WATFORD caretaker-boss Hayden Mullins will use skipper Troy Deeney to pull the squad together as he fights to save them from the drop.
Deeney and other stars were furious on Sunday when they turned up for training to discover boss Nigel Pearson had been sacked with two Premier League games to go.
Mullins leads Watford as they bid to stave off relegation, with games at home to Manchester City on Tuesaday and at Arsenal on Sunday.
But former West Ham midfielder Mullins, who steps up from his role as Under-23s coach, knows the importance of striker Deeney if he is to get the Hornets players to rally round the cause.
It is understood Mullins called a meeting with the 32-year-old on Sunday and told him how key he was to keeping the club up — asking him to be Watford’s Mr Motivator for the crunch pair of games.
A Watford source said: “The players were really upset about the way Pearson was treated after doing such a good job since arriving in December, when they were bottom of the table and six points off safety.
“Hayden knew he needed to get the players onside straightaway and Troy is just the man to do that.
“He’s the captain and will give his own team talk to emphasise that, whatever they may feel about the sacking, they need to put it behind them and keep themselves in the Premier League.”
Claude Puel, the former Southampton and Leicester boss is being mentioned as the man owner Gino Pozzo wants to take over next season.
The Frenchman, 58, was sacked by Leicester City last season and dismissed by Southampton in his previous Premier League post.
He has since returned to Ligue 1, experiencing a mixed spell as St Etienne manager.