Striker Boy | Mental Health Awareness

Can 13-year-old Nat Dixon save the club he loves from relegation? Striker Boy is a page-turning football thriller, with plenty of action both on and off the pitch.

The special edition has been released in aid of the mental health charity Mind, and in memory of its author Jonny Zucker, who last year tragically took his own life. He is survived by his loving wife and their young children. £1.40 from the sale of each copy will go to Mind, with the rest of the proceeds going to the author’s family.

Jonny lived with depression for over two decades but accomplished many things in that time. He dedicated his life to getting kids reading, working for many years as a primary school teacher before becoming a children’s author. He often used football as a way to reach young people that wouldn’t normally read for pleasure.

Beyond funds, the Striker Boy campaign is raising awareness of mental health issues in adults and children. Mental health will touch the lives of almost everyone in one way or another - one in four people will live with a mental health problem and it is the largest killer of men under 50. It’s vital we all work together to raise awareness and remove the taboo around issues of mental illness.

The Hornets believe football can be an inspirational force both to improve children’s education and to aid positive mental health. For this reason, Striker Boy represents two very important causes for the club and its community.

Available at www.strikerboy.com for £6.99, Striker Boy makes a wonderful Christmas gift for young fans.

Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am - 6pm, Monday – Friday).


Mariappa | “We Were In Control”

By Sammy Brough

Adrian Mariappa was left dissatisfied following Watford’s late defeat away to Crystal Palace, admitting the performance in the latter stages of the match wasn’t up to scratch. 

Daryl Janmaat’s early goal settled any nerves the Watford faithful may have had when filing through the turnstiles at Selhurst Park. The Dutchman’s headed goal, just three minutes in, gave Marco Silva's men the perfect start. 

A second yellow card for Tom Cleverley three minutes from time proved to be the turning point. Bakary Sako’s equaliser following a Heurelho Gomes double-save gave Palace the momentum to take all three points, something substitute James McArthur sealed two minutes into injury-time.

“Obviously we’re gutted to come away with no points,” Mariappa said after full-time.

“I thought we were in control of the game for pretty much most of it and then we conceded two late goals. It’s something we need to look at and address because we know it’s not good enough.  

“We’ve seen games out this season, but we’ll look at the goals individually. It’s not great on our part, but like I said we will look at it and aim to do better going forward.”

Three at the back was the formation chosen by Silva. A positive decision, with Palace limited to just four shots on target, three of which came during the equalising goal.

“We felt in control of the game,” said Mariappa, who made his 14th appearance of the campaign in South London.

“They’ve got a lot of good attacking players and for most of the game they were kept very quiet. I thought we looked in control and created some other good chances as well, so to come away with nothing is really disappointing.

“At the end of the day we had the one-nil lead and we should have come away with a clean sheet.”

Scott Dann's toe was enough to prevent Troy Deeney notching a second before the half, and Richarlison’s effort 20 minutes into the second-half at the back post was well saved by the sprawling Julian Speroni. It was a strike that, had it hit the back of the net, would’ve given the Hornets a little more breathing space late on. 

Watford have earned plaudits for their free-scoring form on the road this season, but it’s something Mariappa and the team know won’t always be the case.  

“The boys have been terrific this season, we’ve scored more than one goal on the road in every game so far [before Palace], but we’re not always going to score two or three away from home. 

“It’s down to us as a team, we always attack as a team and defend as a team, we will look at it and see where we can improve.”

Tom Cleverley’s second yellow card late on for a challenge on Jeffrey Schlupp saw him dismissed from the pitch, with his absence against Huddersfield set to be felt, according to Mariappa. 

“It’s frustrating, Clevs has been terrific for us the whole season so him missing a game will be massive,” he said.

“We need to just stick together as a group and believe in what we’re doing and crack on for the next game, we’ve got a big game this Saturday at home and we need to get a positive result.”