It will not be the nicest of jobs for the recruitment team, working through their shortlist of goalkeepers in the think tank at the back of the UCL canteen, while Rene Gilmartin, one of the most popular guys at the training ground, goes through some painstaking work in the adjacent gym as he continues his rehabilitation from a dislocated knee cap.
Watford have made no secret of their wish to add a senior goalkeeper to their ranks after Gilmartin was ruled out for the rest of the season following an injury to his right knee he sustained at Clarence Park last month against Birmingham City Under-21s. Gilmartin underwent surgery on November 9, a procedure that involved the lateral release and stabilisation of all medial structures to align the patella.
His injury has had a significant knock-on effect on the club’s goalkeeping resources. Nathan Gartside is not being risked in Under-21 or U18 matches as he is now third-choice behind Giedrius Arlauskis and Heurelho Gomes. Andrew Thomas, the England Under-17 wicketkeeper, has been bumped up to play in goal for the U18s and trialists, including Chris Haigh and Joe Simpson, have been used to cover the spots in the U21 team.
Watford, we are told, would ideally like to recruit a home-grown goalkeeper who can replace Gilmartin in the resubmitted Premier League squad next momth, but they are not easy to come by, especially when they will be second choice, at best, behind Heurelho Gomes. A club official contacted Manchester United in the summer regarding one of their players, but it was not the out of favour goalkeeper Victor Valdes who has never been on the club’s radar. His apparent £1.5m a season wages at Old Trafford make any deal prohibitive for a start.
Gilmartin’s contract expires in the summer of 2017 and he will want to get back fit for the summer so he can stake a claim for another deal.
“I’m alright,” Gilmartin said in an interview with Hornets Player. “I’m getting there. I’m doing what I can, [mostly] upper body at the moment. It keeps me going and is mentally stimulating doing weights in the gym. I just started swimming too, which is great as it’s cardio. We’ve done seat boxing, reaction stuff and hand-eye co-ordination. It’s good to change the sessions up so it isn’t monotonous.”
More than four weeks since surgery, Gilmartin is usually on the physio bed at 9am for a two-hour massage to reduce the swelling in the knee. He then heads to the gym to do strength, power or cardio session under the guidance of Jack Baxter, the sports scientist.
“We don’t have to worry about his mental strength,” said Baxter. “He comes in and is very good, It’s trying to get him off the weights, if anything. He works very hard and it’s important to keep the sessions ticking over and different.”
Gilmartin does not like people making a fuss and does not do sympathy very well but we spoke to two Watford players who publicly passed on their support.
“I was very sad when I heard the news,” said Gomes. “Rene is a great guy around the place. He is a very good goalkeeper as well. If he has an opportunity, one day, he’ll do great things for Watford or whoever he plays for. He is doing great and never gives up.”
Miguel Layun and Gilmartin struck up an unlikely friendship during their short time together at Vicarage Road and we spoke exclusively to the Mexican after Porto’s 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge last week.
“I’m disappointed for everyone, not just him,” said Layun. “I was talking with him in the last week and I know it’s a very hard moment for him. But he’s a tough guy, he knows to keep working, keep smiling and he will be OK.”