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Under-23's 1 month ago

U23 Report & Reaction: Watford 0-2 Ipswich

By Kevin Affleck

Darren Sarll - the club's Head of Academy - Professional Development - believes promising teenage midfielder Daniel Phillips will come on leaps and bounds after playing for an hour alongside England hopeful Nathaniel Chalobah.

Phillips, 17, made his bow at Under-23 level against Ipswich Town this afternoon and played for an hour alongside Chalobah in the centre of midfield at Vicarage Road. Sarll is a big admirer of Phillips, who joined the club four years ago, and would have used him sooner this season had injury not sidelined him for the past five weeks. 

Chalobah is only five years older than Phillips but he has picked up a wealth of experience at Championship level and has played alongside some of the very best players at Chelsea. Sarll feels confident Phillips will become a more rounded player and is certain to have picked up a few tricks of the trade after sharing a dressing room with the England youth international today.

Daniel Phillips, 17, featured for the Under-23s at The Vic

"What an education for him," said Sarll. "I can't give him that education. The only people that can give him that type of experience are senior players, like Nathaniel. It's been a wonderful stage in his development today."

Phillips does not turn 18 until January and would ordinarily have been spending the season playing for the club's Under-18 side. But he's a classic example of the Hornets' desire to accelerate a player's development by pushing him through the age groups ahead of schedule.

"He's a really good player," said Sarll. "He's got good potential. What I like about Daniel is his character. He's a real serious footballer. He doesn't come to work to mess around, he doesn't sit at the back of the bus taking the mickey. He comes to work to work and I like that. He's a good footballer, too. He allows us to play through midfield very quickly as he's wonderful at shielding the ball. It was his first game in five weeks and he got a good hour with Nathaniel, which is like five games in one."

Chalobah got 78 minutes under his belt to go alongside the 86 minutes he picked up against Reading and the four he got against Tottenham. Troy Deeney, Fitz Hall - Chalobah's former Watford teammate and agent - and three of Javi Gracia's assistants were in the crowd to see how the midfielder and Pontus Dahlberg fared against the Tractor Boys.

Troy Deeney watches on with backroom staff Zigor Aranalde, Inigo Arteaga & Isidre Ramon Madir

"I was delighted with Nathaniel and Pontus," said Sarll. "Their attitude and approach was terrific. 

"You know what a top player is but when you meet them you realise that part of being a top player is being professional, hugely committed, and hugely demanding of yourself. It's the first time I've worked with Pontus and Nathaniel and they were magnificent in the dressing room. They approached the game with real professionalism and enthusiasm. I've done hundreds of reserve games and sometimes the first team players can spoil it with their attitude, but I can't say that about Nathaniel or Pontus. I thought they were great."

Watford were sunk by goals in each half from Andre Dozzell and Idris El Mizouni, but this was a vast improvement on the 4-1 defeat at Hull City last time out.

Pontus Dahlberg made his first appearance for Watford's Under-23s

"I don't necessarily think we need a response, I just think they are at the stage of their career where they have to be on it every single week," said Sarll. "I was pleased with our attitude, pleased with the way we tried to go about things and the way we played in and out of possession. We just lacked that bit of quality in both boxes."

HORNETS | Dahlberg (GK); Eletheriou (C), Forster, Hudson, Mullings; Forster, Chalobah (Hutchinson 78), Phillips (Trialist 60), Holsgrove (Pereira 53); Folivi, Cassidy.

Subs not used | Howes (GK), Tricker.