Watford midfielder Cleverley keen on Deeney rejoining relegation fight

It’s so safe, Troy! Watford midfielder Tom Cleverley is keen for club skipper Deeney to rejoin their fight against Premier League relegation

  • Tom Cleverley has revealed he felt safe in the first phase of returning to training 
  • But he believes the coming week when full contact resumes will be the real test
  • Cleverley is adamant there would be no sense of injustice if Watford go down
  • The midfielder will be as encouraging as possible if players seek his opinion 

Watford are up for the challenge of fighting for their Premier League survival even without their captain Troy Deeney, says team-mate Tom Cleverley.

‘We have to back ourselves as a squad,’ said the Watford midfielder. ‘The odds, from where I’m standing, is that the season is going to go ahead. We are going to prepare for that. Even if it means playing without some of our best players, we have to back ourselves.

‘We’ve got a great squad here and we’re confident. We were in good form when the season stopped. We have no problems about continuing and proving that we deserve to be in this league.’

Tom Cleverley says Watford are up for the challenge of fighting for their Premier League status

Cleverley has felt safe in training this week, although some of his team-mates, including Deeney, have yet to return. The Watford captain is staying away because his infant son has respiratory problems. The first phase of the return was training in small groups while maintaining social distancing.

Cleverley says the coming week, when full contact training resumes, will be the real test of whether the Premier League can re-start.

‘I was one of the more comfortable ones with returning to training. I fully understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and we took the decision as a squad to respect everyone’s individual decisions.

‘But I wanted to come in, see how phase one was going to work and, if anything, it has made me feel even more comfortable. It’s well organised, it’s safe. There are still questions to be answered about phase two and three but as far as phase one goes it’s been fine.’

The Watford midfielder has felt safe in training as the first phase of training returned this week

But Watford captain Deeney is staying away because his infant son has respiratory problems

Cleverley is adamant there would be no sense of injustice about the unique circumstances should Watford be relegated.

‘I can’t sit here and say that,’ he said. ‘Absolutely not. I’ve preached about how no excuses is the mentality from now on in.

‘If worst comes to the worst, it’s because we’ve not been good enough as a squad. Even if you were missing two or three players through anxieties, that’s why you have a 25-man squad. And as a squad we would not have been good enough over 38 games. 

‘That is the absolute worst-case scenario and hopefully it doesn’t get to that. But there will be no excuses coming from me or, I suspect, any of my team-mates. 

Cleverley says the coming week, when full contact training resumes, will be the real test

‘You start on a level with everyone in a 38-game season and I suppose this is the same thing. We have to finish higher than three other teams in a nine-game mini season, it’s as simple as that.’

Though a few team-mates have joined Deeney in missing the early training sessions, Cleverley is hopeful that his captain will play when matches resume in late June.

‘I don’t know what stance Troy is taking, whether he’s ruled it out or if he’s one of those who comes under: ‘Let me see how safe it is first, then I’ll return’.

‘I don’t think we should create much anxiety that we are going to miss him for games just yet. We would want him available. He’s a big leader for us, both on and off the pitch.

‘But we’re not worried about him missing the first week’s training. He’s a fitness freak anyway. He’s got a gym at home, he will be keeping his fitness up. There’s absolutely no problem that he’s taken the decision to watch from arm’s length for the minute.’

Cleverley is adamant there would be no sense of injustice should Watford be relegated

Cleverley fears that if a raft of players withdraw it may be a problem, but he is hopeful it won’t come to that. ‘Jamie Redknapp was talking about this and it makes sense. 

‘If you are missing five or six of your players through personal circumstances, it’s going to hit us hard and it does affect the integrity of the competition. You can’t really just say: ‘That’s bad luck, get on with it,’ when so much is at stake. 

‘But the players have got to take it day by day. Hopefully, if the league does continue, we’ll have all our best players and a full-strength squad to pick from. If it’s not the case, then we will have to deal with it. It’s got to be a ‘no-excuses’ mentality from now until the end of the season.’

Taking the coronavirus test, which involves a nasal swab, is more uncomfortable than Cleverley anticipated.

But Cleverley is hopeful that his captain will play them fight when matches resume in late June

‘It is unpleasant,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t ready for how unpleasant it is, but we are in a privileged position to be able to get tested twice a week. There’s no complaints. But I don’t look forward to it.’

