Clev­er­ley marks re­turn with poignant win­ning vol­ley

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football - At Sel­hurst Park

So com­mit­ted was Wat­ford’s Tom Clev­er­ley to his in­jury re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion that he took a mem­ber of the club’s med­i­cal staff with him on his fam­ily hol­i­day to Bar­ba­dos.

The for­mer Manch­ester United and Ever­ton mid­fielder missed 11 months of foot­ball with an Achilles ten­don in­jury but is back play­ing and scored a won­der­ful win­ning goal here on Satur­day.

“It’s been a re­ally tough 11 months for me with the in­jury, the surgery and then the long re­hab. But that mo­ment makes the long road back worth it and all the hard work has paid off,” Clev­er­ley said.

“It makes you ap­pre­ci­ate the game more mas­sively. There were some real low points when I felt as though I had no pur­pose.

“I know peo­ple have far worse prob­lems out there, but when you are a foot­baller com­ing back from in­jury, it takes over your life,” he said.

“Apart from my fam­ily, my job is the most im­por­tant thing to me and when you can’t do it, you haven’t re­ally got any tar­gets or goals in life.

“It’s tough men­tally. I’m not the only foot­baller to go through it and I won’t be the last. I think pre- surgery was the hard­est as I just didn’t know when the prob­lem would get bet­ter.”

Clev­er­ley’s work is not fin­ished yet. Wat­ford are rid­ing high in sev­enth po­si­tion and he faces a tough bat­tle to dis­lodge ei­ther Eti­enne Capoue or Ab­doulaye Doucoure from the cen­tre of mid­field.

But the 29-year-old, who has been capped 13 times by Eng­land, is sim­ply grate­ful to have the nec­es­sary fit­ness to be avail­able for se­lec­tion for Javi Gra­cia’s side.

He is also thank­ful for his team­mates’ sup­port. “They have been a mas­sive sup­port to me,” Clev­er­ley said. “Some play­ers like to go away from their clubs to do their re­hab, but I stayed in and around the lads and I needed that.

“It was nice to see their re­ac­tion after the goal – we’ve got a re­ally good team spirit. “I’ve just got to keep do­ing the right things and, even though I’m back fit now, I’ve got to be pa­tient be­cause the lads [play­ing] in my po­si­tion have been do­ing fan­tas­ti­cally. We want to prove a lot of peo­ple wrong, kick on again and go on a run to fin­ish as high as we pos­si­bly can.”

The win at Sel­hurst Park, with Craig Cath­cart aton­ing for an ear­lier own goal by equal­is­ing be­fore Clev­er­ley added the win­ner, means Wat­ford have now equalled their best top-flight away record of four suc­ces­sive games un­beaten.

The tim­ing of Clev­er­ley’s goal, co­in­cid­ing with the sec­ond an­niver­sary of the death of Gra­ham Tay­lor, made the mo­ment all the more poignant for the club.

“He re­mains a mas­sive fig­ure here,” Clev­er­ley said. “I only met him a cou­ple of times, but it’s a proud mo­ment for me to score the win­ner on a day like that.”

The re­sult leaves Crys­tal Palace four points above the Premier League bot­tom three but Roy Hodg­son is not con­fi­dent he can bring a player to the club this month who is good enough to make an im­me­di­ate im­pact.

“I’m re­al­is­tic,” the Palace man­ager said. “There’s no point in me rant­ing and rav­ing at the chair­man or di­rec­tor of foot­ball, say­ing, ‘Where is this player?’ The fact is, if I was in their po­si­tion, I don’t know where he is ei­ther.” Hats off to our hero of the week­end, Kazuyoshi Miura, the world’s old­est ac­tive pro­fes­sional foot­baller. He has just signed a new con­tract ex­ten­sion with Yoko­hama FC at the ripe old age of 51. Miura (below) was play­ing for San­tos in Brazil all the way back in 1986, which was six years be­fore Sky in­vented foot­ball.

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