I got home last night after a long trip from London in complete silence. It has been a long time since I have listened to the sound of silence like we did on Saturday. Sometimes you wonder what happened, you are sorry about an error, about a particular mistake, a bad pass… A thousand things. On Saturday, for the first time in a while, I couldn’t think about anything. It felt like waking up from a nightmare that makes you feel bad, even though can’t remember what the nightmare was about. And you feel down and frustrated.
We didn’t make a fool of ourselves I think, because at least we got out there and competed. We went for it, and we competed and we enjoyed it… until the lights were switched off. When that happened, we suffered the worse defeat that I have lived through in my career. Seven goals in 45 minutes. Even worse, five in twenty. “Good, good, we hold them up in the second half and we get the win” we were saying at half time when we were 2-0 up. It is impossible to explain what happened next. Even more impossible is to understand it. We didn’t make a fool of ourselves but we were humiliated in the most cruel manner I can remember.
For the first time in my life I can’t explain what happened. Watford’s first goal came from a very clear fault and moreover it was off side. Ok, that was a cheap shot and no justification of why we lowered our arms. We didn’t realise what was going on. They looked like a well oiled machine and we were a bunch of blokes who didn’t know each other and got together to kick the ball around. We were looking at each other without seeing each other, we were running around like headless chickens and we were humiliated.
I am sorry. Sorry? Yes, this time I really feel for the fans who came to support us and I can’t say sorry enough. There was a moment in which I thought – I could fake an injury, get substituted and run away from this craziness. But immediately I thought I wouldn’t be able to do that without feeling ashamed of myself when I looked in the mirror. I felt ashamed of myself anyway.
A few weeks ago I had the feeling that I was improving, I kept repeating that to myself and I was convinced that a goal was all I needed. I scored and went crazy without knowing what was to come. A goal, the best sensation for a football player, just to end up that way…
At the end of the game the mood in the changing room was baffling. We spent half an hour talking, without reproaches, without shouting…Trying to explain what had happened, trying to understand what happened. Later, the silence came. I guess everybody was dealing with it in their own way. If I think about Elliot I can imagine how he felt, if I think about Clarke I can guess how he felt when he left the pitch after Ighalo scored the 3-2. It was just crazy, like a horror movie.
The return trip was bad. The coach and some of the players stayed in London and I spent the whole trip looking nowhere. I answered 3 or 4 messages that were trying to cheer me up, but they made me even more down. On these occasions you think about the times people tell you how good the life of a professional player is. Sometimes you need to remind them how hard it is, the frustration you feel, the anger, the sadness and the powerlessness.
I listened to the sound of silence. It was so annoying that it still bothers me. I arrived at home after 10pm and at least I got an innocent, sincere and caring hug off my two daughters. There were five, maybe ten minutes of peace which helped me psychologically. Then Laura. She didn’t say anything. She just hugged me to show her support and understanding. She knows me so well, we know each other so well, that we know when we need some space and words aren’t necessary.
Again, for the first time in a while I didn’t sleep all night and when I got up, I was silly enough to look for the game’s highlights. Even more pain. You see all the goals in barely two minutes but your head discovers what happened before and after, how the ball was lost, how the position was maintained, that fault, that defensive cover… I got depressed again. “Stop thinking about it” Laura told me, trying to cheer me up. I have always said that I never surrender, that when the situation is tough I will fight even harder. I feel good physically, I know I am ok and I am not saying this for the sake of it, because you know when you are good despite what the coaches or friends say. I rebel against this situation because that is the way I am!
On Saturday we are playing against Brighton who lost 3-2 against Arsenal in the FA Cup and are not at their best. It’s not a surprise to say that it will be a very special game for me because I will play against my former team, where my “bro” Calderon plays and a team in which I have lots of friends. But on the pitch I will play with anger. Not at them but for myself, for my team, my teammates, my coach and our fans.
I always wanted to be a football player. I still want to be one. If it’s true that you have to learn from your mistakes, I hope we have learned a lot about what happened on Saturday in London.
Translated by Alfons Vinent.