Watford have high hopes that Michael Folivi could be the next long-awaited player to graduate from the youth team to the first team.
The teenage striker, who signed a professional deal while still being a scholar, has signed a new improved three-and-a-half year contract, a reward for his goals for the under-23 team this season and his performances in training alongside Walter Mazzarri’s Premier League squad.
Connor Smith was the last academy graduate to play any minutes for the first team – he started the League Cup defeat at Preston at the start of last season – but you have to go back to Sean Murray and Tommie Hoban for a time when a youth product nailed down a place in the first team.
Although Folivi is some way off challenging Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo, Stefano Okaka and Isaac Success for their spots – England youth international Jerome Sinclair can’t get a sniff right now – there is the feeling inside the club that, in time and with physical and technical development, the goalpoacher could be knocking on the first-team door in the future. He’s certainly ahead of Alex Jakubiak in the pecking order.
“Watford are a well-know club for bringing players through and there is talent here,” said Folivi in an interview with the club website last month. “Players come from overseas and they bring different things to the game…but people are noticing my performances and I’m getting good feedback. I’m just got to get my head down and working hard as the dream is to be there consistently.”
Folivi was taken along for the ride at Anfield last month in a sign that he’s at least in the thinking of the head coach.
“I spoke to the gaffer,” said Folivi. “Obviously he doesn’t speak the best of English but what I could take from it is that he is happy with me so I’ve just got to keep working hard in training.
“It was an amazing feeling [being part of the day at Liverpool]. I got told the day before it was 50-50 I might be in the squad, so then I was obviously thinking about it the whole night. I got to the training ground in the morning and trained, and I just wanted to see the sheet to see if my name was on it. I got told I was in the squad and it was a real buzz. Everyone was happy. That’s where the experience starts really. I’ve done the first bit and I’m really happy with that.”