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Excerpts from an in-depth interview with Adrian Mariappa, which first featured in the match programme as Watford hosted Swansea on Saturday

Programme Interview | Adrian Mariappa

  
    

In conversation with THE HORNET, defender Adrian Mariappa talks 250 appearances, rising through the ranks at The Vic, leaving and rejoining Watford, and learning from Lloyd Doyley...


How did it feel to make your 250th Watford appearance at Tottenham last weekend?
I feel very proud and extremely honoured to have been able to put the Watford shirt on 250 times. It’s a great achievement for myself – I don’t know if it’s fully sunk in yet but it’s definitely a proud moment for me and my family. As a player you just want to play games and it’s hard to follow all the numbers and stats sometimes. Every now and then someone will come up to you and tell you that you’re approaching a particular figure and you can then set that as a little target to try and reach.

Did it ever occur to you as a teenager in Watford’s youth team that one day you might reach this number of games for the club?
No, not at all. At that stage you’re just concentrating on trying to make your debut, which is a massive achievement in itself. It’s all about taking it one step at a time – trying to make your debut and then trying to get a run of games and establish yourself, which is a tough thing to do. There’d been a few lads before me like Lloyd Doyley and Ashley Young, so you looked at them doing it and thought ‘I want to be the next one to break through’.

What do you remember about appearance number one of the 250?
It was against Notts County at home in 2005, I think in the Carling Cup as it was then, and I remember that I played left-back! It was a tough game, to be fair. We won 3-1 but I didn’t play that great. I learnt a lot from that experience though. Chances were quite limited at the time because we had a really strong squad and we got promoted that season, but just training day-in and day-out with the team that we had was definitely making me a better player every day. Training against Marlon King, Darius Henderson and Ashley Young was the best schooling I could have had. 

Your first extended run in the team came during the subsequent Premier League season. How difficult was it being thrown in at the highest level?
I started the first game of the season at Everton and I played at centre-half. I had a bit of a stinker and got taken off at half-time and didn’t see the bench again until nearer Christmas time. I eventually got in at right-back and stayed in, and as a young kid I was just relishing the opportunity to play. I was really enjoying my football and the changing room back then had a lot of experienced players in it and a lot of people with high demands. I did well in that changing room and there were a lot of people there to help me too.

How much did you learn from Lloyd Doyley, who you were competing with for the right-back slot at that time?
I’ve learnt loads from Lloyd right through my career. Me and Lloyd are still good friends now and he’s still the best one v one defender I’ve played with and seen. You just didn’t get past Lloyd. He was such a good professional and a good person around the club, which I think is something that’s overlooked a bit in football these days. He was a massive person on-the-pitch and off-the-pitch. He may not have been the loudest vocally, but he definitely had a great presence on the field.

Why did you decide to leave Watford for Reading in 2012? 
The one and only reason I left was because it was a chance to play Premier League football again. You want to test yourself at the highest level, but even though I was at Reading I stayed living in the area. Even when I moved to Crystal Palace I stayed living in the Hertfordshire area. My kids go to school around here so we’ve always been a part of the community and I kept close tabs on what was happening here at Watford.

As someone who lived locally, did you always hope you might be able to return to Watford one day?
It was something that had been mentioned before during my time at Crystal Palace, before it actually happened. It was definitely something I was never going to rule out, and when the opportunity did come about I jumped at the chance.

How did the move back to Watford last summer come about, and was it a straight-forward decision?
It was a bit of a no-brainer really. I was talking to other clubs, but as soon as Watford came in and my agent told me they were interested, it was the only place that I wanted to go. Even from the outside looking in, you can see the ambition of the club and where the owners have taken the club over the last four or five years. It’s very clear the direction they want to go in, so when someone asks if you want to be a part of that you can’t say no. I was obviously delighted to come back, and I’m just glad now that I’ve had some game-time to show what I can do. 

What has changed the most about this club since your previous spell?
There have been a lot of changes – the look of the place, the training ground has changed a lot, the stadium has been improved a great deal, and most of the staff and players are different. Pretty much everything has changed, but the main core of the club and the fans are just the same. Despite all the changes, it still feels like the same club, 100 per cent. Things have been modernised, but the feel and support of the club is exactly the same.

Walter Mazzarri was quick to praise your performances after the West Brom and Tottenham games. How good does it make you feel when the manager compliments you publicly?
It’s nice to be noticed for your own personal performances, but the most important thing is the team and you just try to help the team as best you can, like any player does. I’m quite critical of my own performances, so I look back at the games to see where I’ve done good stuff and where I can improve, but it’s always pleasing to know that the manager has been satisfied with your performances.

What are your personal aims now for the rest of this season?
I want to keep my place in the team. I’ve not come here just to train. At the end of the day I want to play, and I want to play week-in, week-out. I’ll be trying my best to help the team and help us get the results that we need, and as a by-product of that I want to do all I can to try and stay in the team.

Click HERE to order a copy of the Watford v Swansea programme.

    
  

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