First Team 13/01/2020

Dawson: “You Can See The Belief Coming Back”

By Kevin Affleck

Craig Dawson encapsulated the complete turnaround in the team's fortunes with easily his best performance in a Watford shirt at Bournemouth.

The defender has taken a while to establish the sort of form that saw him called up for the Great Britain Olympic side in 2012 and made him a Premier League regular at West Bromwich Albion, but he was colossal at the Vitality Stadium, particularly in the first half. He headed everything away, made a couple of terrific interceptions on Dominic Solanke, clipped a couple of lovely passes down the line and then confirmed his rejuvenation by cushioning a pass out of the sky at the start of the second half and rolling it cooly back to Ben Foster.

He has revelled in the vibe created by Head Coach Nigel Pearson and Assistant Coach Craig Shakespeare and is loving the characteristics of this new-look side.

“That's the thing that has changed totally: the work rate,” he said on Added Time. “Everyone is working hard for each other. If someone is slightly out of position, the person next to them is helping them out. You can see that throughout the pitch. Everyone has got each other's backs and it's great to see and great to be a part of. We just need to keep the run going, keep working hard and keep winning games.”

The Hornets have won four of their last five league matches, drawing the other at Sheffield United, and there is no chance of Pearson allowing the players to think they have cracked it.

“The manager won't let that happen,” said Dawson. “If anyone's messing around in training, he won't let that happen. If he's talking, everybody is listening, everyone's eyes are focussed and it's great to see that concentration and belief in the changing room. He has been excellent on the training ground. You can see the belief coming back and see the players enjoy the game. It's great to be a part of.”

You could see how much Dawson enjoyed the win at Bournemouth by the way he leapt on Troy Deeney's back after the captain slammed in the crucial second goal.

“It was a great result,” said the 29-year-old. “You could see how hard the lads worked during the game. It was great to get the three goals and a clean sheet as well. As a defence it's great to get a clean sheet but it's not just about the defence – it's about the whole team. You can see how hard Troy worked up there.”

The magnificent fans fed off what the players did and there were some joyous scenes in front of the away end at full-time. 

“The fans were great,” said Dawson. “It's been a tough start to the season and now we are seeing them come out [and enjoy themselves]. It's exciting times. We don't want to get carried away. We need to keep working hard and hopefully have more days like today.”

First Team 13/01/2020

Deeney: “The Pressure Is On For Me To Keep Delivering”

By Kevin Affleck

Troy Deeney is hungry for more after moving level with Ross Jenkins in the list of the club's all-time league goalscorers.

The one the captained slammed in at the Vitality Stadium in the 65th minute was his eighth in 12 games against Bournemouth, his fourth in his last five games and his 118th for the club in the league. It moved him level with Jenkins, and now only Tommy Barnett (144) and Luther Blissett (148) sit above him.

“I'm closing in,” said Deeney on Added Time. “The pressure is on for me to keep delivering. You can't just do it in little patches. That's seven games back for me now and four goals. Performances will take care of the goals. I'm putting myself about and the gaffer demands it off me. He makes sure I'm still working, still running, still putting my body on the line. I'm working as hard as I can and as smart as I can. I had a couple of days [off this week] to rest the knee and it paid dividends.”

Deeney sets the standards around the place and is Pearson's on-field lieutenant, helping to enforce and reiterate the message the energised coaching staff are trying to spread across the whole of the training ground.

“You can look and identify lots of different things [behind the turnaround] but look at the lads coming off the bench,” he said. “Maxi [Pereyra] is tracking back in the bottom corner and then getting his goal. Andre [Gray] is trying to get his goal, Domingos [Quina] is coming on and doing the dirty stuff well. It's about a mindset and when you come in now, you can't just coast through games. The boys are putting in a high level of work rate and you've got to match that. When you step on and wear a Watford shirt, you have to match these standards.”

Deeney has been at this place for ten years and his iconic status is already assured, but he knows that doesn't allow him an arm-chair ride. It's why he was charging around like a 20-year-old at the Vitality Stadium and setting the tone from the front.

“If I'm not doing it right then they are going to let me know the same way I let them know,” he said. “That's the challenge I like. It's a winning feeling. The lads were hammering me in there (the dressing room) because in the 87th or 88th minute I did this big sprint back and they were asking where that came from. I don't know, I genuinely don't know but I've got that enthusiasm and hunger to not only win games, but keep the energy [high] and show the other boys that, even at 31, I can still contribute and be more than a bit-part player.”

Watch how the captain recovered over three months out with a knee injury picked up in the summer in Troy Deeney: Injury Rehab Revealed​​.

Our 35-minute documentary covers every minute of the number nine's journey, from visits to the doctor and the first gym sessions back to training with the Under-23s and finally returning to the pitch...