By Kevin Affleck
Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes both entered the media centre at the UCL Sports Ground in London Colney this afternoon bang on time.
The long-time England youth international teammates are good eggs and Chalobah, in particular, had things he wanted to get off his chest. He was keen to convey just how excited he is to be back at a club he views as an adopted home.
“I had a great time when I was on loan here,” he said of the season-long spell at Vicarage Road in 2012/13. “The fans were good to me. Your first loan is supposed to be the worst, but my first loan was my best. Watford is a family club and I wanted to be part of it again and belong somewhere.”
Chalobah is well attuned to the history of the club, so much so that, without hesitation, he referenced the exact heady journey Graham Taylor took this club on first time round. “Graham Taylor was a pivotal part of the history of the club and brought the club up from the fourth division,” he said.
Impressive stuff from someone who was only two when Taylor started his second spell at Vicarage Road.
How GT would have loved to have worked with a player as gifted as Chalobah. Instead Marco Silva gets that pleasure.
“I heard some great things about him [Silva],” said Chalobah. “I saw his work last season and he seems the perfect guy to improve me as a player and teach me some new things. He’s an intelligent man and knows exactly what he’s doing.”
So does Chalobah, judging by the way he ran the midfield in the friendly with Rangers, bestriding the engine room with his range of passing and willingness to receive the ball in tight areas. He played like someone who has been the backbone of the side for years.
“It’s been quite easy to settle in,” Chalobah said. “Troy and Tommie Hoban are still here [from his first spell] and the transition has been pretty easy. Everyone is really chilled in the changing room and it’s easy to settle in.”
With the exception of Etienne Capoue, there is probably no-one in the squad more chilled than Chalobah. There is a confidence about him, but not an arrogance. You won’t, for example, find him banging on about the fact he has a Premier League winner’s medal from last season. He wanted and wants more, which is why he turned down a new contract offer at Chelsea to join the Hornets.
“I did feel part of it and felt like I contributed to the team,” said Chalobah, “but not as much as I would like. I was a squad player and I needed to get out and get experience. I was offered a new contract but I decided to leave and take the opportunity here.
“I’ve been on six loans and had a season in and out of the team. It was the right time to move on. It’s been very emotional as I’d been at Chelsea since I was a boy but I’m very excited about what we can achieve at Watford. We’ve got a very good and strong squad.”
Chalobah arrives at Vicarage Road as the most capped youth international by England (97 caps) and there is much talk of him making the next step up to the senior side. If the call from Gareth Southgate comes, he’d be the first permanent member of the Watford side to join up with the national side since John Barnes in 1987.
“I’m at Watford and I’m going to focus on that and see where it takes me,” said Chalobah. “Gareth has made it clear, with the selections of Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse, that if you are doing well with your clubs and playing then you’ll get the opportunity."
And with that, he went out of his way to politely shake everyone’s hand in the room and headed off with a spring and a swagger in his step. He’s one impressive young man.
Come and see Chalobah in his first return to The Vic since re-joining from Chelsea in tomorrow's Graham Taylor Matchday.
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