Under-18's 20/08/2019

Under-18: “We’re Playing Some Really Good Football”

By David Anderson

Watford Under-18s have now scored nine goals in two games to get their season off to a flying start after a 4-0 win against Birmingham City on Saturday (August 17).

But ambitious Lead Coach Simon Clark is still not satisfied, asking for even higher levels of performance and encouraging his players to set their sights on the Under-23s and beyond.

Pre-season ended strongly for the young Hornets and their form continued into the first league games, as the 5-1 drubbing of Bolton on their own turf was followed by the 4-0 home win against Birmingham City.

“We’ve made good strides because we’re playing some really good football,” said Clark. “Yes, we’d like to play through the thirds, but if there are runs up front and we can hit somebody on the diagonal, we’ll mix it up.

“We’re different now, we’re more efficient now and more organised. That is really good development in a short period of time and in two months’ time we’ll be different again, because the lads are learning and listening and developing.”

Despite scoring nine with just one in reply, Clark’s high standards mean the goal conceded still bugs him. Even after keeping a clean sheet against Birmingham, he still brings up a first half with too many turnovers of possession and a brief second half spell in which the Blues pushed forward and rattled the woodwork.

This is because performances are more important than results for Clark, who has previously won the Professional Development League with Charlton Athletic but sets his real target as having his players establish themselves at the highest possible level.

“I want to create players who are better than our Under-23s players,” he continued. “With more knowledge, who are fitter and sharper and quicker and can really push to jump into Hayden’s side. Not just to make numbers up.

“I’ve made Dom Hutchinson skipper and he got a couple of goals on Saturday. His work rate, his leadership, he really took that on board, and I’ve been delighted with him. Andi Janjeva’s been very comfortable in the two games, Kamil Conteh is a first year who played emergency right-back on Saturday, and he is very assured both with and without the ball.”

The coach acknowledges that a global market for Premier League clubs can make the first team feel like a distant dream for some players, but he wants top level football to be a real ambition.

“I’ve already had individual chats with some players,” he said. “Don’t restrict your ambitions. It can seem far away but just commit yourself totally to myself, to the team, to the group, to your football club. Because that’s what it takes.

“Don’t settle for League Two. Think ‘I want to play with Troy Deeney’, ‘I want to be the next Adrian Mariappa’, or whoever it is and put 150 appearances on the table for this great football club.”

Watford's Under-18s defeated Birmingham 4-0 thanks to goals from James Matthews, Dom Hutchinson (2) and Ryan Maclean.

HORNETS: Baptiste (GK), Conteh, Maclean, Burchell, Matthews, Janjeva, Sankoh, Thompson (Horsewood, 75), Hutchinson (C), Lo-Everton (Harrison, 70), McKiernan (Lawal, 70).

Subs not used: Broome, White.

Under-23's 20/08/2019

Under-23: “The Determination They Showed Was Brilliant”

By Kevin Affleck

“That felt better than beating Hull 5-0,” said one of the players as the Under-23 side bounded jubilantly down the tunnel after leaving it real late to beat Sheffield United 2-1 on Monday night (August 19) in the Professional Development League.

The newly-configured side showed they could get their noses in front and stay there in the comfort of the surroundings at Vicarage Road last week, but at Chesterfield's Proact Stadium they demonstrated they could roll their sleeves up and churn out a result when not at their best. The winner came deep into added time.

“It was a good result,” said Hayden Mullins, the Lead Under-23 Coach after goals from Joseph Hungbo and then a late winner from a trialist sink the Blades. “The character they showed, the way they played and determination they showed was brilliant, absolutely excellent. There are loads of bits we can get better at and improve but the result was very good.”

It took this age group six games to get their first win last time out, but this exciting group of players, featuring players brought in from Manchester United, Leeds, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Reading and Derby, now has two from two. The fact they are playing with such cohesion so early on is testament to the coaching and the DNA of the players.

“The boys are quite close and a very good group,” said Mullins. “I read some good comments the other day from [Academy Manager] Richard Thomas about singing the right type of player and he's right. We've recruited the right characters and they are also good players. We've brought together a really good group and they've knitted together early on. The results reflect that as we've had two different wins.

“Every game is going to be different. You are not going to control a game and have 80 per cent of possession. Sheffield United are a very good side with some good players and they played a high press game and tried to get after us. We weren't at it at the start if I'm honest, but we tidied things up and believed in ourselves a bit more.”

It also helped that Adam Parkes made three smarts saves, including one effort he clawed out just before the Hornets grabbed the winner and that Lewis Gordon looked so sharp at left-back in what was his first competitive game at this level since January because of injury.

“I'm pleased for Lew,” said Mullins. “He's worked really hard to get back and he's a good player. He'll now be keen to have a run and back this performance up.”

The Under-23s are next in action on Friday when they host Sheffield Wednesday at Clarence Park, 1pm KO.

HORNETS: Parkes (GK); Balogun (C), Barrett, Hudson, Gordon; Hungbo, Whelan, Phillips, Bennetts (Wise 79); Trialist, Dalby. Subs not used: Adebiyi, Hoskins, Green, Crichlow