The Rise Of Craig Cathcart
My mind was finally made up in the 24th minute of Watford`s game at Manchester City. Craig Cathcart`s sublime, last-ditch, goal-saving block from Raheem Sterling`s shot epitomised how undisputedly fantastic the Northern Irishman has been since he came into the Hornets starting line-up last season.
It is hard to believe the centre back was out of contract with Blackpool before he joined the Golden Boys. Starting off as a back-up defender with us, he has come on leaps and bounds since he gained a first team berth. Cathcart has shown why he was so highly rated by Manchester United, the club at which he started his professional career.
Centre backs never get the credit they deserve. It is easy to give Troy Deeney and co. all the plaudits when they score goals that do win us games (maybe eventually!), but challenges such as Cathcart`s against City, one of many examples of his brilliance, go relatively unnoticed.
Ever since Cathcart has become a regular fixture in the Hornets side, he has been an absolute rock. Our stability at the back towards the end of the Championship season was refreshing and a real bonus in gaining our promotion. Admittedly, I harboured many doubts as to whether Cathcart would step up to the plate for the Premier League season. Most Watford fans, me included, were fairly adamant and confident that Italian Gabriele Angella would partner Prӧdl at the heart of the defence. However, the Northern Irishman`s dominant pre-season performances were indicative of what was to come.
New manager Quique Sanchez Flores made his admiration for Cathcart known very early on. I can`t help but think the calm, controlled and quality passing game of the former Manchester United man helped his cause. One of the main, but potentially less noticeable attributes of Craig Cathcart is his excellent reading of the game. His positional sense and awareness are second-to-none and he is invariably in the right place to deal with any danger posed by the opposition.
Sebastian Prӧdl and Craig Cathcart have formed a perhaps surprisingly good defensive partnership so quickly and early on in the campaign. Two clean sheets against West Brom and Southampton exemplify this. However, I believe the 0-2 loss to Manchester City was an incredible performance and arguably their best yet as a pairing. The best striker in the league, Sergio Aguero, was a bystander throughout the majority of the 90 minutes. I`d add fifty million pounds to the value of Craig Cathcart`s back pocket since that game. In all seriousness though, he and Prӧdl bullied Aguero and nullified the Argentinian`s talent commendably. Very few defences will do the same this year.
I will say it now; Craig Cathcart is one of the most underrated players in the Watford squad. His name won`t be plastered on the back of many fans shirts, he`s a centre back for goodness sake, it`s unfashionable (Apparently!). Added to this, he will inevitably not grab as many headlines as Deeney or Ighalo, but he is now just as crucial and integral to the team as they are. So, now I`ve talked him up a bit, I can`t wait to see Cathcart have an absolute howler that ends up costing us the game against Swansea!