A conversation with: Tom Cleverley

March 14, 2024

Copyright: Watford Football Club

We spoke with Tom Cleverley about winning the Premier League, playing his part in the England squad, and the switch from player to coach to manager.

Tom in a snapshot:
- Won the Premier League
- Was in the Manchester United team that won a load of trophies
- Played for England
- Played at the Olympics
- Ended his career as club captain at Watford
- Manager of under 18s at Watford
- Recently promoted as interim manager of Watford

Position: Midfielder

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The Interview

We recently heard about the petition to have you removed from the England squad: How did that experience make you stronger as a footballer?

That is probably one of the most difficult moments of my career. You accept as a young footballer, you're going to go to away grounds, you're going to get abused, you're going to get abused on social media. But when it's your own fans that turn on you, that is not a nice feeling. Not an easy time, not something pleasant to go through. Also, it makes it hard for an England manager to

pick you in the future, when the general public are so against you. So it was really difficult. But something that certainly makes you thick skinned.

What was it like coming up in football with social media?

I think that I was sort of at the start of the social media boom. It was all a bit new: getting picked up on every little thing you said in interviews, or every mistake in your performance. But it soon became the norm, and you had to realise you're never going to please everyone. That's something you learn from the social media stuff: to only value opinions that really matter.

What are the highlights of your career? Is it winning?

If I was to pick out games, I'd probably go Manchester United debut beating Man City. Beating Arsenal eight two. And my first season at Watford actually on loan. I had the time of my life. First time living away from home, 19, 20 years old. First full season in men's football. And yeah, just a young northerner having having the time of his life. So yeah, it's not just the titles. My first full season on loan [at Watford], I really enjoyed that season.

What’s it been like transitioning from player to coach? And now to manager!

I was very lucky to be at a club where they were wanting me to stay involved outside of the playing arena. And lucky that this job was available so soon. I've completely engulfed myself in it, which I'm enjoying, and I feel like I'm the right man to develop these players as people and as football players. I feel like as a player I experienced pretty much everything: winning titles, relegations, League one, Premier League, going on loan, dealing with abuse. There's a lot of life experiences and football experiences I had that I feel like I can pass down to these players. And I'm loving seeing the learning journey that they're going on.

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Copyright: Watford Football Club

How has your attitude to the environment changed since you were younger? Especially towards things like plastic in the game?

That's that's a big one actually: I think we can massively reduce the amount of single use plastic in the game. Obviously hydration is a big part of sport, but I think it's one of the problems that's more easily fixable. But in general, I'm still probably 10% educated. When we I was a young footballer, we had no education in this space, so I'm always open to to learning more, then passing that on to people and hopefully having an impact.

If you were trying to convince someone to switch to Sokito boots, what would you say?

Comfort is the first thing: it just hugs my foot. The relationship between your foot, the boot and the ball is there. For me, it's also the look. I was never an extravagant guy, so the the vista look is perfect for me. I like to be a bit more under the radar. So with the Devista, I'm getting all three of those boxes ticked. I had coached in mine every day, and they are really durable. I've not had to change a pair for months which is a positive when it comes to saving money too.

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How do you explain your involvement in Sokito to your friends?

I'm an investor and someone who believes in what the company stands for. So it's a passion of mine. I know me personally, I'm someone who's not perfect when it comes to sort of the sustainability knowledge or the carbon footprint, but I think it's all about everyone making small improvements for a big impact. We were at a talk last week from a carbon footprint company, and they were saying 'I'm not trying to convert 10% of the public. I'm trying to make all the public 10% better.' And I think that's a good way of putting it.

Have you made any personal changes to try and be more sustainable?

I've got an electric car now, and obviously I'm wearing Sokito boots every day. But also small stuff, like making sure you turn everything off in the house when possible. Those those small wins. If it's walking instead of driving or taking public transport or whatever it may be, it's just about those small improvements

Does it scare you that we're already feeling the impact of climate change on football?

It's a problem that we all think is a lot further away than it actually is. And that's half the problem. We all love the beautiful game, but we don't want to get to a stage where fan traffic has to be minimalized, because it's not the beautiful game in empty stadiums. I saw a stat last week at how much like footprint fan traffic does have in the game, and it's scary that governments might look at that and think, this needs to stop. So I think that fan traffic is a big one that we can try and put right.

Shop Cleverley's boot: Clearly Black


Matilda Godson

March 14, 2024

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