Midfielder Paolo joined Watford from Arsenal in 2000, and made nearly 100 appearances over a three and a half year spell at the club. He left in 2004 to join Rotherham.
Now a football agent, he spoke to Watford Legends in 2012.
Hi Paolo. Thanks for talking to Watford Legends. You moved over from Arsenal to the home of passing football. How did your move to Watford come about?
I was just about to sign for Norwich and we had agreed all the personal terms and so on. I was due to go up there on the Monday morning to sign the contract. But then on the Sunday evening I got a call from Tom Walley who obviously has close links with Arsenal and Watford. He had got wind that I was about to move and suggested that I get together with my agent and go and meet GT at the club.
So I went to Watford and I liked what Graham had to say, and we agreed a deal there and then.
So what made you choose Watford over Norwich?
I think it was that Watford had just come down from the Premiership and had good ambition at the time to go straight back up. Also, being a London boy it kept me in the local area.
It was a bit strange to join Watford when I did, as it was during the same summer that Arsenal left their training ground to move next door; and of course Watford moved in. So for me it was a case of same training ground, different club!
What do you remember of your debut?
I think I came on for 20 minutes during a 3-3 draw with West Brom. I remember coming on and thinking blimey, this is frantic. I’d only really been used to playing at a slower tempo in the reserve football and so on, and felt I’d been thrown straight in to it. It was very end to end, and it was a real lung-buster, so it made me realise that I needed to get fitter, and quickly!
So would you say you were unfit, or was it a case of getting fit for the Championship?
I think I needed to get up to fitness a little bit, and the Championship is quite demanding, but you soon come to terms with it.
Did you settle in ok at Watford?
Yes it was a great bunch of lads. I would say of all the clubs I played at, Watford was the most memorable in terms of making friends and really loving the club. That also helped me to leave the club on really good terms as well. So when I go back there now it’s nice all round.
Did you have any team mates that you got on particularly well with?
Yes I got on well with a lot of the lads and the proof of that is that I still speak to a lot of them regularly now. I speak to Neil Cox a lot; as well as Micah, Gifton and Jamie Hand.
During your time at Watford, in your second year, you were victim of an attack one evening.
It was a hard point in my career. I think as much as being injured, and being out of the game for a while, it affects you mentally as well. A lot of people said that I was never the same player afterwards. Possibly that’s true in certain aspects of my game. But I don’t look back at it with any regrets. What happened happened, it was a horrific moment, but thankfully I came out of it ok, as did my friend.
If you weren’t the same player afterwards, would you put that down to the physical or mental injury?
I don’t know really to be honest. I’ve not thought too much about it. I think it’s best for me to remember the support I got from the people around me at the time. I remember Terry Byrne, then the General Manager at Watford, came to see me in hospital as did a few of the players.
For the understanding of our readers who don’t know what happened, could you just explain?
Yes, I was at my parent’s house in Islington. My friend and I caught a burglar in the act. There was an altercation and a scuffle and then my friend was stabbed, as was I.
Did they ever get the bloke?
I don’t think they ever did unfortunately. All the leads that the police had didn’t come to fruition.
When you came back from injury was it a long rehabilitation process?
I was out for a couple of months. My stab wound was to my thigh, which of course is a crucial muscle when you’re a footballer. I lost a lot of muscle in the leg so you have to build that back up.
Across your three seasons with the club you played just over a hundred games (including cup games). Not loads of goals though…?!
Well that it something I would like to have done more of in my career. Scoring goals is the best feeling in the world, and I like to think I created my fair share, but yes I would like to have got more. My role in the team was probably not the role of getting goals though.
How did you like your WFC managers?
I was grateful to GT for bringing me to the club. He worked us hard on the training pitch to ensure we were well prepared for the next game.
I would say that Vialli was my favourite ever manager and I feel that I played my best football under him. I was sad to see him not given more time as I personally feel he would have turned things around and been a success.
After your few years at Watford, you headed next to Rotherham. What made you leave the club?
Well at the time there were a lot of issues, as everybody knows, with the money at the club. I decided to go to Rotherham as they were still in the Championship at the time. So for me it was good to go from Championship club to Championship club. It was a decision I would come to regret as my football suffered, as I joined a side that was playing a long ball game.
Was the option there for you to stay at the club?
It was never really discussed as there were so many major changes happening at the time. I think it was a convenient time for me and a few other players to move on, allowing the club to bring through a few of the younger players and working on developing them.
Were other clubs in for you at the point you joined Rotherham?
I think there were in the next division, and in hindsight maybe I should have gone elsewhere for footballing reasons rather than divisional status. I would still have been young enough to get back up the divisions.
So what’s the day job now?
For the last two years I have been working for a football agency called Platinum One as a Sports Consultant. We have three Watford players on our books actually. Craig Forsyth, Connor Smith and a youth teamer called Chris Dillon.
We have quite a few players on our books. My job is to go out and recruit players between the ages of 16 and 22 and try to grow with them. I do like to tell them about the good things in my career as well as the mistakes I made.
Do you enjoy it?
Yes I really like it. When players finish playing they mostly want to stay in the game, either through the coaching route or something like what I am doing now. I enjoy doing what I am doing and can see a future in this for me.
Well thanks for talking with us Paulo, all the best.
Thanks a lot lads.
Quick Fire Round
|Favourite Ground (apart from the Vic)|
|Best Ever Player|
|Team you supported as a boy|
|Favourite Holiday Destination|
|Favourite TV Show|
|Never happier than when|
|I see my family happy and healthy|
|Desert Island Woman|