Watford have moved to ward off any interest in young midfielder Ashley Charles by handing him a professional contract a year early.
The Hornets did the same with Michael Folivi and Obi Ogo last year to prevent the prolific teenage strikers being lured away before their scholarship ends, like Chris Eagles and Jadon Sancho were by Manchester United and Manchester City respectively.
Charles,17, caught our eye with a stunning goal in an extraordinary under-21 game at Brentford earlier in the season and is an athletic ball-playing midfielder. He will still complete the second year of his academy scholarship next season before turning pro for the 2017-18 season.
“Ashley has worked extremely hard during the first year of his scholarship and continues to develop and improve as a player,” said the club’s head of academy Chris McGuane. “He’s gained invaluable experience as part of the under-18s and under-21s over the past 12 months and he thoroughly deserves this opportunity to continue his progression with us over the next few years.”
Charles’ deal is a feather in the cap for his former school Watford Grammar School for Boys but also quite remarkable as the school does not field representative football teams, meaning his development is down to his natural ability and the coaching in the Watford academy, where he has been since the age of 12.