Ben Foster has warned managerless Watford’s next boss the club are in the grip of a long-term “rot”.
The Hornets prop up the Premier League after their ninth loss in 15 games at Leicester .
Caretaker boss Hayden Mullins was in the dug-out for the 2-0 reverse on Wednesday after Quique Sánchez Flores followed Javi Gracia out of the exit.
Now the Vicarage Road club are looking for their third permanent boss this season ahead of Crystal Palace’s visit on Saturday.
Out-of-work Spanish coach Quique Setien is favourite for the post but Mullins could get another game at the helm this weekend as Watford consider their options.
Keeper Foster,36, admits the new man faces a huge challenge after tracing Watford’s dramatic demise back to April.
Watford ended the season with one win in six league games to finish 11th before being humiliated in the FA Cup final with a 6-0 defeat to Manchester City .
Foster assessed: “I think it started before the FA Cup final.
“If you look at the finish to last season there was half-a-dozen or eight games where the standard really dropped.
“We struggled to address it at the time.
“It’s almost a symptom of being a middling club in the Premier League.
“When you get to a certain point in the season when it’s handbrake up, holidays – all that kind of stuff and I think that has creeped in.
“It’s almost been left to fester and rot too much and now it’s too much of a problem.
“I know the ability we have in that dressing room, I see it on the training pitch, but it’s transferring it onto the pitch that counts.
“If you are mentally not right or not confident enough then you can’t go and show what you can do.”
Foster expects reinforcements in January but says any new players must be up for an intense relegation battle.
He added: “Getting in the right sort of players – that’s the important thing.
“Players who want to fight, who need to fight – almost like they’ve got a point to prove.
“There’s no point splashing out money on players who are going to be lovely on the eye. We need them to dig in.
“Because otherwise when the chips are down they are not going to be there to help you out.
“Come prepared for a scrap, without a doubt, yes.”
One Watford player certainly up for a battle is skipper Troy Deeney, who returned to start at Leicester for the first time since August after injury.
Foster said: “Troy coming back is massive for us. Everyone looks to Troy.
“I think he’s brilliant. He’s a big part of the club.
“He’s a great captain, great leader and everyone looks up to him so to have him back is massive.
“We have missed him, without a doubt – he’s our main striker.
“Last season he was starting week in, week out, he’s our main player and you can’t help but miss that – bearing in mind he’s our captain and our leader and he’s just huge for us. So having Troy back is massive.”
Foster added: “We do have a British core – the spine of the team are players you can rely upon.
“But you do need a few more of them, the type who are willing to dig in and have a go.”