Preview: Cleverley Looks Ahead To Preston

By: Watford FC Staff

Tom Cleverley spoke to ahead of the Hornets' Sky Bet Championship clash against Preston North End on Saturday (April 6, 3pm KO).

The Interim Head Coach spoke about looking to turn home form around, the need to continue his promising start and the test he can expect from the Lilywhites.

Read what he had to say below...

On Preston:

Preston are a well-organised outfit, experienced at this level, they win duels, they work hard, they have quality, and they are eighth for a reason, they do what they do well.

We are making our players fully aware of the challenge that is upon us, I know we had a very, very positive result when we played them at their place, but we understand the challenge ahead.

On the home form:

The home form has been something that has concerned us this season. I know how important that is from the last promotion season we had, unfortunately that was in empty stadiums. I feel like it’s been the 2018/19 season since we really had a period of good home form to shout about in a full stadium.

I thought the Leeds atmosphere was fantastic, the performance matched it, unfortunately we couldn’t hold on. A similar case at West Brom so we will be looking to put that right this weekend and reward these fans with a long overdue home win.

On team news:

The fitness of the squad is improving all the time. [Jeremy] Ngakia and [Ken] Sema are getting closer and closer. They are on pitch rehab now so seven to 10 days away from re-joining the team.

Giorgi [Chakvetadze] and Jack Grieves recovered from their illnesses that made them unavailable on Monday, and should be in contention for the squad on Saturday.

On the players demonstrating consistency:

[It is an] opportunity [and a] challenge, because Preston are nine points above us in the league for a reason, they are where they are in the league for a reason.

They are a solid team, a very well-coached team, experienced at this level, so it is not as easy as just going out there and saying "consistency" but the challenge for us is our own performance, control what we can control, apply ourselves how we have done in our last three games.

We do those things and we give ourselves the best chance.

On the role the fans can play:

I always think the players should be the catalyst, but when the two work hand-in-hand, it is a special place to be and that happened on Friday evening.

We hope to replicate that many times at Vicarage Road from now until the end of the season, but the away support has been fantastic as well.

We are feeling very well supported as a team, and as a staff, and we hope we can repay that, we will work as hard as we can to repay that in good performances.

On how to improve on his promising start as Interim Head Coach:

Continue with the performance level. It is those small details, that little bit of overcoming fatigue at the end of games to make sure we see it out, but I have been thoroughly pleased with how we have performed for an hour against Leeds, and the second half against West Brom.

It is really, really promising. I said I want to build an optimism and a belief that we can compete at the top end, and that is growing, and I think it will grow even more if those draws turn into wins.

On moving to a back three:

It is funny, I think the most open we have been defensively is against Birmingham, when we were in a back four. We changed from that, and I have been much happier with the shape of the team, how solid we have been, but ironically you concede two in the next two games.

It was against very strong opposition, but I think the four centre-halves that have played so far have been top performers, and all the time behind that Dan [Bachmann] has been rock solid. He won us the three points at Birmingham, so we are really happy with how that back unit has been performing.

The last two games have produced two exceptionally good goals. The first goal at West Brom was heavily deflected, so although we can always analyse how we stop these chances being created, we can count ourselves that we are not going to come up against worldie strikes every game.

On coming into the role midway through the season:

I always try and work as hard as I possibly can so I am prepared for it. Academy football was a good learning ground but I don’t think anyone can prepare you for this, or anything can prepare you for what we have stepped into.

What I can say, the support I’ve had, from the players, the staff, the supporters, has made it a lot easier transition for me, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it and I think we are doing as good as we can.

I think the period of time we had in the international break meant that we could get some quality work in, get as many of our principles into the players, and it has been naturally good for the group that a new coach has freshened it up, so the end of the season didn’t peter out into a mid-table, demotivated end of the season.

It has had that pre-season freshness about it, that we still have something to play for, the players are still motivated, and we are just concentrating now on winning each of the last six games.

On giving opportunities to younger players, including Zavier Massiah-Edwards and Albert Eames:

Something I have thought all season is that Albert Eames should be around the first-team squad. His performances in the Under-18s and the Under-21s, and his all-round attitude, is deserving of that.

Zavier [Massiah-Edwards] has impressed everyone since coming up, the players, the staff, his attitude and the way it has not fazed him making the step up, I was more than comfortable including him in the squad.

It is important these lads don’t feel like token gestures to get the Academy some representation. They are live substitutes, they are with us because I think they can help the team.

[Jack] Grieves and Ryan [Andrews] have been the flagbearers for that which is great to see, that these lads see this journey as a realistic one.

Watch Now

Share this article

Other News