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.