“It’s Been Exactly What I Wanted”
With four games under his belt since signing a season-long loan with Blackburn last month, it’s fair to say Tommie Hoban’s desire for regular football has already been met.
The 22-year-old has started Championship fixtures against Fulham, QPR, Leeds and Rotherham since joining up with Owen Coyle’s squad and, having spent a year-and-a-half on the sidelines, match minutes are exactly what the defender had been craving.
“I’ve missed so much football through injury so it’s been exactly what I wanted, which was to play as many games as I can,” said Hoban, speaking to watfordfc.com exclusively.
“I’ve been delighted to play the last four games and we’ve got another few next week, so I just want to play as many games as I possibly can and hopefully we’ll start to slide up the table as well.
“I hadn’t played in so long, so going straight into the team was definitely a bonus and I probably didn’t expect to go in straight away.
“Thankfully I’d had a game with Watford in the cup a week before, which definitely helped. It was good to get that under my belt and get some confidence that I could get through the 90 minutes.
“I want to stay in the team now and keep on improving myself, and hopefully I can help the team have a good season too.”
Having missed the entire 2015/16 season with leg and hip problems, it’d be natural if Hoban required some time before reaching the peak of his capabilities. But the Hornets’ Academy graduate was named Man of the Match on his debut for a typically assured display against Fulham, just a day after signing for Rovers, and he’s continued to impress at Ewood Park ever since.
All the more impressive then that the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international believes there’s still plenty more to come as he continues to improve his fitness.
“It takes a while for the body to get back used to it and I’ve had a few knocks and a few aches and pains along the way,” admitted Hoban.
“I’d had a couple of long-term injuries and after not playing football in 18 months I then suddenly played six games in two or three weeks if you include Watford, Ireland and Blackburn, and it does take its toll.
“Now I’ve played a few more games my body will start to adapt to it and I’ll continue to feel fitter and stronger, and hopefully I can push on from here.
“I feel like I’ve been doing alright myself so I just want to stay injury free now and keep improving my performances so that we have a good season at Blackburn.
“Hopefully that’ll then give me a platform to get myself in the Watford team next year. I’m still a Watford player so of course I want to get myself back in the fold there, and I’m confident I can eventually do that.”
“I hadn’t played in so long, so going straight into the team was definitely a bonus and I probably didn’t expect to go in straight away."
After a winless start in their first seven attempts, Blackburn finally secured their first three points against Rotherham on Saturday, and Hoban believes Rovers’ position just above the foot of the Championship table is a false one.
“Getting that first win was a massive relief. From what I’ve seen since I’ve been here it doesn’t seem to be a team that you’d have thought would be near the bottom of the league,” he said.
“We lost to Fulham with the last kick of the game when we could have won, we drew with QPR when we had a lot of chances so probably should have won, and then we were unlucky to lose to Leeds with a free-kick that shouldn’t have been given.
“So to finally get a win against Rotherham was really important and it takes the weight off the shoulders, so hopefully we can push on from there now.
“Our performances have been a lot better than the results, but in football you go through periods where things aren’t going your way. Hopefully we’ve come through that now and things will start to go our way a bit more.
“We’ve got a good side and in the Championship anything’s possible. You’ve got to aim as high as you possibly can, even though that’s hard because of the position we’re in. If we focus on getting a string of results together, then who knows where we can go.”
Despite a full-on start to life in the north-west, Hoban says he’s found time to follow the progress of the Hornets, and he’s confident his parent club will enjoy a very successful Premier League campaign.
“I’ve been following the boys and they’ve been flying,” said Hoban, who has played 58 times for the Hornets.
“I was at Watford all pre-season and I really felt a part of the build-up to the season, so it’s been nice to see the boys getting the results they deserve.
“We’ve got a really good squad there now – I think it’s even better than last season – so there’s no reason why we can’t aim for a better finish than last year, and then you never know what might happen.”
Joining a new team will always take some adjusting to, particularly when – like Hoban – you’ve been at the same club for seven years. The centre-half admits making the temporary switch from Watford felt strange at first, but says he’s been made to feel very welcome in his new surroundings.
“I remember the first few days of being away were so weird. During my whole senior career I’ve only really known Watford,” he said.
“I’ve been there so long I know the whole club inside out, not just all the players but all the staff and people behind-the-scenes – everyone from the manager to the groundsman and kitchen staff.
“So it was strange going into a new place not knowing everyone because Watford’s been my home for the last seven years, but it’s a really nice club at Blackburn and everyone seems really nice.
“All the boys and the staff have been helping me settle in and I’m getting to know everyone now, so I’m really enjoying my time at the club."
"You’ve got to aim as high as you possibly can, even though that’s hard because of the position we’re in."
Photo courtesy of rovers.co.uk