Edwards: “There Was A Real Togetherness”

By: Watford FC Staff

The commitment levels shown by the Watford players in their goalless draw with Greek side Panathinaikos provided Head Coach Rob Edwards with plenty to smile about, with the Hornets continuing their preparations for the 2022/23 campaign in Austria.

The pre-season meeting concluded the Golden Boys’ six-day trip to the municipality of Scheffau am Wilden Kaiser in north-west Austria, providing the squad with a chance to put into practice a week’s hard work.

Despite the game ending with nothing to split Watford and Panathinaikos, Edwards noted a team spirit that has developed over the pre-season so far.

“I’m really pleased,” said the Head Coach. “The most pleasing thing was the commitment and the effort. There was a real togetherness.

“At the end of the game we had six or seven players playing out of position, but I wanted to try and stick to what we’ve been trying to do, and that asked a few of them to play out of position. The commitment they showed, the understanding and the running to make up for mistakes if we made them, was brilliant.

“The young players showed great character, the senior players helped the younger ones, and the effort was great. We created some good chances but have got to be a bit more ruthless in that top end, which will come. We probably need to take a few more risks at the right time, but I was very pleased with that.”

It brings to an end their time in mainland Europe after six days, a camp Edwards described as intense and demanding for the team, bringing out an attitude that has impressed the coaching staff.

Edwards reflected: “It’s a beautiful place, what a wonderful place in the world! The facilities have been brilliant, and people are looking after us. On the lads’ attitude, I couldn’t have asked for any more. We’ve worked hard, it’s been intense, 95 per cent of it has been ball work and the boys have given everything, which is what we demand, but they’ve done really well.

“We’re really working on developing a winning culture, because we need to win football matches, but also an environment where we support each other, push each other and demand more.”

Building an identity on the pitch has been key during pre-season, but Edwards and his coaching staff are also aiming to develop a positive culture in the group.

“This has been a real focus from day one,” Edwards continued. “No team is successful without a spirit, or without having intensity and working hard. That’s the focus all season, but certainly when we’re living together, we can really hit that home. Every time I pass someone in the corridor we can chat about it, and at the dinner table, in the evenings, so it’s a great thing to do, to come away and have time with each other.

“When you work closely with people over the next 10, 11 months, you’re going to fight with each other and go through tough times with each other, and hopefully have good times together. Being a close unit helps, when you are mates you can demand more from each other. We don’t want to force it, but things like the initiation songs in the evening have been great, the water rafting, going out for dinner, they all help. Ultimately nothing helps that more than winning football matches.

“Every day we’re learning more about them, I’ve seen some good personalities and good players. They’re all listening, taking on board the information and putting it into practice. I stress this a lot, it’s finding out what they’re like as a person and appealing to them on a human side. If we can get that connection, they know when we’re pushing them or having a go at them, it’s because we care.”

Colombian midfielder Yaser Asprilla made his first outing in yellow, coming on as a substitute with 20 minutes remaining. Seeing the 18-year-old in action on the training pitch and in footage from his time at former club Envigado, Edwards is excited to see more from the youngster.

“Yaser, from everything I’ve seen, looks like a very talented boy,” said Edwards. “He’s a young lad, and has come from a completely different side of the world. The culture is different, and he’s going to be himself but also try and fit into the group.

“What we have to do now as a football club; as staff, players, supporters, everyone, is support him. It could take some time for him to settle; it would be great if he hits the ground running, but he’s a young boy in a new part of the world, so it’s important we support him and not put too much pressure on him.”

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