Watford demolish shaky Stoke as Slaven Bilic enjoys a ‘dream start’

Slaven Bilic enjoyed a memorable start to life as Watford manager with a fine 4-0 victory at Stoke, thanks to goals from Ismaïla Sarr, Ken Sema, Keinan Davis and Vakoun Bayo.

Bilic, who managed West Ham between 2015 and 2017, became Watford’s ninth manager in three years after Rob Edwards was sacked on Monday following a torrid run of just one win in seven Championship games. This victory was the club’s biggest since hammering Bristol City 6-0 in February 2021 and was also their first clean sheet in 11 fixtures.

“It’s the dream start,” said Bilic. “It’s a great win for us. It’s well deserved. A clean sheet, four goals, the strikers scoring goals. That’s what you dream of before games. We suffered together when needed and defended as a team.

“If you give space to our players out wide and up front [they will punish you] because they are good players. The group is good. We aren’t going to rave now because we won. This is the blueprint that we want to follow. This is the pattern.”

Bilic’s opposite number, Alex Neil, has suffered a shaky start since jumping ship from Sunderland to Stoke at the end of August. This mauling means the former Preston manager has won just one of his first five games in charge.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. “When you lose any game in that manner it’s really disappointing and frustrating.

“The fact is in any game the pride you’ve got as an individual and the pride you’ve got as a team and pride to show for your club, you’ve got to rally, you’ve got to give it a go and you’ve got to never give in.

“I don’t think we can say that and that was certainly a bit of an eye opener for me today, and a big frustration.”