Brandon Mason becomes 58th youth product to make Watford first team

The fact Watford had four academy graduates on the bench yesterday was trumpeted, in the process of straw clutching, as some kind of success story. Let’s be fair, if you were an under-23 player and couldn’t make the bench after the club had run out of fit senior players, then you would be entitled to question if you had chosen the right career path. Who else were they going to name? Harry the Hornet?

What the under-fire Walter Mazzarri must be given credit for is having the gumption to sling on Brandon Mason, the teenage full-back, when his team were getting a pounding. Quique Sanchez Flores wouldn’t have done, that’s for sure.

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Indeed, Mazzarri could and probably should have gone the whole hog and bought on Charlie Rowan, for the dreadful Younes Kaboul, and Michael Folivi for either Troy Deeney or Odion Ighalo. There was nothing else to lose. In fact, the introduction of one of their own managed to rouse the crowd and bring about the loudest cheer of the afternoon. Mazzarri should have heard that, been tuned in and then done it again and again to try and salvage some late brownie points amid the wreckage of a sixth defeat in nine matches.

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Mason hasn’t got happy memories of playing at Vicarage Road. He was part of the side who froze and were knocked out on penalties by AFC Wimbledon in last season’s FA Youth Cup. Mason was then harshly sent off in a youth play-off game with Sheffield United at the end of last season. He would have therefore been entitled to trot on for Holebas with some trepidation, especially with Spurs in the mood, but he was very assured and composed, helping to stem the tide and stop the rot. He was neat and tidy in possession and did well going both ways. “Mason is a good player, left footed,” said Mazzarri earlier in the week.

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Mason became the 58th academy graduate to play for the club and the first to appear in a league game since Tommie Hoban against Birmingham in April 2015.

“It’s a dream come true, to be honest,” said Mason told the club website. “I’m grateful for the manager to put me on and give me the chance to do well and I just want to kick on from here really. It’s difficult because it’s a Premier League club and it’s not easy to get a chance. When you get it you’ve got to make sure you take it, but it’s just the hard work that I’ve been putting in every day, I guess it’s paid off.”

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Holding midfielder Carl Stewart joined Mason, striker Folivi and centre-back Rowan on the bench against Spurs; right-back Andrew Eleftheriou was a sub at West Brom while Wales Under-19 midfielder Rhyle Ovenden has travelled to at least three away games this season.

“It’s not just me – there are other lads in there who deserve a chance as well,” said Mason who went to the Harefield Academy.  “You never know when you are going to get it but when you do, you’ve got to take it. Obviously there have been a load of injuries and suspensions but that’s the kind of things you need to get a chance in the first team.”

More opportunities might knock for the youngster if this horrendous injury run continues unchecked.

The Academy graduates to have played for the first team

58 Brandon Mason
57 George Byers
56 Josh Doherty
55 Alex Jakubiak
54 Luke O’Nien
53 Bernard Mensah
52 Jack Bonham
51 Connor Smith
50 Britt Assombalonga
49 Jonathan Bond
48 Tommie Hoban
47 Sean Murray
46 Piero Mingoia
45 Matty Whichelow
44 Adam Thompson
43 Gavin Massey
42 Eddie Oshodi
41 Michael Bryan
40 Marvin Sordell
39 Kurtney Brooks
38 Lee Hodson
37 Rob Kiernan
36 Dale Bennett
35 Liam Henderson 34 Billy Gibson
33 Lewis Young
32 Ross Jenkins (Jnr)
31 John-Joe O’Toole
30 Kieron Forbes
29 Claude Seanla
28 Jordan Parkes
27 Theo Robinson
26 Ben Gill
25 Francino Francis
24 Toumani Diagouraga
23 Joel Grant
22 Alex Campana
21 Adrian Mariappa
20 Junior Osborne
19 Al Bangura
18 Chris Eagles
17 Dominic Blizzard
16 Hameur Bouazza
15 Ashley Young
14 Jack Smith
13 Sam Swonnell
12 Jerel Ifil
11 Elliott Godfrey
10 Richard Lee
9 Anthony McNamee
8 Jamie Hand
7 Jason Norville
6 Lloyd Doyley
5 Gary Fisken
4 Fabian Forde
3 James Panayi
2 Steve Brooker
1 David Perpetuini

*list compiled by Jon Sinclair