20/01/2017

“Positive Results Will Come”

By Kevin Affleck

Walter Mazzarri was in defiant mood when he met the media this afternoon, refusing to become involved in the merry-go-round of the transfer window and brushing off a question about his future, as his sole focus is on preparing his side for a game against a Bournemouth side who he believes are among the most fluid in the Premier League.

The head coach was asked about rumours linking Odion Ighalo with a move to West Brom – "at the moment he is a player who will travel with the team this weekend", about the possibility of signing Carl Jenkinson from Arsenal – "I have no comment" – and whether he felt under pressure following a haul of two points from the last 18 – "I don't even want to answer this question". But when the talk switched to the challenge of facing Eddie Howe's Bournemouth, the head coach talked fast and loose.

"In my opinion, they play some of the best football in the UK," said the Italian. "They have a lot of experience and they are growing. We will play at their stadium this time and I am very curious to see how we will perform against one of the teams that plays the best football."

The head coach hopes to be able to name Heurelho Gomes in goal, despite the number one coming off against Middlesbrough with a back injury.

"He trained today but tomorrow is the decisive day, not only for him but other players," said Mazzarri with a nod to the injuries to Isaac Success, Daryl Janmaat and Nordin Amrabat. 

"Tomorrow it will be crucial to decide who is travelling. Only Janmaat will be evaluated tomorrow. The other two [Success and Amrabat] for sure won't be available."

Daryl Janmaat returned to training this week

Watford have lost their last five away games but the head coach has been encouraged by the manner of some of the performances on the road. 

"It is true in the last few away games, we did have some negative results but I am happy with the overall performance, especially against teams like West Bromwich, Sunderland and Stoke," he said. "It is very important to understand that if we work like that then the positive results will come."

Mazzarri readily admits his team are going through a sticky patch but remains confident you will see the best of this side, as we did against Manchester United, Leicester and Everton, once he is able to pick a near full-strength side.

"This year the objective is to remain in the Premier League and do it in the best possible way," said Mazzarri. 

"We did extremely well at the beginning and now we've had some down performances. The important thing is to recover the good feeling and get back the important injured players. It is important we let the negative moments pass. This is a club that values the work that is done, aside from the results of the moment. We have been working very hard and very well for the future of this club."

Keep an eye on the Hornets' official YouTube page for the latest episode of Key Points. 

Fans travelling to the Vitality Stadium this weekend can access some useful information below. 

AFCB AWAY FAN GUIDE
 

First Team 19/01/2017

Colney Chat | Tom Cleverley

By Kevin Affleck

There are many shiny monuments you could use to indicate just how far the club have progressed since Tom Cleverley's first loan spell at Vicarage Road.

There is, for starters, the brand spanking new, all-singing-and-all-dancing Sir Elton John Stand. Cleverley was, remember, strutting his stuff in front of a three-sided Vicarage Road as recently as 2010. The other changes just roll off the tongue for Cleverley who's had his eyes wide open the last week or so.

"The changing rooms are massive," said the midfielder. "The gym at the training ground has been extended; there is all sorts of new technology; the pitches are better; the club shop has moved and the ground has changed as well. The pitch, it's immaculate. And then the hospitality. It's great to see."

This is praise indeed from an England international who has spent the last few years around the gilded arenas and training grounds of Manchester United, Aston Villa and Everton.

But perhaps the morphing of the Vicarage Road club is best viewed through the prism of the financial deal that Watford, who were then begging, stealing and borrowing players, had to strike to bring Cleverley to Vicarage Road in 2009. It provides a wonderfully neat reference point. Malky Mackay, the then manager, takes up the story.

"Sir Alex said we could have him and we were delighted as I'd spoken to Ben Foster and he said we should take him in a heartbeat as he never gives the ball away," Mackay told us.

"Sir Alex said it would be a nominal fee and that the club secretaries would sort it out. We got Tom to the training ground, showed him around and he was all ready to sign when our secretary came in and said the loan fee was £250,000, and that we didn't have that money and that we were going to have to send him back.

“I couldn't do it. I had to phone the great man (Sir Alex) twice and told him I knew we'd be selling Tommy Smith soon and could he wait until then. He said: 'Ok, give us the money when you can'."

Malky MacKay was instrumental in bringing Tom Cleverley to Watford

Contrast that begging-bowl approach with how smoothly the deal-making went this time round. "I've never seen a move happen so quick," said Cleverley. "I trained with Everton on Wednesday afternoon and then by the following morning, at 6.30am, I was getting a knock on the hotel door in Watford from the doctor saying he wanted to get the medical started.

“It happened that quick. I'd gone from not knowing there was a sniff of Watford being interested to being at the training ground the next day and Vicarage Road two days later."

Cleverley said his agent didn't need to ask him twice if he fancied the move. As soon as he put the phone down, he packed a bag, drove to Everton's Finch Farm training ground, collected his boots and headed south.

"I just jumped at the chance," he said. "It was the chance to play Premier League football for a club I know well and a club I really enjoyed playing for. I was delighted. I just want to play and do well.

And didn't he do well in his last stint; scoring 11 goals in 35 appearances, a ratio some strikers would be proud of.

"It was the best period I've had of goalscoring in my career," he said. "It was down to where I played, confidence and it being that bit easier to score as a midfielder in the Championship than it was in the Premier League. It was a really good moment of my career. I hope I can get those feelings back."

Mackay feels Watford are getting a good egg as well as an established box-to-box homegrown midfielder. "Within ten minutes of training on day one with us, I said to Sean Dyche 'we've got one here'. He was terrific around the place, always smiling. He was an absolute pleasure to work with and was a star for us."

So much so that he romped the Player of the Year award. "It's definitely one of the major achievements in my career," said Cleverley. "I've got the matchday programme I was on the front of and I've got the [winner's] plate on a stand in my trophy cabinet."

Now 27, Cleverley has since won 13 England caps, won the Premier League, played in an FA Cup Final, got married and had two kids. He's hungry for more professional success, much more, and found a man whose ambition is very much aligned to his in Gino Pozzo.

"Speaking to him for just five minutes you can see how passionate he is about football and about progressing the club. It's something I want to be a part of and hopefully we can make things permanent in the summer."

The ownership of the club has changed since Cleverley was last in these parts but some things remain the same. "I knew Mapps [Adrian Mariappa] and Craig [Cathcart] and I kept in touch with Jonesy [Will Jones] the kitman so it's been easy for me to settle back in," he said.

Cleverley & Mariappa in training back in 2010

His big mate Danny Welbeck is just over the fence at Arsenal if he needs any help acclimatising or a break from the banter that permeates any training ground (Cleverley was ribbed by Troy Deeney for his choice of footwear during this interview).

It was a swing of Cleverley's right boot that almost netted the Hornets a late winner against Middlesbrough on Saturday. Given the occasion, and the identity of the scorer, the roof could well have come off had that effort rolled inside the post.

"I have so many good memories of this ground and that was almost another," said Cleverley. "I like playing in that more advanced role that means I can get into the box. I like to play as an 8, an orthodox box-to-box midfielder. You don't get that in many sides now. If it's three in midfield, like it seems to be here, I'd rather play as one of the more advanced ones."

As well as a midfield schemer with an eye for a pass and a goal, Cleverley is also a pretty handy snooker player and golfer.

"I've not played snooker for ages," he said. "I could play for hours and I'd like to get a snooker table in my house.

“I play off 14 at golf but it's a terrible 14 because I don't play enough because of the kids.

“When I retire and the kids are away at uni I could get off single figures but, at the moment, it's all about getting me on that pitch and doing my best for this club."