Golden Graduates | Stewart Makes First-Team Bow
Opportunities to breakthrough into the first-team fold have been more of a challenge over recent years for the Hornets’ younger pros, however three have put their names in the history books in the opening month of 2017.
Carl Stewart became the Hornets' 60th Academy graduate to make his first-team bow, coming on for the final few minutes of the 2-0 FA Cup Third Round win over Burton Albion (January 7).
Fellow youth product Brandon Mason played the full 90 minutes of the win over the Brewers, with that coming a week after his Premier League debut against Tottenham Hotspur on New Year's Day.
Talented youngster Michael Folivi completes a trio of Golden Grads, as he came on for the last 10 minutes of the game against Stoke City (January 3) at the bet365 Stadium.
Gaining the experience of being around the first-team squad doesn’t stop with that trio, with fellow Under-23 teammates Charlie Rowan and Andrew Eleftheriou all being named on Walter Mazzarri’s bench over the last couple of games, whilst Welsh Under-19 international Rhyle Ovenden has also been part of travelling squad's.
Prior this campaign, it’s been nearly two years since George Byers became the 57th graduate. The midfielder came on as a substitute in a 5-0 SkyBet Championship win over Charlton Athletic at The Vic in January 2015, but it’s been over 17 years since a debut came in a Premier League fixture.
James Panayi was the last player to come through the Hornets’ ranks to play in the top-flight during the 1999/2000 season, with Steve Brooker also featuring on the opening day of that campaign.
That season Panayi started in October’s 4-0 defeat at Coventry City, before playing in the 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday a week later, whereas Brooker was a substitute in the 3-2 home loss to Wimbledon.
Lloyd Doyley remains as the only graduate to have made over 250 appearances for the club (402), whilst current centre-back Adrian Mariappa closes in on that milestone (247).
There are plenty still plying their trade in the game, including Ashley Young (Manchester United), Marvin Sordell (Burton Albion), Toumani Diagouraga (Leeds United) and Chris Eagles (Accrington Stanley).