AN innocuous training ground injury picked up at the back end of 2012 has proven to be a frustrating hurdle for Connor Smith, in what is otherwise very much a breakthrough season for the Republic of Ireland youth international.
Having made his debut as a substitute in the 3-2 win over Crystal Palace back in August, the knee injury, which has seen him wearing a brace on his left leg in recent weeks, has proven a slight set-back in the Irishman’s development this season.
Buoyed by the news that he may be able to return to training in the coming weeks, Smith is relishing a return to the squad.
“The injury is getting better now,” he said, speaking exclusively to watfordfc.com at the Hornets’ London Colney training ground.
“When it happened, I was still coming on from the bench and had started a couple of games so it was frustrating getting quite a serious injury.
“Luckily there was no tear, because at one point the physios were worried I’d torn a ligament which would have been a lot worse.
“I had my left knee in a brace to protect it, and because of that I’ve lost some strength in the muscles around it, which has left my right leg stronger, so there’s a bit of an imbalance we need to fix.
“I’m just doing strengthening work on my left leg, and the medical team have said I should be running by next week, which is good news.”
Smith was keen to highlight the strength of the Golden Boys’ squad, but believes the faith shown in the players by Head Coach Gianfranco Zola, as well as his own hard-working attitude, hold him in good stead to get back in contention.
“With the caliber of player we have at the club, the gaffer can afford to play players that are training hard and in the best form at that particular time. When guys have been doing well, the manager has given them chances.
“As a squad it’s good to know that if you’re doing well in reserve matches and improving yourself he’s not afraid to put you in the first-team. It allows us to push on, and makes us want to push on because we know we’ll get our opportunity.
“Should everything go well with running, and with no more setbacks, I’ll be back training in the next few weeks. I need to keep training hard, working hard, and get some reserve games under my belt to get my fitness levels up so I can start pushing towards squads again and get back in the team.”
The former youth team scholar, who joined Watford’s Academy ranks having impressed in the 'Footballs Next Star' on Sky One, says he’ll be patient, but is ready and raring to be involved in the season's run-in.
“Obviously, we’re flying at the moment so it’s going to be difficult to get straight back in the team but we’ll see how it goes.
“I know we’re going places at Watford, and hopefully come the end of the season I can be involved in some of the big games that we have coming up. But I need to train hard, maybe get on the bench a few times and make as many appearances as I can.”