Carl Martin

Watford academy chief reflects on “best and worst time of the year”

Watford have told the players from their under-16 side that have been offered scholarships and will decide later this month the second-year scholars who will turn professional and those being released.

Chris McGuane, the head of the club’s academy, told us that it’s “the best time of the year and the worst time of year” in breaking the news to the teenagers about their footballing future at Watford. The bulk of the side who played for the u18s, in a side jointly coached by Carl Martin (pictured above), in the top-of-the-table 0-0 draw with Charlton Athletic yesterday are still u16 and have already been told if they have earned a scholarship for the next two seasons. The names are expected to be made public in an imminent official announcement by the club.

U18 coach David Horseman. Picture by Len Kerswill

“To sit down and say, ‘Unfortunately the pathway isn’t there for you at Watford and we can’t offer you something’ is probably the most difficult conversation you ever have to have with them,” said McGuane who worked with Delle Ali at MK Dons. “You have to have a Plan B and a Plan C and work out what is the exit route and progression from here. Is it carry on in football? Or is it not?”

“Then, the other [good] side of that is offering them [the u16s] the scholarship – and we’ve already offered boys scholarships for next year, those who will be moving from the under-16’s to 18’s.”

Andrew Eleftheriou and Charlie Rowan
Picture by Sean Hinks

Max Makaka, Jacob Cook, Andrew Eleftheriou, Charlie Rowan, Connor Stevens, Brandon Mason and Nathan Gartside are all nervously waiting to see if they have earned pro deals. Promising strikers Michael Folivi and Ogo Obi were told they would be successfully making the transition last year.

“We are coming up to the time when [we decide if the] u18s get professional contracts and [if they] are part of the U21 or first-team squad or not,” said McGuane.

Watford FC Season 2015-16 Premier Lge Pic Alan Cozzi Pre Season 08/07/15 St Albans v Watford Watford's Chris McGuane .............Head of Academy
Chris McGuane. Picture via Watford FC / Alan Cozzi

Does the fact Watford have ten Professional Development League matches to fulfill this season – and a full programme next – influence the decision making?

“We are not here, as 18s or 21s, to win leagues,” said McGuane. “Yes, we want to win games but it’s about development. We do what’s right for the individual player. We’ll tell them the decision with seven, eight or nine games to go. The u16s then get the opportunity to play up. No-one is going to remember if our u18’s or 21’s won the league in ten year’s time, but they will remember how many players progressed through and who is playing in our first team.”