Soccer

Watford’s Tom Cleverley talks to ESPN FC about Man United, Everton, future

Watford’s Tom Cleverley talks to ESPN FC about Man United, Everton, future

Pep Guardiola believes that the match against Watford will be decisive in City’s fight for a top four finish.

WATFORD, London — Tom Cleverley has told ESPN FC he has had to “come home” to press the reset button on his career at Watford, but finally, at the age of 27, the former Manchester United midfielder believes he is in the right place at the right time.

A Premier League title winner with United, and a youngster described by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2011 as “potentially the best midfield player in Britain,” Cleverley has ultimately been unable to live up to the hype after a combination of injury, loss of form and managerial upheaval at both United and Everton left him battling to win over the fans.

But after signing for Watford on loan in January — and returning to Vicarage Road after a successful loan spell in 2009-10 — Cleverley has now triggered a permanent £8 million move to the club from Everton this summer and has quickly become a key figure in Walter Mazzarri’s team.

Ahead of Monday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool, he has told ESPN FC that he is now ready to draw a line under the past and become a leading light at Watford.

“It definitely feels like coming home,” said Cleverley, who was born in Basingstoke. “I look back on the season I had here on loan as my first season in men’s football and there was no better way to start my career off.

“I won the club’s Player of the Year award, but from start to finish, it was an enjoyable season. I learned loads from the manager Malky Mackay and Sean Dyche. It was massively beneficial for my career.

“I was only 20, but the United squad was packed full of stars, so it made sense for me to go out on loan and learn about the game. So I will always be thankful to the fans at Watford. They were great last time and they have accepted me again this time.”

Despite bursting onto the scene at United as an exciting midfielder with the ability to create and score goals, an ankle ligament injury sustained against Bolton in September 2011 halted Cleverley’s development and he struggled to reproduce his early performances once back in the team.

And when United’s fortunes nosedived under David Moyes in the aftermath of Ferguson’s retirement, Cleverley was one of those players to bear the brunt of frustrations, both within the club and among the supporters.

Hostility towards him from some United fans prompted Cleverley to close down his Twitter account after an avalanche of personal abuse.

“I had a stint on social media, but I just think it’s more hassle than it’s worth,” he said. “Everyone has their opinion, but it’s a young man’s thing nowadays. I’ve got two kids now, so I’m more busy with them!”

Cleverley struggled to win over the fans at United.

Cleverley admits, though, that his situation, on and off the pitch, at United, ultimately paved the way for his departure to Everton in August 2014.

“You get that feeling and you just know when it is time to leave.” he said. “I am not the most patient of people anyway when I’m not playing, and in the season before, under David Moyes, I felt like it had gone too far for me to turn the situation around.

“I felt it was time for me to move on. Sir Alex had left, a lot of the players had reached the end of their careers, so it felt like a transitional time. Both within the club and among the fans, it felt like I had lost the faith of people a bit and I don’t think I would get the benefit of being judged on a clean slate.

“Being at a big club like that comes with pressure, but I think the reality is in the position that I play. I think the older I get, the more I accept that I am not going to be one of those players who is loved, like strikers or wingers.

“I am not going to go around smashing people, but here at Watford, I feel like I can do a good job to improve the team and hopefully that is what will get noticed. I have a good feeling here and I am sure I will be judged fairly, on my performances.

“So far, I think I have had some good, strong performances and a couple of average ones, but we have picked up 17 points since I have been here and that’s not a bad return.”

Central to Cleverley’s happiness at Watford is Mazzarri’s decision to deploy him in his favoured central midfield role.

At Everton, former manager Roberto Martinez played him out on the left, while Ronald Koeman’s acquisition of Idrissa Gueye, followed by the January signing of Morgan Schneiderlin from United, left Cleverley under no illusions as to where his future lay.

“Roberto [Martinez] has always been good for me in my career, but I think I would rather have played more centrally under him,” Cleverley said. “I was out on the left for the majority of my Everton career and I don’t think they got to see the best of me there.

“Obviously, Ronald Koeman came in and signed the players who wanted to play in the middle and you have to say that Idrissa Gueye has been fantastic. He also brought in Schneiderlin, so I knew it was my time to leave.

“I’m not one of those players who is happy to rotate in a squad. I don’t want to sit on the bench. I just want to go out and play and do what every footballer is paid to do — go out and compete on a Saturday.

“Your preparation for a game at the weekend starts as early as Tuesday, so to know from Tuesday that you are not going to be involved in the starting XI at the weekend becomes frustrating.

Cleverley is now enjoying his football at Watford.

“To be back in the situation where you know you have a chance of starting, or know that you are starting, you feel like a big part of things. You know you are working and training towards something, rather than going through the motions and ticking over, which is an easy mentality to get into when you haven’t been in the team for a while.

“I’m 27 now and not a youngster anymore. I want to lose that tag of being thought of as a young kid coming through.

“I want to become an influential player at a club like Watford, be a voice in the dressing-room, helping the young players, being an example to them. You want to be a big character and somebody the others look up to.”

Four months into his second stint at Watford, Cleverley seems a contented figure, happy with his football and settled in Essex with his wife and young family. And he feels a sense of optimism about the future, both for himself and the club.

“After my first week back, I knew signing permanently was what I wanted to do,” he said. “I’m really happy and delighted that has happened. It feels like a club which is going in the right direction and I want to be a part of that.

“Haven’t not had regular football, every player knows who how it feels to be involved again.

“It will be good to get a good, strong pre-season on and feel part of something going into the new campaign. It’s an exciting time for the club, the owner seems really ambitious and I am happy to be part of it.”

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_

Pep Guardiola believes that the match against Watford will be decisive in City’s fight for a top four finish.
WATFORD, London — Tom Cleverley has told ESPN FC he has had to “come home” to press the reset button on his career at Watford, but finally, at the age of 27, the former Manchester United midfielder believes he is in the right place at the right time.
A Premier League title winner with United, and a youngster described by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2011 as “potentially the best midfield player in Britain,” Cleverley has ultimately been unable to live up to the hype after a combination of injury, loss…

Source: http://www.espnfc.com/english-premier-league/23/blog/post/3114780/watfords-tom-cleverley-talks-to-espn-fc-about-man-united-everton-future

About the author

admin