Sunday 25 September 2016

Northern Ireland's Craig Cathcart: Flores and O'Neill are similar characters

Published 22/03/2016 | 19:11

Craig Cathcart has been a mainstay for Watford this term
Craig Cathcart has been a mainstay for Watford this term

Craig Cathcart has drawn parallels between Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores and Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill as he prepares to swap his club shirt for an international jersey.

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The defender is part of O'Neill's squad to face Wales and Slovenia over the Easter period and he will look to firmly establish himself in his country's XI ahead of this summer's European Championship, a major tournament that Northern Ireland will attend for the first time in 30 years.

Having had to bide his time in an area where they are well stocked, Cathcart has started Northern Ireland's past three games in a season where he has also been a major part of the Hornets' Barclays Premier League campaign.

And as he goes from working under ex-Valencia and Atletico Madrid boss Flores to O'Neill over the coming days, he does not expect a culture shock as he admitted the two have a similar approach to management.

"They are actually pretty similar in the way they set up," the 27-year-old said.

"They're both tactically very good. Every game we go into for Watford and Northern Ireland we have a game plan and we know all about the other team, what their strengths are, who their key players are. In that sense they are very similar.

"They are similar characters, both very approachable; you can speak to them and they are quite relaxed around the training pitch. They compare in many ways, a lot of them are positive things."

Flores has virtually assured Watford's survival in his maiden term in English football while Cathcart and his colleagues have an FA Cup semi-final with Crystal Palace at Wembley next month as well.

Those achievements have received little recognition in a crazy season, though, as the likes of surprise leaders Leicester, Champions League-chasing West Ham and even fellow promoted outfit Bournemouth have stolen the limelight instead.

"For teams that come up, the first thing they want to do is to stay in the Premier League and build from there," Cathcart added.

"We probably haven't had the credit we deserve but that's just the way the season has been. Leicester have been unbelievable - the way they finished last year and have carried on this year.

"I t's been a strange Premier League year, it's been more like the Championship the way each team has beat each other. Hopefully we'll show towards the end of the season that we deserve to be in the Premier League next season and build on it."

Press Association

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