IT’S often forgotten the sacrifices players make in order to succeed in football.
Having spent a year playing for Cork City, Henry Ochieng is delighted to have recently signed for Watford, not just because it gives him the chance to play in the Championship but also that he gets to spend more time with his family.
“Obviously, I’m thrilled to have signed for Watford,” Ochieng said. “It was always my aim to get back to England and be closer to my family.
“The last year wasn’t easy, in terms of nothing seeing my daughter as much as I’d have liked and then with Covid and the restrictions, it was tougher to get home as often as I’d like.
“I grew up in London, so Watford is the ideal club for me. I’ve been training with the club since December, so it was great to make everything official last month.
“Watford had seen me play a few times with Cork and contacted my agent expressing their interest in me towards the end of the season.
“I kept in touch with Eanna (Buckley) after the season, just to see what the situation could be, but for me, it was important to be close to my family again and try and provide the best for them.
“I’ve had a few sessions with the first-team which has been great.
“Getting to train and learn off some of the players here is a fantastic experience and, in particular, Nathaniel Chalobah has been someone I’ve admired in training.
“I’m always looking to improve and learn and with Chalobah being a midfielder like myself, I tend to study his game more and learn from him other than anyone else.”
Having spent just one season in the League of Ireland, Ochieng admitted that he did not know much about the league before joining City and was surprised by the quality of players in it.
“I hadn’t heard much about the league before I moved over.
I spent my career in England and the League of Ireland wasn’t really talked about much.
“I was surprised by the standard of the league not because I didn’t think it was going to be of a high level but because of not having seen games or heard much about the league before joining City.
“There is a lot of quality in the league.
“Jack Byrne was the standout player and it was no surprise to see him get a move but there were a lot of other quality players in the league as well.
“A lot of players have signed for clubs in UK (United Kingdom) since the end of the season. I think this year more than any others in the past, has had more players leave the League of Ireland and sign for clubs in the UK.
“Look at Jake (O’ Brien) signing for Crystal Palace, so players in the League of Ireland are getting noticed more and since I’ve come back to England, a lot more people are talking and asking me about the league in Ireland.
“I think the players in the League of Ireland have become a more attractive market for managers in recent years.”
Although relegation with City was not what Ochieng had envisioned when he joined the club, the midfielder does see his time with the club as productive as it allowed him to showcase his talents and helped develop his career.
The 22-year-old said: “It was a strange season for very a number of reasons.
“Getting relegated was obviously not what the club expected at the beginning of the season but the stoppage in the league along with the lack of consistency in the team, in terms of selection, didn’t help.
I don’t think we fielded the same starting 11 for two games running and you must have stability in a team to be successful.
“There was probably a little bit too much stop-start.
“Every time it seemed we were going to put a run of results together something we disrupt us, whether that be injuries, suspensions or Covid stopping the league.
“The manager [Neale Fenn] leaving through the season was a disappointment as well because he was the man that brought me to the club and I had huge respect for him but it’s a results business. Unfortunately, we weren’t getting the results on the pitch and something needed to change and more often than not in those circumstances, it’s the manager that pays the price.
“For me, personally, joining City was the best thing I could have done for my career.
“When I heard of interest from City, I did have to think about the move because obviously, it was a big risk.
“I thought about the logistics of the move and the effect it would not have just on my playing career but also my personal life.
“I was moving to a new country, leaving my family and joining a league I didn’t know much about, but it turned out to be the best decision of made in my career.
“I loved living in Cork, it’s a wonderful city and I got to play games regularly, which is what I needed to develop my career.
“It’s just a shame with Covid and the effect it had on the league that we didn’t get to play the full season and see what would have happened had we had more games.”