Time Capsules: Danny Graham Talks Goals, Table Tennis & Deeney (2011)

By: Watford FC Staff

In our 'Time Capsules' series, we dive into the Watford FC archives to re-publish a classic interview from an historic matchday programme.

For our latest instalment, we re-visit Danny Graham's feature interview from 2010/11, a season which saw him end the campaign with 24 league goals and the Championship's Golden Boot award.

With the Hornets sitting in the top 10 in the second tier at the time despite starting the season as one of the favourites for relegation, the in-form striker sat down to discuss his scoring spree, partnerships with Marvin Sordell and Troy Deeney, and how he loved the atmosphere so much at Watford that he even looked forward to training each day...

The Programme

  • Season: 2010/11
  • Match: Watford 1-3 Burnley
  • Date: Saturday February 12, 2011
  • Manager: Malky Mackay
  • Competition: Npower Championship

The Article

In these days of written transfer requests, Tweeting your followers and player power at the top of the game, it's refreshing to learn that there's still a little sanity left here at Watford Football Club.

Leading the way for the human beings who happen to be good at football (rather than the footballers who try occasionally to be human beings), it's chief Hornets' hitman Danny Graham. Not for him a written transfer demand to his boss, a public plea that he wants away. Oh no, here's a bioke from Gateshead who had to learn the hard way at Carlisle United. And, in case you're wondering, he's loving it here at Watford.

“I said to the gaffer right at the start of January that I just wasn't interested in moving anywhere within the Championship,” explains the 25-year-old, who is in fact contracted at Vicarage Road until 2012 with a further year option.

“But I also made it clear that if a Premier League club came in, I'd like the chance to talk to them.”

Fair enough – all Watford fans could understand that.

“There were some enquiries but nothing concrete in the way of bids so I'm very happy here. All of us need to have the mentality of having a right go at staying in and around the top six and see where that takes us to at the start May.”

That answer was just as much an appeal to fans as it was a statement of his own intent, in its delivery.

“Definitely. I'm committed to this football club. It's done wonders for me, being here, and I know the fans will be right behind me and all the lads like they've been since I arrived.

“So why shouldn't we all stick together and really go for it now.”

It's a point not lost on the 25-year-old, in point of fact. Last season's personal dry spell tested his resolve – but not once did he get any stick from the stands.

“It wouldn't have been like that at Carlisle!,” he smiles. “They thought I was a lazy bugger who didn't do enough for the team – but I guess the Watford fans have seen something different.”

Just a bit! The workaholic striker hit 14 goals in his first season and is well on the way to smashing the 20 barrier this time round. But it's not just his goals, is it? Hornets' fans love endeavour, commitment and honesty. No question the boy from the north-east has that in abundance.

“You feel like you want to do well for people who are right behind you. I was surprised that I didn't get booed last year when I was not scoring and made sub, so I cannot help but thank the supporters for that.

“They've stuck with me through some lean times, so I'm trying to repay that now with plenty more goals.

“For me, it shows that the fans here like to support their own. And I've seen that massively with the young lads coming through. There's always an extra excitement you feel when it's one of their own making good; like Marvin, Matty, Piero, all those young lads have been fantastic.”

Just as fantastic, surely, is Danny's first 18 months at Vicarage Road.

“I've absolutely loved it here,” he beams. “Like anyone coming to a new place of work, you worry that the lads won't be the same as they were at the old place, how you'll be accepted.

“Well I've got to tell you that from the moment I first walked in the door I knew this was the perfect place for me.

“It's been the making of me to leave the comfort of my surroundings in my local area and come down here and just concentrate on my football,” he reveals.

“I've come here and, from the first minute, I haven't stopped laughing and enjoying myself. The lads are great with the banter, they never let your head get down - and there's such a togetherness with the staff and players and everyone at the club.”

Like any move in your field of employment, Danny did his research on the set-up here at the Hornets.

“As soon as I heard Watford were interested, I rang (ex-Boro youth team-mate) Adam Johnson and he had nothing but good things to say about it here.

“I've never been fitter, never been healthier and I've never played any better than I'm doing this season.”

Easy to forget because he's been available for nearly every game since joining, that the striker's had a great time in terms of staying largely injury-free.

“There was one or two weekends I missed through injury, I think. But that shows you how few because I'm struggling to remember them!

“The medical and sports science lads here are second-to-none, they really are.”

He was open-minded about the 'prehabilitation' and 'activation' routines that the players here go through, under the watchful eye of Head of Medical Richard Collinge and his team.

“I'd never done anything like that before, to be honest. I wouldn't say I was sceptical - just that I wasn't sure what to expect.

“But believe me, the preventative stuff works, it really does. I'm as good proof as anyone because I was often picking up niggles at Carlisle.

“Here, touch wood, I've had a fantastic run and I can only put that down to the way the staff look after me - and all the lads, of course.”

You won't hear too many footballers suggest that they enjoy coming to training just as much as playing matches. But here's one.

“I'd never have thought I'd have said it myself but, you know, training here is so good, the sessions are excellent and just driving in every morning is fantastic; knowing you're going to enjoy yourself even though you're working hard at the same time.

“We don't go running round fields for no apparent reason. It's all football-based work, getting us nice and sharp and bang up for the next game. Everyone just loves coming into training. You can see that round the canteen here,” he says, sitting talking just next to his second home, the table tennis table.

“There's always a game going on on there - and it's usually me, of course, because no one can knock me off!

“Like I say, though, you can feel that buzz. The new lads - Andros [Townsend], Andy [Weimann] and Danny [Drinkwater] - are settled in already because the boys include them in the banter and make them feel at home straight away.”

And a settled player off the field is likely to be a more successful one on it, as Watford's top goalscorer has proved this term.

“It's been a great season so far, definitely. But not just for me goals-wise, you've got to look at Marvin as well, he's got 12 or 13 to his own name.

“I heard him doing an interview the other week where he said our partnership's just natural and we don't work on it too much.

“He's right, I've got to say. Sometimes you just hit it off - and we really seem to know each other's games.

“That's why I'm feeling a bit sorry for Troy really. He's not had a decent run of games in his proper position because of how we're doing.

“He'll be feeling that pressure to prove to people what he can do, but I don't see like he could've done much more than he has because he's not really had much chance to shine. He's been ever so unlucky.

“He works hard in training, though, never moans about anything, so I hope he gets his chance to show the fans what he can do at some point.”

Why the barrage of goals, does Danny feel? Over 30 between the front pair, never mind the likes of John Eustace with five, big Martin Taylor and Will Buckley with four each and so on.

“I think that sums it up nicely, those stats. Our game isn't just based around one way of playing, there's a good few ways we can hurt sides and we're not afraid to mix up our styles.

“For a team like us to have scored over 50 goals by the half-way point is fantastic.”

It's probably over-achievement, isn't it? Little old Watford, the relegation favourites.

“I love that story, me, I really do. I never get bored of hearing how we were meant to be this, that or the other.

“That first game at Norwich sticks in my mind. You'd have thought there was only one team playing that night - until after the game.

“People realised what we were capable of then, and now we're getting just that bit more respect because there's no doubt we're a danger to everyone.”

That danger is only increased by the fact we've got Danny Graham leading the line.

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