Roy Hodgson is set for an uncomfortable first meeting with Watford ‘s mascot as he prepares to take over in the Vicarage Park hot seat.
The veteran manager, 74, is expected to be appointed as the Hornets’ third boss of the season after Claudio Ranieri was sacked on Monday.
Hodgson has been out of work since leaving Crystal Palace at the end of last term following four seasons with the Eagles.
During his time at Selhurst Park, the Englishman infamously rallied against the “disgraceful” Watford mascot after an incident involving Palace forward Wilfred Zaha.
The Ivorian winger has been accused of simulation throughout his Premier League career and the issue came to a head during a fixture between Watford and Palace in December 2016.
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Zaha was shown a yellow card for diving in the penalty area in the closing stages of the match and Harry the Hornet responded by throwing himself to the floor shortly after the full-time whistle.
Then-Palace boss Sam Allardyce branded the mascot “out of order” and he even called for the Football Association to investigate behaviour.
The FA decided no action was required and Zaha, having been enraged at the time, later saw the funny side of the incident.
Gareth Evans, the man underneath the hornet suit, subsequently called time on his mascot career in September 2018.
He retired one month after Hodgson criticised his prior actions ahead of a fixture against Watford, warning him not to “provoke the crowd” against Zaha.
“If you’re asking me whether Harry the Hornet, who I presume is the mascot, should dive in that way, I think it’s disgraceful,” Hodgson said.
“Because that’s not what football matches are about. If it’s provoking the crowd into looking for something that’s not there, it should be stopped.
“Wilf Zaha does not dive for penalties. He gets knocked over sometimes – sometimes he gets knocked over or unbalanced without it being a penalty or a foul – because he runs at such speed and has such agility with the ball. But he certainly doesn’t dive.
“But, of course, teams try to take every advantage they can. I would be very disappointed if the Palace mascot was doing something like that to provoke the crowd against an opponent. And if I found out about it, I would stop it.”
Following Hodgson’s withering verdict on Harry the Hornet, Zaha scored against Watford but was unable to prevent the Eagles losing 2-1.
The two teams met in the Carabao Cup second round earlier this season, with the Hornets winning 1-0, but it remains to be seen when Hodgson could face his old side, as December’s Premier League fixture postponed due to coronavirus is yet to be rescheduled.
In the meantime, although the previous occupant of the mascot costume has retired, Hodgson will need to bury the hatchet with Harry the Hornet as he visits Watford’s training ground on Tuesday.