Craig Cathcart's Evolution in His Time with Watford
Craig Cathcart has been with the team for a long time now and he has been through a lot of ups and downs. He believes this has contributed to his growth as a player and as a human being.
Cathcart joined the Hornets in 2009 under manager Malky Mackay. He was overwhelmed with the experience at first, only managing to play 12 matches for the team before he returned to his parent club Manchester United so he can have a seemingly better experience in development.
He had a lot of anxiety swirling in his head because he did not think he was ready at that moment. Cathcart said, ‘It was up and down a little bit. I don't think I was fully developed at that stage, I was about 75 kilograms, which is about seven or eight kilograms lighter than I am now. It was difficult as you are playing against big tough strikers every week’.
He knew he had to become stronger so that he can be competitive in the Premier League standards. He played four years at Blackpool where he developed to become a great defender in his own right. It was not a surprise why Sir Alex Ferguson regarded him so highly as a teenager.
He is glad that he had the option to return to United after his first stint with Watford was unsuccessful. Cathcart said, ‘I picked up an injury just before Christmas so I went back to Manchester United. I enjoyed my first time here, although it's completely different from what it is now. We only had 11 or 12 first-team players and the rest were young lads’.
After his four-year stint with Blackpool, Cathcart showed that he was ready to become a star. He signed with Watford on a permanent contract in 2014.
He felt that everything had changed in his four years away from the club. The club culture was great because they accepted him immediately and he became a vital part of the team’s bid to reach their goal of being promoted to the Premier League.
The Hornets managed to get the promotion that season and they have not looked back since. Cathcart credits their manager Slaviša Jokanović as the main reason behind their promotion. He said, ‘It's just a matter of getting the right manager at the right time. Managers come and go and as a player, you just have to get on with it. Jokanović ended up doing the job for us. He got us together and picked the right team to get us promoted that year. You need the players but you also need the manager who is able to understand the mindset of the players’.
Fellow Northern Ireland countryman and former Watford player Gerry Armstrong is pleased with Cathcart’s performance for the Hornets. He said, ‘I'm very proud of him. He's very solid at the back, he's very dependable, is good on the ball and got good pace. He reminds me a lot of John McClelland. John had that long stride that covers the ground’.
Cathcart has definitely evolved from the player who was hesitant in staying with a team that wanted him to a player who is relied upon to make great defensive plays every match. He already had the potential to become a good player in his younger days, but all he needed was a good push to help him evolve.
Words: Cholo Martin