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Craig Cathcart out to build on a special 12 months

Northern Ireland and Watford defender Craig Cathcart wants to build on a memorable past 12 months for club and country after finding himself without a club at the end of last season.

This time last year Cathcart was left on the football scrapheap after a difficult time at Blackpool, released as part of the exodus out of Bloomfield Road following a campaign in which they narrowly avoided relegation.

He shook that disappointment off by joining Watford and played an integral part of the Hornets' promotion-winning squad.

Now the 26-year-old can look forward to playing in the Premier League next term while major-tournament football is also on the horizon if Northern Ireland can continue their European Championship qualifying form and secure a trip to France next summer.

"It couldn't have gone any better really," Cathcart said of his 2014/15 season.

"This time last year I was out of contract and just about stayed up at Blackpool. A year down the line I've been promoted into the Premier League and in a great position with the international team so it couldn't really have gone better in football terms for me.

"For every team that goes up in the Championship, the next season in the Premier League is going to be difficult. You look at the likes of Leicester this year - that's the sort of thing we want to do. We want to stay in the Premier League for as long as we can and hopefully build on that.

"With Northern Ireland, we have got ourselves in a great position; hopefully we can carry it on through the campaign and get to France. It would be a great experience to get there."

Unfortunately for centre-back Cathcart, he also happens to play in a position where his international manager Michael O'Neill is blessed with options.

Experienced heads such as Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and Aaron Hughes have been ahead of Cathcart in the pecking order and the emergence of Manchester United youngster Paddy McNair has only increased the competition.

However, Cathcart believes the battle for spots is healthy and thinks his cause will be strengthened once he is back among the elite of the Premier League.

Cathcart could well get his chance to impress in Sunday's friendly against Qatar in Crewe, and he added: "We've had good defenders over the time I've been in the squad.

"They've been in the Premier League playing and it's obviously a step up from the Championship. Being in the Premier League can only be beneficial to myself and hopefully for Northern Ireland too.

"We've had Jonny, Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley and obviously Paddy's doing really well too.

"We're not short of defenders but that's only going to be good for Northern Ireland. We've got a good solid base there.

"We've shown in this campaign that we've gone away from home and got great results and clean sheets which has us in a great position."

Headlines for Watford this week

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  • Craig Cathcart out to build on a special 12 months

  • Northern Ireland and Watford defender Craig Cathcart wants to build on a memorable past 12 months for club and country after finding himself without a club at the end of last season.

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