Under-23's 4 days ago

Crichlow: “It Was A Big Help”

By Kevin Affleck

Kane Crichlow is grateful for the mentoring of several first-team players and believes it was a big factor in his impressive start to the Professional Development League season.

The Bermudan youth international signed from AFC Wimbledon in the summer was taken to Austria by Javi Gracia on the strength of his attitude and performances in the first fortnight of pre-season and he soaked up the whole experience.

Although he didn’t play against Ajax or Bayern Leverkusen, the 18-year-old trained alongside senior internationals every day and got to see how they carried and conducted themselves around the team hotel. In his first competitive match since he got back, Crichlow scored twice and made another against Hull City on Monday afternoon as the Under-23 side ran out handsome 5-0 winners in their biggest win for nearly two years.

“It was a big help,” said Crichlow. “Their level is really high. They are Premier League players, some internationals, and they really helped me prepare for the Under-23 season. Deeney was giving a lot of advice to me. Him and Andre [Gray], [Adrian] Mariappa and [Nathaniel] Chalobah really took me under their wing. I was talking to them the most, getting a lot of advice. They said work hard, keep your head down and continue to work hard, catch the head coach's eye and hopefully get on the bench some time this season.

“It’s was great. Seeing these guys on TV you are like, ’Wow, I want to be in this type of position, travel with them and play with them.’ It’s a real motivator for me.”

The Under-23 side are back in action on Monday night at Sheffield United and that provides another swift opportunity for Crichlow to work towards his target.

“I’ve set a few goal; obviously to score lots of goals and assists for the Under-23s, and hopefully get called up to the [first-team] squad once or twice before December – or throughout the season, really,"he said. "Those are my goals for the first year.”

Under-23's 5 days ago

Under-23: Watford 5-0 Hull City

By Kevin Affleck

Academy Manager Richard Thomas was thrilled with how cohesive the new-look Under-23 side appeared in their opening Professional Development League game against Hull City this afternoon, putting five unanswered goals past the visitors at Vicarage Road.

A trialist put them on their way with a cracker, Kane Crichlow scored twice, Marvin Zeegelaar scored one and grabbed an assist and Joseph Hungbo got the other in what was a very fluid and dynamic performance from a side that featured six debutants in the starting XI and another two off the bench.

“It was a good solid start for a new group put together over the last six to eight weeks,” said Thomas, new to the club himself having joined from Notts County in May. 

“I was pleased for the boys and today was a good reflection of the time spent in pre-season. You've got to have an element of ruthlessness whatever level you play at and we had that today. They look like they've got a real understanding of the stuff Hayden [Mullins] and [Assistant Coach] Omer [Riza] have been trying to instil in pre-season and the attitude and character is the biggest positive to take.”

The club have recruited smartly to strengthen their Under-23 team with a raft of summer signings. Sam Dalby has come in from Leeds; nimble midfielder Callum Whelan was at Manchester United; Hungbo, the lively winger, has come in after nearly a decade at Crystal Palace; Jamal Balogun has made such an impression since joining from Reading that he captained the side from right-back; Crichlow trained so well in pre-season after signing from AFC Wimbledon that Javi Gracia took him to Austria while new signings Mason Barrett (ex-West Ham), Cameron Green (ex-Reading) and Henry Wise (ex-Derby) were also on the bench. Former Arsenal defender Bayli Spencer-Adams is also to be integrated.

“We've based our recruitment on attitude and character and then ability,” said Thomas. “We feel we've got a real good group of lads together with a good attitude, a good work ethic and they want to attempt to do things the right way: they want to listen and they want to learn.”

The fact Sebastian Prödl and Zeegelaar also played today for just over an hour will also do wonders for their development. Prödl talked throughout from the back, performed a nice drag back in the second half and cushioned over a cross with his right instep in a move that almost led to a goal, while Zeegelaar scored the goal of the game and created another for Crichlow.

“Both were class,” said Thomas. “They've trained with us a few times and they were exceptional in attitude and character and it gives the rest of the lads a great platform and a great example. It was like an old-school reserve team game and our boys will have learnt off those two very good pros today. Marvin scored a lovely goal and there were some great finishes. We've seen a bit of that in pre-season and bringing it into a game is exactly what we are after. It's a great start.”

HORNETS: Parkes (GK); Balogun (C), Prödl (Barrett 65), Hudson, Zeegelaar (Green 65); Trialist (Bennetts 71), Phillips, Whelan, Hungbo; Crichlow, Dalby.

Subs not used: Hoskins (GK), Barrett, Green. Wise. 


Dan Phillips (pictured above) and Jayden Bennetts have both completed the paperwork on their respective one-year professional contracts.

The Hornets hold an additional one-year option on deals for the two Under-23 players.

Phillips is an 18-year-old midfielder who was named Academy Player of the Season in 2018/19, while Bennetts (pictured above) - also 18 - is a forward who has previously trained with Nigeria's Under-20s.