The Watford midfielder will be as encouraging as possible, given the sensitivities involved, should Deeney or any other team-mates seek his opinion about the safety of training. 

‘I would say I have come into contact with as many people as I would going to the supermarket or going for a morning jog around my estate,’ he says. ‘I would talk him through the details and tell him exactly what my 90-minute period in the training ground looks like.

The former Manchester United midfielder revealed that the coronavirus test is ‘unpleasant’

‘I also understand the BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] players who are high risk. Some people have family members with other issues. So all I can do is say my opinion.

‘There have been a couple who have had doubts and players are slowly starting to filter back. That’s fine. They are in higher-risk categories or have family in high-risk categories so it’s understandable and if they took the view of ‘let me get the opinions from other players first as to how it’s working’ then I can only be positive about it. I’m sure that was the case at many other clubs. Maybe it’s a bit more public at our club.

‘Every player wants to get back on the pitch. But some have anxieties about how safe it is to do so and that’s fair enough. Me and the rest of the team are looking forward to playing again.’

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Coronavirus: Nigel Pearson worried about Premier League fatality if season resumes

Watford manager Nigel Pearson has raised concerns about a coronavirus-related death in the Premier League and urged caution before a decision is made about whether to resume the season.

Clubs could be back in some form of training next week following a Premier League meeting on Monday, when medical protocols will be discussed and voted on, while the campaign could be up and running again by mid-June.

Pearson has some reservations about Project Restart and called for a more pragmatic approach with the country still very much in the grip of a pandemic.

  • Deeney: Health must come before PL return
  • Project Restart Q&A: Decision imminent

“God forbid we have a fatality,” he said in The Times. “People are closing their eyes to the threat.

“Yes, we would like to restart it but it’s got to be safe. We should be cautious. To ignore possibilities is foolhardy. It’s about safeguarding people’s health.”

Pearson is worried about the “weight on expectations” which has been placed on players by Boris Johnson and says “it is unreasonable to suggest that footballers and staff are obligated to make the nation feel better”.

“If I’ve got my cynical head on I’m concerned our potential restart coincides with the relaxation of the lockdown rules,” said Pearson.

“We have to try to believe [Government] advice that we’re being given that we’ve reached the peak but there’s still an incredible number of people losing their lives through this.

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Coronavirus: Watford chairman says Premier League resumption should not burden NHS

The Premier League must not rush to re-start its season and has to ensure there is no additional strain on the National Health Service, Watford chairman Scott Duxbury said.

Professional football in England was suspended indefinitely last month because of the flu-like virus that has killed more than 21,000 people in Britain.

The UK government’s cabinet minister responsible for sport has been in talks with the league over a possible resumption in the near future but Duxbury said any decision must be taken keeping the NHS workload in mind.

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“I feel uncomfortable at this stage talking about football as a narrative with there being stresses on the NHS and that has to be a priority,” Duxbury told a news conference.

“Do I want to resume football? Absolutely… I’ll be led by the government. If they say it’s safe and we’re not going to put pressure on the NHS, then fantastic. But I think we have to be led to make sure that it is safe and that we are not rushing.”

The club has opened their doors to the Watford General Hospital and are offering beds, food and training areas to support NHS staff at Vicarage Road.

“I feel truly privileged to help and assist the hospital and it’s a real demonstration of the quality of staff that we have at this club,” Duxbury added.

Premier League clubs will hold a conference call on Friday to discuss options for finishing the season but a re-start is not expected until June at the earliest.

Watford were 17th in the league with 27 points when the season was suspended.

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Watford: Martin Tyler shares his memories of Vicarage Road

At a time when football grounds have closed their doors, we’ve asked Martin Tyler to share some of his favourite facts and memories of the homes of the 20 Premier League clubs.

In part 18 of the series, Sky Sports’ Voice of Football takes us on a virtual visit to Watford’s Vicarage Road and reflects on the brightness of their historic ground.

Keep an eye on the Football Show on Sky Sports News and @SkySportsPL on Twitter for some special Tyler’s Teasers. Today’s question is all about players to have played for Watford and have won the title.

Vicarage Road: How I get there

Barring congestion on the M25, it is a quick trip for me, just seven junctions. Vicarage Road is protected by some draconian parking regulations, so I have to make sure of one of the spots allowed at the ground for the television crew.

What’s it like to commentate there

The position is like many used to be before the expansion of grounds – via a ladder and then a gangway out to the platform itself. Very close. Very atmospheric. Very enjoyable.

