First Team 26/07/2019

Cleverley: “QPR Will Offer Something Different”

By Kevin Affleck

Tom Cleverley is looking forward to going back to the scene of one of the Hornets’ toughest assignments last season when the team play Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Saturday.

The team were given a real going over in the fifth-round of the FA Cup in February and were just relieved to get out of west London with a scrappy 1-0 win so they could continue their cup adventure.

Cleverley played 84 minutes of the tie and remembers just how under the cosh the team were that night.

“The cup game there last season was a very difficult game and it will be a good run out for us,” he said. “I always enjoy playing there, the fans are close, it’s a good atmosphere and even though it’s a friendly, I’m sure it will be good turnout. I’m looking forward to it.”

The game will be the team’s third this summer, following on from those against Ajax and Bayer Leverkusen last week, and should help ensure they are in tip-top shape and ready for anything the opening game of the season has to throw at them.

“The two teams we’ve played were very possession-based,” said Cleverley. “It will be something closer to the Brighton game, so it’s good to get a mixture of styles as that’s what happens throughout the season. We are now back on English soil, at a proper English stadium and it will be a good test. It will offer something different to the games we have already played.”

Cleverley has a real spring in his step this summer as he spent the last one working his way back from a long-term injury. He feels and looks in good shape and can now concentrate on forcing his way into the starting XI.

“Pre-season has been hard,” he said. “You realise what a platform it is and what a foundation it gives you for the rest of the season. It’s no good for anyone trying to play catch-up in November. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and now let’s build towards the start of the season.”

First Team 26/07/2019

Okaka: “I Want To Show My Best”

By Kevin Affleck

Strapping striker Stefano Okaka wants the chance to transfer his form at the end of last season with Udinese to the yellow and black of the Hornets.

Okaka rattled in six goals in 11 starts for the Serie A side, including four in his last two, to finish his spell in Italy with a bang. He is now back in Hertfordshire with the Hornets and has played a half of both high-profile friendlies against Ajax and Bayer Leverkusen. 

“It is always good to be back,” said the 29-year-old. “I have made a lot friends here and I’m pleased to be back for work and for pre-season. I feel good. I did six months in Udinese, I played at near my best, scored a lot of goals, and I want to show my best in this pre-season.”

Okaka has scored five goals since signing from Anderlecht and he is eager to kick on and add to his goal tally and 39 appearances for the club.

“I want to enjoy my career and I want to play as I have been in and out,” he said. “I was down after the previous coach but now I want to enjoy. We will speak with the club and see the decision for me.”