Colney Chat | Tommie Hoban
By Kevin Affleck
Tommie Hoban could be forgiven for wondering if he's run over a black cat. He's certainly not been having a party, in the words of the song.
The one-of-our-own defender must have thought he had his fair share of long-term injuries when he underwent complex surgery to solve an ankle problem in 2013. He also, just to top off that wretched period, contracted an infection post-surgery that knocked him for six. But oh no, there was more mis-fortune around the corner when he had to undergo the knife once more, this time to repair a groin-stomach issue in October 2015, the recovery from which took way longer than he or the medics anticipated.
It was hoped a change in scenery, and a loan move to Blackburn Rovers this season, would bring about a change in luck but that theory went out straight out the window when he crashed to the ground in the final training session before Rovers' home game with Wolves in October.
"We were doing set-pieces and I ran to attack a ball and my arm got caught behind me," Hoban recalls. "I think someone might have grabbed it a little bit. I dropped to the floor and had never experienced pain like it."
That is some statement when you consider this is someone who had his ankle drilled and shaved nearly four years ago. The following detail is enough to make you wince.
"The physios were yanking my arm about and trying to get it back in and they managed to get it back in at the last attempt before the ambulance arrived," he said. "It was the biggest relief ever."
Hoban was taken to hospital and although there was relief that nothing was broken, he had obviously dislocated the joint and torn all the ligaments that hold the shoulder in place. It certainly provided a challenge for the surgeon in Italy.
"The labrum, that holds the shoulder in place, had done a 360 and was badly torn," Hoban says. "The surgeon screwed into the bone to anchor down the labrum and hold it in place. It was very, very painful and the first week, I could hardly even sleep. It was ridiculously painful. They were tough times to get through."
It would be unfair to call Hoban injury-prone. He isn't, after all, one of those players who picks up little niggles and is out with a strain here or a tweak there. When he's injured, he's properly injured.
"Muscular wise I seem to be quite good," he said, "it's just I keep picking up strange injuries and have been a bit unlucky. There is no point dwelling on it. It is what it is. I've just got to work hard and keep fit as I can. I know I can play – I've just got to have the mindset that I'm due a good run without injuries."
He's certainly put the rehabilitation work in, doing two sessions a day at Isokenetic London in Marylebone for seven weeks before continuing his recovery back at Blackburn. He's now fit and available for selection. The shoulder injury came just as he was putting together his best run of games since the Championship-winning season.
"I was happy," he said of the 10-game spell at the start of the season. "Results weren't the best at times but I felt like I was playing well. I was fit and strong."
Another period on the sidelines has, unsurprisingly, challenged him mentally. "I'd be lying if I said there weren't low moments," he said "The first four weeks after the shoulder surgery were very tough as I couldn't move my arm and couldn't do any exercise. But I just think about good times I've had, like getting promoted."
Hoban is only 23 but seems to have been around for ages. He is one of just four players from the promotion-winning season still on the club's books and he remains confident he can fulfil his Premier League ambitions with the Hornets.
"I want my future to be at Watford," he says. "I haven't spoken with Watford about their long-term plans for me but I'm confident in my ability.
“I know the player that I am and can be, and I feel I can play in this Watford team. I'm hopeful that if I get a chance I can take it and stay in the team. I love the club and it's been my home since I was 14. I'm fully focussed on getting back in the frame here."
There are plenty willing him to do so, that's for sure.