Joel Ekstrand’s disappointment at being ruled out for several weeks with another injury will be partially offset by the offer of a new contract.
Sources at Watford have today confirmed talks are well underway to hand the Swede an extension to the contract that runs out in the summer. Ekstrand, 26, is recovering from a hamstring injury he picked up in his third game back from a serious knee problem, against Boreham Wood last week. The extension of the strain is believed to be more serious than the “little injury, nothing important” Quique Sanchez Flores described it as on Thursday.
The head coach again reiterated his liking of the player last week. “I like Ekstrand,” he said. “He has experience. I like this player but I will understand if he goes to play [elsewhere] because he needs to play.”
Another player who needs to play is Steven Berghuis. He has not been involved in a matchday squad since the 2-2 draw at Chelsea and has not played a single minute of Premier League action since the 3-0 defeat at home to Arsenal. The winger, who cost £4.5m from AZ Alkmaar, has had to be content with goalscoring run outs in Under-21 matches. The club are seriously considering sending him out on loan once the emergency window opens tomorrow and shuts on the fourth Thursday in March. He can be sent out for a minimum of 28 days and a maximum of 93. Berghuis was farmed out by then FC Twente coach Steve McClaren in 2012, scoring two goals in a 12-game spell at VVV-Venlo before joining Alkmaar permanently in that summer.
Obbi Oulare will not be going anywhere, according to a well-placed club official. The Belgian has played just 45 minutes of FA Cup action against Newcastle United and a further three minutes in the Premier League as a late substitute against Swansea City. He did not even travel to Nottingham Forest on Saturday, the arrival of Nordin Amrabat shunting him even further down the pecking order. There are, we understand, a host of Championship clubs queuing up to take the U21 international on an emergency loan but Sanchez Flores believes his long-term development is better served by remaining at Watford and working under him, and alongside Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, on the fields at the UCL training ground in London Colney.
“Steven and Oulare are training really well but we have to decide to take 18 and they are out of the list this time,” sand Sanchez Flores when explaining the squad selection for the game at the City Ground, “but everything is possible next time.”