The latest player in our series of one-on-one interviews is commanding defender, Joel Ekstrand
SWEDISH international Joel Ekstrand has quickly settled in at Watford, making the seamless transition from the Italian Serie ‘A` to the English Football League, following in a long line of Swede`s to have done so.
So what`s the secret? Ekstrand is a firm believer that there are a number of similarities between Swedish and English football.
“In Sweden the football is very similar to in England, it`s a pretty physical game,” explains Ekstrand.
“It`s still quality, but it`s more like pace, back and forward, an open game with lots of chances. In Italy it`s very man-to-man, very tactical, sometimes very slow, though it`s still difficult. When you defend in England and Sweden you quite often go zonal but in Italy it`s always man-to-man, which I had to learn.”
It was during his time in Udine that Ekstrand first came up against English opposition, playing both legs of the Zebrette’s Champions League preliminary fixture against Arsenal.
The Lund-born born defender remembers the occasion well.
“It was amazing. I`m an Arsenal fan as well, so that made it even more special for me. It was just amazing, a great game to play in. In the first game I did well but unfortunately we lost. The second game I had a more difficult game because we had to risk it a bit more, and going man-to-man against Gervinho the whole time [was hard]. It was a big experience to play against these teams. For me personally they weren`t better than us. They had more experience in these type of games but they were two wonderful games to play.”
The 24 year-old has quickly made himself a key part of head coach Gianfranco Zola`s side, and the one-cap Sweden international admits he is loving life at Vicarage Road right now.
“I wanted to try to play in England and this was a good solution and I`m glad that I came and I played. I`m enjoying it.
“I would love to stay, I`ve enjoyed my time here, it`s a lovely football club with wonderful fans and after the season we`ll see what happens. For now I`m enjoying Watford 100 per cent.”
REMEMBER! This is just an extract. To read the full, feature-length interview with Joel, make sure to pick up a copy of the Watford matchday programme against Blackpool this Saturday.