Jose Holebas feels he can play for another five years now he has quit international football – and, like Valon Behrami, he would have left Watford had they not changed the head coach.
The spiky left-back could have been gone as early as January after stinking the place out with his attitude, but the suspension of Nathan Ake threw him an unexpected lifeline either side of Christmas. He impressed, as he has done nearly every time he’s pulled on a Watford shirt, in games against Chelsea (twice), Manchester City and Leeds United, but he reacted badly to being left out for the league game against Bournemouth and that was just about that for him and Quique Sanchez Flores.
“I’m pleased with my form so far this year, although to be honest I think I’m still the same player as last year,” said Holebas in an interview with the club programme. “It’s just that – as everyone knows – I didn’t have many opportunities to show what I can do. When I did play I showed it, but I never got a run of matches in the team and that makes you sad. I’m an emotional player, I’m only human, so it was difficult to handle sometimes, but that is quite normal.”
Holebas reacted particularly poorly to being overlooked for Nathan Ake for the game against Bournemouth, posting the following on social media. He only played four times thereafter.
“It was the hardest year of my career so far,” he said. “I’d never known things like this before – in all my previous teams, I’d been playing, but there I didn’t take my spot, even though I had been fighting for it. It was the coach’s decision and I accepted it because the team did a great job last year, but there were opportunities to leave and I was considering them. I spoke about it with the club, but they changed the coach over the summer and things changed very quickly for me. I’m the same player as I was last year, but this year I’ve had more chances. I’m a team player – I’m not a one-man show guy – so now I’m trying to help the team wherever I can.”
In fact, Holebas has moved to ensure his sole focus is on his club career with Watford by hanging up his international boots at the age of just 32 and with a World Cup on the horizon.
“When you make a decision like this, everyone looks at your age, but for me, age means nothing,” he says. “I’m totally fit and healthy and I think I can maybe play for another five years. It’s just that now I’m going to focus completely on my club career.”