Mark joined the club from Sheffield United in the summer of 2011. He played two seasons for the club, one under Sean Dyche and the other under Gianfranco Zola. He left to join Bradford City in 2013.
Mark spoke to Watford Legends after his departure in 2013.
Hi Mark, thanks for talking to Watford Legends. How did your move to Watford come about?
I was at Sheffield United and it was the season when we went from the Championship to League One. Micky Adams was the manager and we weren’t getting on. In the summer Micky was sacked and Danny Wilson came in as manager.
I trained for the full preseason with the club, but I was aware that there were a couple of clubs keeping an eye on my situation throughout the summer. It was Blackpool and Watford who put in offers for me, and I spoke with both clubs, but when I met Dychey I decided to sign for Watford.
I still had a house in Loughton so overall it was a good opportunity to get back down south, and everything that Sean said to me on the phone really appealed to me.
How did you settle in?
Really well. I knew a few of the lads anyway so it was very easy to settle in. Obviously Watford is a friendly place anyway, but everyone was easy to get along with.
Do you remember much of your debut?
Yes I remember it well. It was a 2 -2 draw at Burnley, and we were probably unlucky on the day not to get the win. I scored as well, so it was a good game to get off the mark.
How do you feel you got on with the Watford faithful?
Any player will have ups and downs with fans, but what is known in the game with Watford fans is that if you give 110% every game for the club, then they will appreciate your effort. And that is how I am too, so I just tried to make sure I gave everything when I played, and try to express myself and never hide. So I think on the whole I had a good relationship with the fans.
I think in my second season under Gianfranco the fans seemed to really take to the squad, there was a good connection between the fans and the players. So when it comes to the Watford fans, I have nothing but good things to say.
Some say that you looked like you enjoyed it more when you played through the middle rather than out wide. Would you agree?
In different sides you can stand out and flourish a bit more. Under Sean Dyche, I got a lot of games, but it was a new side and Sean’s first job, so we were all getting used to new things. Under Gianfranco we played a bit more football and it gave me a chance to get on the ball a bit more, a bit of pass and move.
To answer your question though, I have to be honest and say that I enjoyed playing through the middle. And anyone who saw Watford play last season will know that we tried to get at teams by moving the ball around. At times we probably let in too many goals, but we liked attacking and playing free flowing football, so as a player you will enjoy that.
You are one of the players who was involved at Watford in the Sean Dyche era, and then involved again in the Gianfranco Zola/Pozzo takeover era. What did you make of that crazy summer?!
You don’t get too overawed by it as it happens at loads of clubs in the summer, with new managers and wholesale changes, and I had seen it before. It’s part of football. As a player you just need to keep training and looking for a place in the side.
It was very harsh on Sean Dyche but it is the industry we are in. The year before at Sheffield United I played under four managers in two seasons, and before that I played under two managers in quick succession at Middlesbrough.
I was hearing the rumours that Gianfranco was coming in as manager, and of course, I was excited. I’ve been watching him play when I was growing up and in the game he is an absolute legend. So I think there was a bit of excitement over what was to come. So it was a little strange, and seeing team mates who the year before were getting games, who were then not even training with us, that was tough to see. It was also a bit strange seeing sixteen new lads walk through the door in a matter of a few days!
Working with Gianfranco was a dream. I was fortunate in that he got on great with me and even now he still gives me a call every now and then to see how I’m getting on. Gianluca Nani was doing a lot of the work that enabled Gianfranco to focus on the coaching and working with us players day to day. Going in to work each day was a joy, it was the happiest time. The guy’s a legend.
We were fortunate last season in that we had a really good group of players, and many of these players weren’t getting many games at their ‘home’ clubs. Matej Vydra and Nathaniel Chalobah in particular had great seasons when they hadn’t played for a while before. There was a lot of competition not just for a place in the eleven, but even for a place on the bench.
Of the players that came in last year, was there one for you who really stood out?
For someone who is still so young, and with the injuries that he has had, I would pick Vydra. He was great to play with for his movement alone. I got a few assists for him last year but he made my job easy as he was quick to play off the defenders shoulder and enable me to slide balls through. And when he was in front of goal you knew he wasn’t going to miss.
He went through a tough patch as we all know, but the manager was first class with him. I still now think of that Leicester game, and everyone thinks back to Troy’s goal, but you have to think of Matej’s brace, and in particular that first goal where he volleyed it with his weaker foot to put us level on aggregate.
It’s just a shame that he has either been injured or just not playing whilst he has been at West Brom, as I would like for him to show the Premier League what he is capable of.
And talking of that Leicester game, where were you?!
I was gutted as it was the first time all season that I wasn’t in the 18 for the game. I overstretched for a ball in training on the Friday, and pulled my groin, so I was behind the bench with the other lads.
I could hardly walk, but when Troy’s goal went in I sprinted on the pitch along with everyone else!
What was the dressing room like afterwards?
Oh, it was nuts, and for a few minutes the celebrations felt like we’d gone up, but we had to come back down to earth to remember that we’d got ourselves to the final, but we hadn’t won it, and the final was yet to come.
You left the club at the end of the season. Did you feel hard done by having played for Dyche and Zola?
After being involved for most of the season it was a bit disappointing, but in the back of my mind I was feeling that at 28 years old I needed to be where I could see myself playing every week, and not be so stop-start. I was disappointed to leave Watford as I had a great relationship with the players and staff. And I will be more than happy if they go one better this year and get up, and if I can, I will get down to the ground to go and support them.
You’ve moved to Bradford. Was that an easy move?
Well I’ve never been in the position where I am without a club. At the end of every season in my career I’ve always had the contract for the season after, so that was a bit strange. I had a couple of offers and was speaking to Millwall quite a lot in the summer, but I worked with Phil Parkinson at Colchester and Hull, so I was happy to come to Bradford.
We have a good squad for League One and a decent sized fan base, so it has been a nice place to join. It’s a well run club and hopefully, if Watford don’t go up, and Bradford can get promotion, then maybe I’ll get a chance to come back to The Vic!
Well thanks for your time Mark, and good luck for the season.
My pleasure. Thanks a lot boys.
Quick Fire Round
|Favourite Ground (apart from the Vic)|
|Best Ever Player|
|Team you supported as a boy|
|Liverpool or Celtic|
|BMW 3 Series|
|Favourite Holiday Destination|
|Favourite TV Show|
|The Shawshank Redemption|
|Never happier than when|
|...I've had a good game on the Saturday, and we've got three points|
|Desert Island Woman|