First Team 21/03/2018

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Under-23's 21/03/2018

Hardyman | “Education Is The Key”

Watford’s Under-18 side have won six of their last seven games, but results aren’t the main motivator for Under-18s Head Coach Paul Hardyman.

When prompted with that stat, he exclaimed “have we?” - it’s more about player development for Hardyman, who has spoken about improving his players’ roles and responsibilities out on the football pitch.

“Going through the season everyone has their ups-and-downs,” said Hardyman. “Especially at Under-17 and Under-18 level, where they are new to professional football.

“It’s a real strain on them because emotionally it’s tough, and physically it’s very tough. 

Paul Hardyman gives his squad tactical instructions during a training session

“The demands of them understanding what they have to do out on the pitch when they are in possession, when they are out of possession, and in transition – there’s a lot of education, and it’s coming good at the moment.

“People talk about development in these age groups, and it is all about getting those two, three or four players into the system, into the professional ranks, but along the way you also want to be competitive. 

“I’ve always been along the lines of if you are doing the right things, and you are educating the lads along the way then you’ll be in the top half of the table or you’ll be challenging at the top. 

“We’re doing that and that’s a credit to them, but we have to keep along those same lines, that education is the key.”

Lewis Gordon started out as a striker, before converting to a left-back

The last few weeks have seen two young Hornets – Lewis Gordon and Ryan Cassidy signed their first professional deals with the club, and that’s testament not only to the players’ hard work but the work of all those at the club who’ve helped them throughout their development.

“I’m really pleased for both of them,” said the Under-18s Head Coach. “They are great lads. Ryan has come over from Ireland, so it is all brand new for him, while Lewis has come through the ranks here from a young age. 

“There has been a lot of development with Lewis. I always say they are on a journey, and he’s had a lot of input from a lot of different coaches, and some players take on the responsibility to carry that teaching through.

“I’ve been really pleased with the relationship I’ve got with him, being an ex-left-back I always have a keen eye for that position. He’s done very well and the nice thing about it is that it’s not just that, but he’s gone into the Scotland [Under-17] squad and the feedback that we got from them was very positive.”

When you sign a player, more than just their ability comes into the equation, and in this case, Hardyman is full of praise for the two young men he believes have a maturity beyond their tender years.

Ryan Cassidy signs his contract alongside Paul Hardyman

He said: “They are both grounded lads, there’s nothing ‘big time’ about them – you hear a lot of negatives about young professionals and young footballers – but they are not, they’ve been brought up very well by their parents, and they bring through a maturity.”

“We talk about players getting an opportunity – and that’s a big word in youth development – there’s a lot of good players but do they get that opportunity? 

“We’ve got a squad of 22 players and we’ve got some good players coming through from the Under-16s and Under-17s as well, and with a squad that size there’s good competition for places. 

“But, for the ones who’ve stepped up to the 23s, it’s that word again – opportunity – it’s the next step for them, the next challenge.”

The Watford Academy has produced home-grown players like Adrian Mariappa

Whether these young players become the next Marvin Sordell, Britt Assombalonga, Adrian Mariappa or Lloyd Doyley– Academy products who have carved out careers for themselves at Watford or elsewhere – only time will tell. They need two things – opportunity and ability – because ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’.

“This football club is giving these lads an opportunity to play, and they will get their chance when they are physically, mentally, tactically and technically ready. 

“It’s a good challenge for everyone involved, and it’s all about the players taking on board all the information and going and delivering that on the pitch.”