Aitor Karanka has warned Middlesbrough to be wary of a man he would have dearly loved to have signed as they go in search of their first home win of the Premier League season.
Boro welcome Watford to Teesside on Sunday two seasons after they last locked horns in the Sky Bet Championship.
They will do so with in-form striker Troy Deeney once again leading the charge to the extent that former England skipper Alan Shearer has touted him for an international call-up.
Head coach Karanka knows all about the 28-year-old from painful experience.
He said: “Troy Deeney is the kind of player that I like a lot. When I first came here we were trying to sign a striker and he was one of the first on the list.
“At that time it was impossible and the following season they got promoted, so... But he’s a player I really like.”
The last time the sides met at the Riverside Stadium in October 2014 the home side led through Kike’s first-half strike and felt they were in control until Deeney was introduced as a 53rd-minute substitute, and it took him just eight minutes to score the goal which secured a point.
Karanka said: “I have suffered in the past and I know how good he is. If I remember the last game we played against them we were winning 1-0, we were much, much better than Watford and when Deeney went onto the pitch, everything changed.
“For that reason, the last memory was really good to analyse the game to know how good he is. But now he is in a better team with better organisation, better players, more quality, so for us he is even more dangerous.”
If Boro and the Hornets are old foes, Karanka is in little doubt that Sunday’s visitors have moved on from those days, despite current boss Walter Mazzarri being the seventh man to occupy the hot-seat at Vicarage Road during his two-and-a-half years or so in the north east.
He said: “Last season for them, especially as a promoted team, was really good. Now they have one more season’s experience than us and for that reason it’s going to be a really tough game.
“If you are going to call this kind of game a game in our own league, they are more experienced, they have players with more experience than us and for that reason it’s going to be a tough, tough game.
“But once again, we have to focus on ourselves. It’s a good chance to win our first game at home, but as always knowing we have to be 100 per cent.”
Karanka has seen all his international players return unscathed as he plots victory over Watford.
Karanka will run the rule over the men who did duty with their countries during the break, paying particular attention to Uruguay duo Gaston Ramirez and Cristhian Stuani following their lengthy journeys, but he has reported no fresh injury concerns.
Only skipper Grant Leadbitter remains on the sidelines as he works his way back to full fitness following hernia surgery.
Provisional squad: Valdes, Guzan, Chambers, Friend, Barragan, Nsue, Da Silva, Ayala, Gibson, Espinosa, De Roon, Clayton, Ramirez, Forshaw, Downing, Stuani, Fischer, De Sart, Traore, Negredo, Nugent, Rhodes.