Heurelho Gomes has revealed the seriousness of the injury he sustained at Aston Villa, just how close he came to missing the game with Norwich City and the worry it caused his family.
The goalkeeper was left dazed and dizzy after he dived to cut out a cross and slammed his head into the left leg of Craig Cathcart. The Brazilian required a lengthy assessment by head of medical Richard Collinge and club doctor Ian Hamilton before he left the field on a stretcher, with his head and neck in a brace and clutching an oxygen mask.
Amid concerns over his neck, he was taken to a nearby hospital and underwent a scan and neurological assessment before he was allowed to return home with the team.
“I told Richard I was feeling my neck,” said Gomes yesterday. “It was very stiff and he was worried about this. I felt dizzy so I went back down [on the floor] again. I tried to move my legs to make sure everything was OK. It was big impact. I remember everything, that is the most important thing. I was just worried about the pain in my neck. We went to the hospital and the doctor gave me the all clear.”
The all clear came as a huge relief to his family, none of whom were at Villa Park. They had to rely on medical updates from his agent who was in the stands.
“He called them to calm them down because there was some news and the game was live in Brazil,” said Gomes. “My family were watching. My wife [who was in England] tried to calm them down. I called them straight after [I left the] hospital. She wanted to hear my voice. They [my children] were very worried. They didn’t see the game. They start to cry because they were afraid about the situation.”
The incident brought back memories of 2008 when he was rendered unconscious while playing for Tottenham Hotspur.
“I was knocked out for ten minutes,” said Gomes. “I spoke to my family in Brazil and I couldn’t remember this [afterwards]. That happened on a Saturday and I played in the league cup on the Wednesday. That was a big decision.”
Spurs received a huge amount of criticism five years later when Hugo Lloris was allowed to play on against Everton after losing consciousness. They were branded as “irresponsible”. Watford, therefore, were taking no chances with their No 1.
“We were very careful about this situation,” said Gomes. “It was a big collision. I had up and downs days afterwards, with dizziness and stuff like that. I went to see the specialist on Wednesday and I was much better on Thursday. He said I was OK [to play]. I did a bit of training on Thursday and a bit more on Friday with the group.”
Quique Sanchez Flores revealed in the build-up that it was touch and go as to whether Gomes would be fit but it turns out Giedrius Arlauskis came closer than was first thought to starting his first Premier League match.
“I did some tests [on Friday] and I was OK to play,” said Gomes. “Health comes first but I was OK to play. I wanted to play and I felt great to play. I just needed to feel safe first and see how I was going to react to training after Friday.”
Gomes has quite the injury history. He has a pronounced scar on his left hand which was broken while playing for Hoffenheim and wears a gum shield to protect implants behind his two front teeth after a previous blow to the face. The last thing he needed therefore was a stray arm from Sebastien Bassong, a former teammate, catching him in the second half of Saturday’s match. “He said it wasn’t on purpose and he was sorry,” said Gomes.