spent time nagging players on his football philosophy, with the young manager keen on Watford attacking. That will surely be music to the ears of the Vicarage Road fans who lost 15 of their 19 home games in the Premier League last season.
“It was bad. You can be honest, it was terrible,” says Sema when asked about the difficult form at home.
“I’ve been here a long time and the last time we played in the league; The home ground was our soil. We couldn’t really lose at home. So we knew we’d be able to beat any team at home with confidence.
I still believe that our homeland is very special, we have to beat teams at home.
“In the Premier League it was the opposite, at the end of the season it felt like bad breath. There was nothing you could do at home and home used to be our safe place. But I still believe that our home is very special. We have nothing to complain about and we have to beat the teams at home.”
The hope is that can change in the Championship when Watford start their campaign against Sheffield United at Vicarage Road on Monday night.
“Rob is a good guy and he likes to create a group that will try to get closer to each other,” says Sema. “He’s trying to create something special.”