Under-18 Report | Watford 2-0 Cardiff City

Picture courtesy of cardiffcityfc.co.uk

A goal in each half from Louis Rogers and Dion Pereira secured a deserved three points for Watford's Under-18s against Cardiff City at UCL this afternoon (March 28).

In the Hornets' first league outing since returning from a successful trip to Japan, Dave Horseman's side wasted little time in stamping their authority on this afternoon's proceedings. 

With the wind at their backs in the first-half, a long-ball could only be flicked behind by a Cardiff defender after just two minutes. Josh Roe's resulting corner found its way to fellow midfielder Louis Rogers, who had the simple task of nodding home from six-yards out.

The rest of the half continued in a similar fashion, with relentless traffic heading towards the Cardiff goal. Both Pereira and forward Treon Johnson were causing constant problems for the visiting defence, with the latter coming the closest, but he couldn't quite stab his effort on target from close-range. 

It was central midfielder Roe, however, who came closest to doubling the Golden Boys' advantage in the first 45. His fine curling effort from the edge of the area was well saved by Cardiff's goalkeeper George Ratcliffe. 

The second-half saw the Hornets continue to create chances, with home 'keeper Nathan Gartside well shielded by central defenders Max Ryan and Ben Jones and rarely tested.

Substitute Jubril Adedeji almost made an immediate impact upon his arrival, cutting in from the left before striking a thunderous effort which whistled just the wrong side of the upright before striking a long-range free-kick narrowly over too. 

However, the second and match clinching goal did eventually arrive thanks to a Pereira strike in the 88th minute. The tricky winger was released through the middle before clinically finishing under the onrushing Ratcliffe and sealing the three points in the process. 

HORNETS | Gartside (GK); Sesay, Jones, Ryan, Gordon (Trialist, 75); Stray (c), Roe, Rogers, Forster (Empson, 60); Pereira, Johnson (Adedeji, 60).

Subs not used | Huja

Under-23's 27/03/2017

Colney Chat | Chris McGuane

By Kevin Affleck

Chris McGuane was slightly bleary eyed after adjusting his body clock following the successful trip to Japan with the Hornets' Under-18s, but he’s not lost any focus on his goal as the head of Watford’s productive Academy.
“The number one priority is to produce players that go and play in our first-team and have a long career,” says McGuane. 

“But we have to recognise that there are 150 boys in our system. They are not all going to play in our first-team so part of our responsibility is to get them a career in the game.”
Watford do a damn sight better than most in developing their own: Carl Stewart became the 60th player to emerge from the Academy and play for the first-team when he charged on as a second-half substitute against Burton Albion in the FA Cup back in January. 
The 61st may well, one day, come from the current crop of Under-18s who flew the Watford flag proudly in Japan recently, returning from the Far East with some silverware in the shape of the Global Arena Cup. The Under-18s also won their league last season which suggests the club are doing something right in the development of players.
“Yes, it’s nice to go and win tournaments and win the league last year but that isn’t the be all and end all,” says McGuane. 

“It’s about experiences and development. Of course we want to win every game we play but, actually, in the longer term, sometimes it might be just as beneficial for their development that we go to these tournaments and lose in the semi-final or the final.

“The ideal would obviously be to win the league, win these tournaments and get 11 players in the first team but you have to be realistic.”

McGuane and his staff will not get too high after winning international events nor too low after the Under-23s are on the receiving end of a going over. 

“We just try to be competitive and not lose sight of what our role is, which is to ultimately help these lads form careers,” he says.

“We want that to be here but if it isn’t, we want them to have a career in the game.”
To back up McGuane’s point, Sean Murray, Connor Smith, George Byers and Josh Doherty were all picked up by league clubs after they were released last season. Luke O’Nien, meanwhile, continues to earn rave reviews for Wycombe Wanderers. It shows the system is working.
“We are pushing forward and looking to add new things to the programme and develop and improve it,” said McGuane.

“We have built up a really good group of staff and we’ve got some young players that are starting to come through. We have seen Michael Folivi, Carl Stewart and Brandon Mason come through but there are younger lads who should come through over the next three or four years who we are going to be really proud of.”
For now McGuane is keen on developing more rounded individuals, as well as footballers, at the top of the academy system by taking them to places like Japan to play a 16-team tournament against local and international sides.
“It brings lots of benefits,” he said.

“The big one from this was playing six games in four days. It really tested them from a physical and mental point of view. Also, none of the lads had been to Japan and it gave them the chance to experience a different culture, different types of football, different opposition – you don’t get that in the programme we have got here.”
They also had to cope with adversity. Goalkeeper Andrew Thomas rolled his ankle in the first training session; Harry Forster missed a couple of games with a wrist injury while Ashley Charles rolled his ankle in a tackle. It put the small squad of 19 to the test.
“They’ll only benefit from playing against new teams, and playing games in such a short space of time shows them they can do things perhaps they thought their bodies weren’t capable of,” said McGuane.
“It also allows us to watch them closely. We know the players well any way: we know them inside out on and off the pitch. But being with them 24 hours a day you can see how much they are drinking, how much they are eating, what time they are going to bed, how they conduct themselves, who gets on with each other.

“You do find out an awful lot about them and pick up bits and pieces. You get more of an insight. The lads loved it.”