Which Watford youngsters impressed during pre-season?

A number of young prodigies were given the opportunity to shine in Watford colours during the summer of 2018.

Which Watford youngsters impressed during pre-season?
Watford celebrate scoring against Stevenage | Photo via Getty Images/ Paul Harding

Watford racked up three wins and two draws in their latest pre-season campaign, placing the Hornets in good stead for the upcoming Premier League campaign.

Javi Garcia gave some of the club's youthful prospects an opportunity during the summer of 2018 and was rewarded with some impressive performances from a host of rising stars. 

In preparation for the season that lies ahead, the first-team were put through a painstaking period of intense physical and technical training. FC Koln, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Stevenage, Championship-leaders Brentford, and Sampdoria all proved fine tests ahead of the upcoming league campaign.

These friendly fixtures would allow the squad to reap the rewards of their hard work, while also revealing the true potential of the club’s brightest young talents.

Ben Wilmot:

Signed from Stevenage in May, Wilmot featured in four of Watford’s five pre-season friendlies including a start against his former club in July. Traditionally a centre-back, the 18-year-old was deployed in a more advanced role as part of a central-midfield pairing in head coach Javi Gracia’s 4-4-2 and caused his former side problems throughout the afternoon.

Composed on the ball and with a strong foot in the tackle, the defender displayed his versatility and footballing intelligence in four largely faultless appearances.

The teenager showcased the attributes that made him such a coveted prospect last season which saw the likes of Spurs also pay great interest in the youngster. Despite playing first-team football for just a year, Wilmot has the ability to read the game perfectly and this was evident in his first few appearances for his new club.

“I’m not quite sure how I do it," Wilmot told the Independent whilst at Stevenage. "I just see things that happen before others do. It’s just about being able to get in the right position to stop something that’s going to happen. Being able to read a pass they’re going to do, before they’ve even done it.”

The highly-rated defender will now be hoping to break into Watford’s first team in the near future.

 

 

 

 

Alex Jakubiak:

Following four successive years of loan moves away from the club, Jakubiak has made it clear this summer that his next ambition is to earn competitive appearances for Watford.

The striker has previously spent time out on loan with Braintree Town, Oxford United, Dagenham & Redbridge, Fleetwood Town, Wycombe Wanderers and most recently Falkirk - as well as appearing regularly for the Hornets' youth sides.

The 21-year-old scored seven goals in 15 appearances in Scotland last season and is looking to take that prolific form south of the border. Jakubiak has already netted on two occasions this summer as he scored a brace against Brentford B in a 4-1 victory in July. The former Scotland youth international also got some first-team minutes as he was involved against Brentford and Stevenage.

Jakubiak was a nightmare for defences, using his pace and quick feet to cause panic in the opposition back line. Jakubiak also struck a fruitful partnership with captain Troy Deeney.

Speaking recently, Jakubiak said: "There aren’t any big egos, just big personalities, so to come into that as a young player – both myself and Ash [Charles] are quite quiet anyway – I think you’ve just got to be confident mentally, when you’re on the pitch, so you can show them what you can do.

“For myself, I had a few chances on Saturday and personally I know I should have done better with them – but you’ve got to get into these positions to learn from them.”

 

Ashley Charles:

A graduate of Watford’s youth academy, Charles took up a central position in the friendlies with Stevenage, Brentford, and Sampdoria at Vicarage Road. The 19-year-old, who is a regular for the Under-23s, placed himself on Gracia's radar and earned appreciation from a number of Hornets fans for his abundance of technical ability and willingness to contribute defensively. 

Charles trained with the first-team under Garcia last term and should do so again throughout the upcoming campaign. Do not be surprised if this young talent makes some competitive appearances for Watford this season. 

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Watford gave 2,139 Premier League minutes to academy graduates last season - the 11th biggest total in the top flight - and will hope to better this in their 2018/19 campaign with plenty of promising talents being displayed this summer.