Quique Sanchez Flores says the “suffering” Steven Berghuis has had to go through at Watford this season has toughened up the winger for the rigours of Premier League football.
The campaign has been a difficult one for the 24-year-old following his summer move from AZ Alkmaar. He has made just nine appearances under Sanchez Flores, all but one of which have been as a substitute.
His lack of first-team football, and playing for the under-21s against Crystal Palace on a freezing Monday night at Clarence Park, wasn’t what Berghuis signed up for. He has admitted as much in interviews conducted in the Dutch press.
However, the green shoots of recovery are now evident. He has come off the bench in Watford’s last two Premier League games and assisted goals for Sebastian Prodl and Troy Deeney. He’s as close to making his first Premier League start for Watford, perhaps against Liverpool on Sunday, as he’s ever been.
“It is not always easy for the players at new clubs,” Sanchez Flores told us yesterday. “If a player isn’t completely ready they have to work every single day at the training ground to have the possibility to play.
“We tried with Berghuis during the first half of the season. He played four or five matches, for 15 or 20 minutes, and after that I decided he wasn’t ready. You never know how long it will take for a player to improve. What I am sure is that any coach values the work a player does at the training ground every single day.
“He needed more work in the gym and he needed a stronger mentality. He needed to suffer at the training ground. Now Steven is ready but it’s not only about one performance.”
Berghuis’ impressive cameo against Villa last weekend overshadowed Nordin Amrabat’s impact on the opposite flank after he had replaced Jose Manuel Jurado in the 71st minute.
The former Malaga winger may not have been as eye-catching as the Dutchman, but he played an important role in helping Watford turn defeat into victory.
“When Steven or Amrabat go onto the pitch we want them to help us be more vertical and to get down the lines,” Sanchez Flores said. “They understood the match against Aston Villa really well. They are fighting hard in training every day and I will decide what we need for Sunday.”
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