Watford V Middlesbrough at Vicarage Road Stadium : Match Preview

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13 January 2017
Watford V Middlesbrough - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.


Tom Cleverley raring to go as Watford host Middlesbrough

Watford's new loan signing Tom Cleverley wants to "feel like a real footballer again" after being frozen out at Everton.

The former Manchester United and England midfielder was a regular for Roberto Martinez at Goodison Park last season, but opportunities under new manager Ronald Koeman have been harder to come by, and he has featured just twice for the Toffees since November 5.

However, after finalising terms on a temporary switch to Vicarage Road earlier this week, Cleverley - who spent a season on loan at the Hornets in 2009-10 and was named the club's player of the year - is poised to make his second debut for the club against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

"I'm 27, I am in my prime, and it's been a frustrating first half of the season for me," Cleverley told Talksport on Friday.

"I think I needed to get out (of Everton) and Watford gave me a great opportunity to get my head down and play some football, and hopefully I can help the team from now until the end of the season.

"I want to play as much as I can, assist and score as many goals as I can, and just to feel like a real footballer again.

"It's all right training every day, but you want to be playing on the Saturday and feel that buzz of being part of winning football matches again."

Cleverley is set to feature in what will be an emotionally-charged fixture at Watford following the sudden death of the club's former manager and chairman Graham Taylor.

Taylor, 72, who died on Thursday following a suspected heart attack, is widely recognised as Watford's greatest-ever boss following two successful periods in charge of the club.

The Hornets will pay tribute to Taylor with a one-minute applause ahead of the Premier League clash against Boro. They will also wear black armbands. Fans meanwhile, have paid their respects by laying flowers, scarves and shirts at Vicarage Road.

"He was around the place when I was first here (at Watford), and even at Aston Villa I bumped into him a couple of times," Cleverley added.

"He seemed like a real nice football man, and it was a sad day for everyone in football - especially everyone at Watford Football Club."

Meanwhile, Aitor Karanka would like to keep Ben Gibson at Middlesbrough for his entire career amid speculation that Chelsea are lining him up as a B#30million replacement for John Terry.

Such has been Gibson's form since helping Boro to win back their place in the Premier League that he has been linked with both the Blues and Everton in recent weeks with England boss Gareth Southgate also monitoring his progress closely.

Head coach Karanka has worked hard to keep the 23-year-old central defender's feet firmly on the ground - and local boy Gibson has shown few signs of allowing himself to be carried away by the attention he is receiving - and is desperate to retain his services for as long as he can.

Asked if Gibson is the kind of player he wants to build his team around, the Spaniard said: "Yes, it's always important to keep a player like Gibbo.

"(He's) From the academy, from the city, someone who knows everything here. He is a good example for the academy players and I would like to keep him here all his career.

"But football is football."

Gibson has played every minute of Boro's 20 Premier League games to date and will hope to maintain that record on Saturday intent on revenge for their 1-0 home defeat by the Hornets on October 16.

However, he will run out - if selected - with a warning from Karanka.

He said: "The main thing for him if he wants to grow and he wants to improve is to forget everything, to know that if he is not playing well, the following day he will go to the bench or to the stand.

"That's the only way to improve, playing every day 100 per cent. When one player, especially one defender, is playing well, it's because the team from a defensive point of view is doing really well, but not just this season, for the last three seasons.

"He has a lot of potential. Top teams are speaking about him, the national team is speaking about him.

"But the main thing for him is to forget everything because he is playing - if he plays - on Saturday against Watford and if he thinks other kind of things, he can make a big mistake."

Karanka will be without the suspended Daniel Ayala and the injured Antonio Barragan and Gaston Ramirez as he looks to avenge Watford's smash and grab raid in the north-east.

He said ruefully: "After the game, I couldn't say anything bad about the players because they did everything. Watford just had one shot on target and they scored that goal."


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