Watford launch B team to increase homegrown numbers
Written by Simon Austin — January 31, 2018
WATFORD are introducing a B team next season in an attempt to bridge the gap between their Academy and first team.
Unlike Brentford, who scrapped their Academy when they launched a B team last season, the Hornets will retain their Category 2 status.
Their B team will be comprised of first-team players as well as the most promising players from the Academy. It will play fixtures against Category 1 Academies.
Andy Scott, Watford's UK Football Recruitment Director, said: “We want to be able to test our players against teams that are closer in quality to first-team opposition than to Under-23 opposition.
“If you’re playing against the likes of Man City, Bayern Munich or Ajax – as we did recently – it’s going to give a better standard of opposition and allow us to develop those players early enough to enable them to play first-team football further down the line.
"The B team creates another stepping stone to the first-team and it gives players a more realistic chance of achieving that goal. The prospect of being involved in something new and different is an exciting one for everybody in the Academy.
"We need to be different because in relative terms we haven’t got the finances of the top clubs. We’re not going to be able to compete with established category one clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs.
"We need a unique selling point, we need to be different, we need to be attractive to players and to show them a pathway that other teams haven’t got, and we believe the structure we’re setting in place will facilitate with getting young players into the first-team.
“Having a B team will give another stepping stone for those players who aren’t making the huge step up from Under-23s to first-team football, which is difficult because we’re a Premier League club.
“It gives them another opportunity to show what they can do against better opposition. As well as developing younger players that are homegrown, it also allows us the potential to recruit players from abroad who can come in at 17, 18 or 19 and fit into how we want to do things, develop for a couple of years and then go into the first-team from there.”
Scott said next season there will be three training groups outside the first team:
- Under-18s: "comprised of mainly Under-16s and some Under-18s who need the fixtures."
- Under-23s: "will be played by the Under-18s in the majority so that they’re playing up a whole category up and testing themselves."
- B team: "played by first-team squad members and Under-18 or professional players worthy or capable of competing at that level."
Scott also said that producing players from the Watford area - rather than recruiting youngsters from overseas - would now be the focus.
"It may be an idealistic way of looking at it, but you always want to see players from the local area playing for the club," he said. "That’s why you always hear fans singing about players who are ‘one of their own’, and we need to start moving in that direction.
"We were previously looking at recruiting players into the Academy from a wider area but we’ve changed our recruitment policy so that we’ve got scouts in and around the Watford area.
"We’re trying to look for local talent in the local area as well as improving our relationships with the Watford FC Community Sports & Education Trust and local schools and clubs. By doing so we’re simply focusing our attention on the areas we feel would benefit us and the club better.
"It’s clear that the club is committed to investing in what we’re doing and helping to facilitate that progression and pathway. The proof will be in what we do next and it’s not all going to happen overnight, but we are starting the process and making some changes that we think will encourage more young players to come here."