Billy McKinlay appointed manager of Watford

FORMER Scotland midfielder Billy McKinlay was named the new Watford manager yesterday after Oscar Garcia stepped down as boss following his recent health scare. The Scot’s first game in sole charge of the Hornets will be at home to Brentford tonight.

Billy McKinlay. Picture: Getty

Spaniard Garcia, 41, spent a week in hospital earlier this month after suffering from chest pains and only returned to the Hornets training ground late last week. He watched Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Blackburn Rovers from the directors’ box but has now decided to hand over the reins to McKinlay, who was added to the Watford coaching staff last week.

Watford say that while Garcia’s health is of no further cause for concern, he requires rest and has decided it is in the club’s interest that he stands aside.

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The former Brighton coach only took over at Vicarage Road on 2 September and was in charge for just one match, a 1-0 defeat at Charlton, before being admitted to hospital.

“I was closely involved with the appointment of Billy McKinlay, because I was aware that I may not be able to return,” Garcia told the club’s official website. “I always wanted an experienced British coach within our set-up, because it’s important to have that mix of cultures and experience with this squad. I would like to thank Watford’s fans for their kindness during my time here at the club. I will be hoping to see you all as a Premier League club next season.”

McKinlay, 45, is expected to continue in his role as Northern Ireland assistant manager to Michael O’Neill for the time being. Watford CEO Scott Duxbury said: “Everyone feels it is important that there is continuity in the coaching structure. Ruben Martinez and Javier Pereira will therefore continue as Billy McKinlay’s assistants. We appreciate Oscar’s candour in placing the best interest of Watford FC ahead of his own personal thoughts and we wish him well for his future in football.

“In Billy McKinlay, we have someone with the qualities and significant experience to build further on the foundations already laid for a successful season ahead.” Watford are fourth in the Championship, three points behind leaders Norwich who host Charlton.

Saturday’s 3-1 win at Blackpool saw them leapfrog Nottingham Forest, who drew 0-0 with Brighton.

Norwich are top by a point and are the division’s top scorers with 20 goals but boss Neil Adams remains wary.

“It feels very good to be at the top and that is obviously where we want to be, but we’ve only just started the season now,” said Adams.

“We play Charlton tonight and would they approach the game any differently if we were sat in second? Probably not. They will come to us with whatever game plan and if you are at the top perhaps you do get that extra bit of respect.”

Forest go to Wigan aiming to regain the lead with boss Stuart Pearce demanding an improvement. They are still unbeaten in the league this season but Pearce wants a cutting edge at the DW Stadium. “We’ve had a real mixed bag this season,” he told the club’s official site. “We’re pleased with the points haul at this moment in time but a little bit disappointed with the consistency we’re showing.”

Wigan are 18th and winless in four games after their 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth at the weekend while the Cherries go to sixth-placed Derby.

The Rams beat Bolton 2-0 on Saturday to heap more pressure on under-fire Trotters boss Dougie Freedman, with the club in the bottom three.

Cardiff go to Brighton with Scott Young and Danny Gabbidon still in caretaker charge. Russell Slade is yet to be appointed despite resigning from Leyton Orient last week. The clubs are in talks after the Sky Bet League One side refused to sanction his exit.

Ipswich go to Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough welcome rock-bottom Blackpool, Blackburn make the trip to Rotherham and Birmingham go to Millwall with Lee Clark under pressure after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Fulham.