Watford and Udinese are the worst offenders in Europe when it comes to giving league minutes to national players this season, underlining again how the Pozzo model is based on importing foreign players.
Research by CIES Football Observatory has revealed that just nine per cent of the minutes played by Watford’s first-team players in the Premier League has come courtesy of English players, the worst in the league. Troy Deeney is the only English player to start a game while Ben Watson’s 26 minutes at St Mary’s is the only other appearance by an English player. Indeed, the Hornets fielded 11 different nationalities against Southampton.
Watford’s tally is the worst in the Premier League by some distance and only Udinese have a poorer record of teams on the continent. Only one per cent of their Serie A minutes were completed by Italian players, a figure largely a result of two second-half substitute appearances by former Hornets defender Gabriele Angella.
Watford’s miserable record does not look like improving any time soon, which will come as a blow to those who took great pride in the club bringing through more than 50 youth products to the first XI. Watford were three players shy of naming a 25-man Premier League squad because they did not have enough home-grown players.
The face of the club’s academy is also changing, with two Colombians, three Nigerians, a Venezuelan, a Belgian, an Israeli, a Portuguese and at least one Brazilian among the 39 scholars and under-21 players on the club’s books. The club are also giving trials to a Nigerian (Godswill Ekpolo) and an Italian (Federico Macheda).
One home-grown player who may, eventually, make the grade is 17-year-old Reece Stray.
“Reece is a box-to-box midfielder who possesses a very good range of passing, is a tough tackler and also chips in with his fair share of goals,” says David Horseman, Watford’s under-18 coach. “He leads through example on the pitch and has shown that he has great potential.