Cathcart: “It’s An Honour”
Having endured one of his most difficult seasons to-date during an injury-hit 2017/18, Craig Cathcart bounced back in some style to excel for both club and country in a 2018/19 campaign he’s already described as the best he’s ever had.
Fitting then that a stand-out season in which he played 50 times in domestic and international competition concluded last week with not only the award of a new four-year deal at Watford, but also the presentation of Northern Ireland’s Football Writers’ International Personality of the Year prize.
Speaking after collecting the trophy following Euro 2020 qualifying wins over Estonia and Belarus, the defender said his hard work and patience during the best part of a year on the sidelines had paid off.
“It’s an honour to receive this award, especially as if you look at the [Northern Ireland] squad now – we’ve got so many good players and we’ve done so well over the last few years – so to get a bit of recognition is really nice,” said Cathcart, who succeeded Jonny Evans in receiving the award.
“Coming back from the knee injury was tough. I injured it at the end of the previous season [2016/17], came back fit and did it again in the first game back. It was disappointing, but once we knew what the problem was I got the surgery and then was in Dublin for six weeks doing rehab.
“I wanted to get back as quick as I could and I managed to get back and play the last seven games of the season. I got a good summer and pre-season under my belt which I think made a big difference. I managed to stay fit all year, played a lot of games and it’s gone really well.”
After playing his part in a perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying, with four wins from four leaving Michael O’Neill’s men top of their group, Cathcart is now looking forward to home ties against Luxembourg and Germany in September before October trips to Holland and Czech Republic.
“If we’ve another successful season we won’t be far away from playing in the Euros. We go into the games in September and October and they will be great nights at Windsor Park again,” said the 30-year-old.
“We know the games are going to be tougher against high-quality teams, but we have to take confidence from the results that we’ve had so far and the way we have been playing.
“We might have to adapt a few things tactically because we’re not going to see as much of the ball. We know they will be different games, but we’ve seen before that anything can happen at Windsor Park and we’re confident that we can get results at home and we’re tough to play against even away from home too.”