First Team 17/11/2019

Internationals: “We Know We Can Compete Against Top Nations”

There was plenty to cheer about for Hornets on international duty this weekend, including debuts, goals and qualifications for Watford players representing their nations.

Adrian Mariappa's Jamaica kept up their fine CONCACAF Nations League form in the early hours of Saturday morning with a 2-0 away win at Antigua & Barbuda. It is now five wins from five for the Reggae Boyz in their group, with 20 goals scored and none conceded

The result also means they are guaranteed to top their group, and Mariappa has June's Nations League final championship and a potential World Cup play-off spot in his sights.

“Qualifying for the Gold Cup again is great and hopefully we can go step further and win it, but more importantly we’re now in an incredibly strong position to make the final round of the World Cup qualifiers,” said the defender.

“We haven’t qualified since '98 and each campaign it gets harder when you are battling against financial powerhouses such as the USA and Mexico. It’s still a long road but we’re confident we can make it, which will have a huge impact on the whole of Jamaica.”

Mariappa's Jamaica play Guyana in their final group game on Tuesday at 1am GMT.

Craig Cathcart and Northern Ireland drew 0-0 with the Netherlands in their Euro 2020 qualifier group, but could have won the match had Steven Davis not missed a first-half penalty.

The result means the nation are guaranteed third place, missing out on automatic qualification but having a shot to qualify for next summer's tournament through the playoffs.

“We feel a bit unlucky not to come away with a win on the night, if the penalty went in who knows how the game would have gone,” said the defender. “It shows how far we’ve come as a team, pushing the likes of Holland and Germany all the way in the games and feeling a bit disappointed not to come away with a win.

“It leaves us in a playoff position and we are full of confidence knowing we can compete against the top nations, who will ultimately be going to the tournament thinking they can win it.”

Elsewhere, Tom Dele-Bashiru featured for the first time for Nigeria Under-23s in a goalless African Cup of Nations Under-23 draw against South Africa.

The midfielder had not featured in his national team's first two matches this break, but came on for the last 16 minutes in their final match, having spoken recently of how important his Nigerian roots are to him.

“It was a great honour to have made my Under-23 debut, a moment I'm very grateful for,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t qualify which was disappointing but everyone gave their all and we must bounce back.”

Ryan Cassidy also played 86 minutes for the Republic of Ireland Under-19s on Thursday in a narrow 2-1 loss to Switzerland in a UEFA Under-19 Championship qualifier.

On Saturday, the young forward came on as a substitute and scored the final goal for his national side in a 13-0 win against Gibraltar in the same competition.

“For me, to score for Ireland is probably my greatest achievement as growing up I’ve always wanted to score for my country,” said Cassidy. “It means so much to me, when I was growing up I was going to the games in the old Landsdowne Road with my dad. He is the first person I texted when I got in after the game, because for me making him proud is the biggest privilege I can have in life.

“Also for my family, to represent them playing for Ireland is a great  honour. The goal was a cross into the box, I beat the offside trap and buried it into the bottom corner. I’ve scored that for my uncle Bryan, who passed away in 2018, and for me that goal is for him.”

Cassidy will likely feature again for Republic of Ireland Under-19s against Austria on Tuesday at 1.30pm GMT.

Under-23's 16/11/2019

Crichlow: “Everyone Has Been Supporting Me, Especially Chalobah”

By Kevin Affleck

Teenage forward Kane Crichlow feels the support of several first-team players has played a big role in his ongoing recovery from a broken ankle.

The Bermuda youth international, who signed from AFC Wimbledon in the summer, sustained the injury following an innocuous tackle by Daryl Janmaat while training with the first team towards the end of September and revealed some key players of Quique Sánchez Flores’ squad have rallied round him.

“Daryl apologised and he actually even brought me some cologne aftershave as a gesture,” said Crichlow. “As I left [the pitch], he was really upset and he didn’t want to train. It’s not a big deal and these things happen so there’s nothing against him for stuff like that.”

Danny Welbeck knows all about serious ankle injuries, having sustained one last season, and he was the first over to check on Crichlow when he went down. 

“Welbeck actually came when I was in the ambulance and said as soon as he saw me go down he knew what I was going through because of previous injuries he’s had,” said the forward. “He was just comforting me and saying if I need anything let him know and he’ll visit me in the hospital if I had to stay. A lot of people were comforting me at the time and helping me get through it.”

Nathaniel Chalobah, another player who knows about the long road back from injury, went that one step further and invited Crichlow to stay at his house on Hertfordshire.

“Nate’s probably been the best because he took me in,” said Crichlow. “He and his girl were taking care of me and making sure I’m eating right. He was making sure I was in a good space in my mind and just making sure I didn’t fall into depression or don’t start thinking about this and that. They’ve been really good, bringing me into training and all that. He has all the recovery stuff at home and that helps me to keep my leg active while sat at home. He’s been a really big help to me and my family. Everyone has been supporting me and helping me get through it, especially Chalobah.”

The offer from Chalobah was timely as Crichlow's parents had just flown back to Bermuda, leaving him home alone in his apartment in St Albans. Has Chalobah got Crichlow pulling his weight round the house and getting stuck into some chores?

“No not really,” said Crichlow. “He didn’t want me to do anything until I was able to walk properly again. I actually cooked them a meal the other day. He didn’t want me to do much because him and his girl were there for me 100 per cent.”

Crichlow has made good progress in his recovery from the break. He is out of the protective boot, walking freely and is on the anti-gravity treadmill at the training ground.

“It’s feeling a lot better now,” he said. “I’m not feeling any pain really where it used to hurt. There’s a bit on the inside but I guess that’s just stiffness. The specialist said it's recovering well and I’m allowed to start running on the treadmill and doing ankle mobility and I can progress on from there so it’s going really well now.”

The injury was a particular blow for Crichlow, who had been taken to Austria with the rest of the first team for pre-season and he'd just played really well in a 2-1 home win for the Under-23s against Bristol City.

“We were doing a crossing and finishing session,” he said. “Daryl Janmaat came in and slide tackled me and I jumped up in the air and landed on it. I heard it crack and I looked at it and knew what I was going through because the same thing happened to me last year around the same time. So, I knew something was wrong and I knew it was going to be a difficult one to come back from. The time frame for the injury didn’t seem that long from when it happened to now so it has gone pretty quick for me.”

At least the 19-year-old could draw on the mental toughness he showed to recover from virtually the same injury to the other ankle last season.

“It was in training as well and I was having a good session,” he said. “I was feeling confident and tried to do a bicycle kick and tried to land on my feet because I missed the ball and ended up breaking my left ankle. I heard the crack there too, so I knew something was wrong. The rehab is nothing new to me, the timeframe and all that stuff. I’m used to the whole process so it’s nothing really out of the ordinary for me. These types of things happen so there’s nothing we can really do about it than just recover from it.”

Crichlow was going such great guns that he also received a call-up to the Bermuda national team for the first international break of the season.

“My mum is actually Jamaican and my dad is Bermudian,” he said. “They live in Bermuda; my whole family lives in Bermuda. I have a couple of cousins out here but they live far away from me. My whole family is out in Bermuda and they come whenever they can.”

The forward, who can play on the left, on the right or down the middle, has already identified two of his countrymen whose footsteps he would like to follow in.

“I’d probably say one of them is Nahki Wells,” he said. “He's playing for QPR and doing really well right now. Also, Shaun Goater. He did really well during his time at Manchester City. It’s probably them main two because they’ve basically put Bermuda on the map for us. Nahki is still doing that to this day and he’s given me advice throughout my career so far and he’s a good person to look up to. I aspire to be like him one day.”