  • Emirates Stadium | Villa Park | Vitality Stadium | Amex Stadium | Turf Moor | Stamford Bridge | Selhurst Park | Goodison Park | King Power Stadium | Anfield | Etihad Stadium | Old Trafford | St James’ Park | Carrow Road | Bramall Lane | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Did you know?

At Vicarage Road, Watford moved from the fourth tier to the top flight in five seasons, under the management of Graham Taylor and the chairmanship of Elton John.

In their first season in the elite level, 1982/83, they finished runners-up to Liverpool and striker Luther Blissett was the leading scorer in the top division with 27 goals.

My memories of Vicarage Road

Watford started the 2018/19 season with four straight Premier League wins and Sky Sports was on hand to capture the fourth, at home to Tottenham Hotspur. Though Watford is inside the M25, it does not officially count as a London club, but the rivalry with the north London giants Spurs and Arsenal is strong.

Both clubs went into this Super Sunday clash with 100 per cent records. Indeed Tottenham were fresh from a 3-0 win at Manchester United on the previous Monday. Watford had hit the ground running with home wins against Brighton and Crystal Palace and in between beat Burnley at Turf Moor.

For all their attacking talent, Spurs did not manage a shot on target in the first half but were presented with the lead early in the second through an Abdoulaye Doucoure own goal, one of those pinball penalty area moments which I needed a replay to sort out.

Much more clear-cut were the two Watford goals in a seven-minute spell which gave the Hornets their best-ever start to a Premier League campaign. Two set-pieces turned the tide. Troy Deeney, at his rampant best, forced a corner and then converted it. Defender Craig Cathcart headed in the winner as Tottenham’s vulnerability at dead-ball situations was exposed again.

It was an early indication that Watford were in for a special season under the likeable Javi Gracia. During it he took the club to only their second FA Cup final.

At the start of that run I found myself in the very unusual position of watching them from the opposition dugout, as an assistant manager.

Woking’s third-round tie at home to the Hornets formed a strong bond with the Premier League club. Watford were very respectful of our non-League status and generous in the business between the two clubs – and they had to bring on Deeney to settle the match!

What I like about Vicarage Road

There is an actual brightness about it when you arrive before the fans come in. The colour scheme of red and yellow on the empty seats creates a sense of optimism which is reflected in the way the club is run.

I also have huge respect for the way Watford recognises the massive contributions of the late Graham Taylor, whose management at Vicarage Road took a struggling club into the footballing stratosphere. He was a remarkable man. The stand which houses the television gantry is named after him.

There is always the possibility too of a sighting of Sir Elton John, another giant contributor to Watford’s development, though he understandably likes to keep a low profile. He too is recognised by part of the ground bearing his name.

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Ben Foster leads Watford teammates through indoor spin session

Ben Foster leads Watford team-mates through gruelling indoor spin session as Nigel Pearson’s squad bid to stay sharp during coronavirus lockdown

  • Watford players have had to stay at home due to government guidelines
  • Foster set up a virtual spin class and his team-mates came along for the ride
  • Troy Deeney, Andre Gray and Craig Cathcart took part in 30-minute session
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Mad-cap Ben Foster swapped his Watford goalkeeper’s kit for a full lyrca cycling outfit in club colours to take his team-mates through a virtual spin class as the Premier League stars seek to keep fit during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Premier League fixtures have been postponed until at least April 30 due to coronavirus, which has claimed almost 1,800 lives in the UK.

Players have had to stay at home due to government guidelines and as a result they are unable to take part in regular training sessions. 

Ben Foster swapped his Watford goalkeeper’s kit for a full lyrca cycling outfit in club colours 

Foster set up a virtual spin class to stay fit and his team-mates came along for the ride 

Foster set up a virtual spin class to stay fit and his team-mates came along for the ride on Tuesday. 

Foster was joined by the likes of Troy Deeney, Andre Gray and Craig Cathcart during the 30-minute spin class. 

During the coronavirus suspension,  the Premier League side have offered the use of their Vicarage Road stadium to help the NHS in their fight against coronavirus.

Watford striker was among the players to take part Troy Deeney in the 30-minute session

The ground is next to Watford General Hospital and chairman Scott Duxbury said the club would do ‘whatever it takes’ to support the health service.

The ground had been due to host events such as induction courses and meetings.





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