Colney Chat | Nordin Amrabat
By Kevin Affleck
Nordin Amrabat, who is set to return to full training this week, will presumably go straight back into the Watford squad once he is declared fully fit, but he admits there was a time when he wasn't sure if he would make the cut for what has been a breakthrough Premier League season for the winger.
Amrabat was very much on the periphery of things during pre-season and the otherwise confident Moroccan international admitted he was nervously looking over his shoulder amid the wave of summer arrivals.
"When you calculate there are only 17 places [for foreign players], the new players for sure would be in the squad," said Amrabat, who was signed from Malaga in January last year.
"There were five or six question marks and I was one of them. That's the truth. I didn't play a lot in pre-season and I could feel the signals. I wasn't playing a lot and I wasn't stupid.
"It looked like it was going to be difficult for me to stay. There were lots of clubs from Spain who wanted to take me on loan and the club was ready to send me on loan, but the coach told me, in the end, he wanted me to stay."
It's hard to believe now he's established himself as such a central figure in the squad, but Amrabat wasn't sure he was going to be part of Walter Mazzarri's plans right up until the 18 for the game against Southampton on the opening day was announced.
"I played well against Queens Park Rangers in pre-season but I played zero minutes against Lorient in the last pre-season game," he said.
"Normally players who start the first game of the season play in the last pre-season game but I didn't play. I tell the truth, after the game I went to the coach to speak about my future.
"I said it was time for me to go – not from my side, but from the club's side. He told me I was going to play the first game against Southampton. I thought he was joking, but it was true.
"That week I worked really hard in training and I started at Southampton. From that moment I was playing."
He's not looked back since and played with great zest and dynamism in various roles down Watford's right flank until an ankle ligament injury stopped him when he was in full cry. He was displaying the sort of form that regular watchers of Malaga are familiar with.
"I've still not shown the Watford fans what I am really capable of," he says. "I can still do more. I played better when I was in Spain and for a period at Galatasaray. Last year it was difficult to show my best as I only played the last ten minutes of games."
Amrabat has started every game he's been fit for this season and been a bundle of energy down the right. He's played right-back, right wing-back and even part of a front three.
"My best position is a winger," he said, "and I prefer the left wing as I can go inside or outside but I've also played as right wing-back and then a few games as right winger. I can give a lot of energy to the team. I'm looking forward to being back."