London Evening Standard

Etienne Capoue is feeling the love. “In France, they love football but not like this,” says Watford’s record £6.3million summer signing. “England loves football very, very,  very much. England is very special for that.”

Love is something the 27-year-old France midfielder had given up on before moving to the Premier League newcomers after two deeply dissatisfying seasons in north London at Tottenham.

The contrast with this move and the one he made to White Hart Lane in the wake of Gareth Bale’s world record £86m move to Real Madrid in 2013 could not be greater.

With Spurs acting like millionaires after Bale’s exit — they spent £110m on seven players — Capoue was eager to cross the Channel “because England has the best League in the world”.

The then-Toulouse player had been linked to moves to Liverpool and Arsenal but says: “My agent worked for me to find Tottenham. [Franco] Baldini [Spurs’ director of football] came to France to meet me and he said, ‘Tottenham want to play at the top of the table’. It was a good challenge for me to try to get Tottenham into the Champions League position. But we didn’t. We were not good enough to be in the top four.”

What the Frenchman could not have anticipated was Spurs chairman Daniel Levy starting a managerial roller-coaster which had a devastating impact on his career there.

“I played under three managers at Tottenham in two years. It was very difficult. The first manager, Andre  Villa-Boas, knew me and he gave me a chance to play. But after that I was injured and he was sacked.

“Tim Sherwood was the gaffer from the Under-21s who took over and it was more difficult because I wasn’t in his plans. He did give me a chance but I was injured. I was unlucky.”

Capoue was injury-free, however, when Mauricio Pochettino took over from Sherwood in the summer of 2014. “I played with Pochettino for the first 11 games [ending with a home defeat against Stoke on November 9]. After that I don’t know why he changed his plans and I did not play until the end of season.

“Pochettino did not tell me why he did not play me. He did not call me and say, ‘Etienne, this is what I am doing’. He did not speak to me. I wasn’t in his plans. I worked every day for him to give me a chance. I pushed myself every day. But he didn’t give me a chance. I tried to play good football. It was not enough for Tottenham.”

Not enough love from the manager and, it seems, not enough love from the White Hart Lane faithful.

“I don’t know whether the Tottenham crowd liked me,” he confesses. When probed further about what he feels about the Spurs supporters, it emerges that he has some sympathy with Villa-Boas’ views that they don’t often get behind their team. “At Tottenham, they wait, testing you always,” says Capoue. “We always have to improve.”

And, drawing a sharp contrast with the supporters of his new club, he says: “Watford has different supporters. If you miss something in Watford they are behind you. The atmosphere in the stadium is very good. Watford fans are good fans.”

Capoue adds that it was not a difficult decision to join the club.

“I jumped [at the chance] to move because I didn’t play for two years,” he says. “It was a bad experience.”

So bad, in fact, that when he wanted to move in the summer, he admits: “I could not even aim to play for the top 10 teams in the table, so I had to start at the bottom.”

Keeping Watford away from the bottom is precisely the reason owner Gino Pozzo made his move for Capoue, among others, during the summer.

“I spoke with Gino during the holidays,” reveals Capoue, “and he said to me, ‘It is a very good chance for you to play in the Premier League’, so I signed straight away. It is a very important move for me.”

Capoue is sure that he has now passed all the tests English football has presented. “French football is played in a very different way. There, you are brought up to pass the ball more. It is more technical. It is more physical here. What I like is there is more speed, more intensity here. I know the League now.”

He is also happy that he has adjusted to life in England. “It is difficult to adapt when you can’t speak English. But now it is all right.” In the process, he has realised what football means in this country. “You can see everywhere in England, in the cities, something about football. The spirit of the people, the mentality is very different to France.”

He readily accepts that “Watford does not have the same ambition as Tottenham. But Watford want to stay in the Premier League and Gino has made a lot of effort and good signings. That is why I am here”.

And, along with his wider hopes for his new club, Capoue also has personal ambitions for this season. “I am here at Watford to show to England how good a player I am. I don’t want to leave England until I have done that. You have not seen the best of me yet.”

In short, Etienne Capoue wants nothing more than to reciprocate the love he is currently feeling.


Share |



Latest Tweets

Follow me on twitter

Home | About | Books | History | BroadcastingJournalismPublic Speaking | Contact | Website development by Pedalo