Watford change does not affect Cathcart for Northern Ireland
If Craig Cathcart is as unfazed on Saturday night as he was when he learned his club boss had been sacked, then Northern Ireland will be halfway to a great result in Switzerland.
Of course, Watford changes managers with such regularity that he has played under 13 different men since signing in June 2014, including two spells each for Quique Sanchez Flores and goalkeeper Hayden Mullins.
Claudio Ranieri has already replaced Xisco Munoz, whom Cathcart has only heard from his sister:
“I was at home on Sunday, not watching TV. I was relaxing at home with my kids. I was on leave that day. I try to disconnect from everything.
“My sister texted me and said that was it. I was surprised – it was a bit of a surprise but that’s the way the owners do things. They have things. in place, they make a decision and change things quickly.
“This is what they have done over the years and it has worked, so we cannot dwell on it too much. For us as players we have to accept it and support the new manager.
“I think if you look at the success over the last five or six years we’ve had sustained success. Obviously we’ve had this long time in the Premier League, we’ve come down and bounced straight back, so you can’t really saying too many bad things about it. It works well…
“For me it’s not good when someone is fired – it shows that something is wrong. We wish the manager who did everything to try to give us everything, but we have to accept the decision of the board of administration and support the new manager and come together and make the most of the situation. “
As for working with the charismatic Ranieri, Cathcart commented: “We have to look forward to him. He has a lot of experience in the Premier League, he won the Premier League, so he’s a new manager, a new challenge for everyone. I hope he can come and help us achieve our goals. “
Cathcart is not afraid of being scrutinized by new boss Ranieri on Saturday night, explaining: “It’s not something I really thought about. Once I leave with Northern Ireland, I fully concentrate about being here and trying to give the best of myself. my abilities. It won’t change my approach to the game at all. “
Indeed, he says he has had no contact with his Watford team-mates since arriving in Belfast: “Nothing, honestly, I haven’t spoken to anyone since I’ve been here. Maybe I’ll catch up with them later in the day. the week when they had a week of training under the new manager to see how things go. I’m just focused on things here and I’ll worry about all of that when I get home. “
He is equally calm about the prospect of facing the Swiss after a strong defensive performance in the goalless draw at Windsor Park last month.
Cathcart was the oldest man in a defense without Jonny Evans, Paddy McNair and Stuart Dallas, but felt any appearance of his “stepping up” was due more to a slight change in his role:
“I think playing in the middle of the last three means a bit more responsibility anyway. You’re going to cover the spaces, push the team up when we have to go out, it all comes into play.
“You have to talk a little more when you play in the middle, you can see everything. We all felt pretty comfortable in this game defensively.”
Switzerland tried different attacking formations, but were well repelled by Cathcart and Co: “They like to try to catch one of the center-backs and play in the spaces, but I think our distances were really good. someone came out the other players filled in the gaps behind.
“It won’t be any different there, they’re going to try to do it again, so we’re going to have to make sure we’re in the right position, cover the spaces where they’re most dangerous.”
Swiss boss Murat Yakin will be able to call on the attacking talent of Xherdan Shaqiri and Breel Embolo after both missing the trip to Belfast, but the visitors are doped by the return of McNair and Dallas – and possibly Jonny Evans.
Even though the Leicester City man doesn’t make it to Geneva, Cathcart believes Ian Baraclough’s side can get by without him: “It would be great if Jonny was available but the way we’ve played in the last few games, the young players who come in, they will be dying to play again. I don’t think there would be a problem if they were asked to come back to the plate. “
“That’s what the team is for. There’s more strength in the depths now, so, yeah, in that sense it’s okay…
“Obviously they’re a top-level team, they kept the ball a lot but I think we defended well, we created opportunities when it came to us and overall we were happy with the game .
“We could have had a win, but overall a draw was probably the right result. We’ve been working on things this week to try to be a little better and maybe take more advantage of our opportunities. when they show up. “