First Team 17/02/2020

Femenía: “I'm Happy To Be Back”

By Kevin Affleck

Kiko Femenía is delighted to be back in full training and is prepared to play in either full-back position to help the team navigate its way out of trouble.

Femenía was in the form of his Watford career before he injured his hamstring against Wolves, with the performance he put in against Wilfried Zaha at the beginning of December up there with the individual performances of the season.

The 29-year-old played a key role in the early revival under Head Coach Nigel Pearson, looking really assured in the unfamiliar role of left-back in the wins over Manchester United, Aston Villa and Wolves. He has missed the last seven games in all competitions, but handed Pearson a major boost by joining up with the main training group on Saturday morning and taking part in a punishing 16-minute team run along with the returning Ismaïla Sarr.

“I'm happy to be back from my injury,” he said. “It's been very frustrating because it's been a month and a half that I haven't been able to compete. I haven't been able to do what I love and have had to train seperately. I think an injury is the worst thing for a player, but I'm better now, 100 per cent recovered. I'm back with the team and so I'm happy.”

Femenía's return gives Pearson cover and competition in both full-back slots and a real handy option when it comes to dealing with flying wingers. He was, for example, handling Adama Traoré, who has been one of the players of the season, comfortably until he got injured after an hour against Wolves.

“I feel very comfortable as left-back but I'm not overly bothered which side I play on,” he said. “I just need to be prepared for wherever the gaffer sees me fit to play. I will try to give my all.”

The former Barcelona and Real Madrid B full-back returns to the team with 12 games left and plenty of points to play for. 

“How I see the end of the season is us making a success of the season,” he said. “The main objective is to save ourselves from relegation and I think we have it in us, the group, to do so. I'm looking forward to contributing to the team from now until the end of the season so that we can make a success out of this situation. I hope to be prepared for the gaffer by Sunday.”

First Team 17/02/2020

Pearson: “We Can Do It”

Nigel Pearson retains the unwavering belief that he can navigate Watford away from trouble and mastermind another act of escapology.

The Head Coach oversaw remarkable survival bids at Carlisle, Leicester City, Southampton and, as Bryan Robson’s assistant, at West Bromwich Albion and he is plotting another one at Vicarage Road.

“I believe we can do it,” he told Premier League Productions. “I honestly think that. We’ve got a very good, realistic chance. We’ve got to be able to find a way of functioning as close to maximum as we can even when not at our maximum. It’s a difficult thing to do but that’s what we are trying to do.”

The biggest rescue act came at Leicester in 2014/15. The Foxes had 19 points after 31 games and spent four-and-a-half months anchored to the foot of the table between November and April, but they then hit a purple patch, winning seven and drawing one of their last nine games to finish 14th, six points clear of trouble. 

“You don’t want to get yourself into a situation where you’ve got to do that,” said Pearson. “It’s very dangerous to do that. What we mustn’t do is think that we’ve done that there [at Leicester] and so it will work here. It doesn’t work like that.

“I’m different, he [Craig Shakespeare] is different, the players are different, the circumstances are different. Our biggest job is to free them [the players] up so they can still go out and enjoy playing football, which is a very difficult thing to do and a very easy thing to say.”

Given the Hornets were nine points from safety going into the home game with Manchester United in December, Pearson believes finishing 17th or above this season would represent his biggest managerial achievement.

“Let’s hope we are having this conversation at the end of the season, but it would have to be, of course,” he said. “Because we are still in a very, very tough situation. From the situation we’ve been in, it’s going to take a real monumental effort by everybody but there is a long way to go.

“I don’t want to look too far ahead. We are going to have to deal with a lot of negative and positive stuff here on in to give ourselves the best chance, so we've got to show an awful lot of resilience.”