Martin O’Neill said he dropped Ben Watson from the Nottingham Forest matchday squad against Preston North End because he afforded the midfielder a rest. Watson was brought back in from the cold in late-January and had featured in four consecutive Championship games.
O’Neill felt he could benefit from a week off, as he’d not played much football before his surprise recall, saying to Nottinghamshire Live: “He was just rested, yes. He has played a few games now, after not playing for some quite considerable time.
“He has taken the decision in the right spirit. I like him a lot. I like him as a person and I believe he has been a good influence around the club. The most important thing is that he has done very well in the games we have played.”
Watson has made 13 league appearances this season but he went three months without playing between late-October and late-January. The 33-year-old fell out of favour under former manager Aitor Karanka, but O’Neill has preferred Watson over Claudio Yacob in the engine room.
With so much competition in midfield, Forest wouldn’t suffer too much in Watson’s absence. The Reds had new signing Pele and Yacob on the bench, while the likes of Liam Bridcutt and Adlene Guedioura didn’t even make the squad.
Watson certainly has his work cut out to maintain his place in the team, but O’Neill will be delighted to have so many options available. Next up for Forest is Derby County on February 25.