Quique Sanchez Flores says Steven Berghuis’ quality has never been in doubt and believes the winger is finally ready to make an impact at Vicarage Road after his match-turning display this afternoon.
The 24-year-old joined Watford last summer from AZ Alkmaar but, after only a handful of short substitute appearances, Sanchez Flores decided he wasn’t ready for the rigours of Premier League football.
Following the Hornets’ defeat to Arsenal on October 17, Berghuis played just one first-team game over the next six months – a 60-minute appearance in the FA Cup third round against Newcastle United. But Berghuis returned from his spell in the wilderness with a 34-minute cameo against West Ham United last week and assisted Sebastian Prodl’s consolation goal.
Today, against Aston Villa, he was brought on in the 56th minute and helped turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory. It was from his cross that Troy Deeney levelled the score in the 89th minute.
“Berghuis changed the game, he was exceptional,” Watford goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin said in his role as summariser for BBC Three Counties.
Derek Payne was equally effusive. “Berghuis was the key,” said Payne. “He came on, stayed wide and was positive with everything he did. He put in some quality crosses. He changed the game, along with the sending off. Deeney showed if you give him the chances and he’ll tuck them away. Berghuis was direct and positive and put balls in early.”
We asked Sanchez Flores after the victory whether, given Berghuis’ impact in his last two appearances, he had any regrets over how he has handled the winger.
“We tried to play him during the first half of the season but he wasn’t ready,” said the head coach. “He has worked very hard at the training ground and now I consider that he is ready to play. It has been a difficult season for Steven but he has learned a lot from it. It is important for him. He is a very good technical player and I have no doubts about his quality. He has had to fight a lot to find a space in the squad. He has trained hard and at this stage of the season, when we know we’re safe and the players can play with freedom, he deserves to play.
“It was a little unfair when he was playing a few minutes in matches under pressure. He can show everyone he is a very good player. He has worked very hard to show that.”