I know, I know: you’re sick of loans right? Well, for all you Martin Samuelses out there, here’s a novelty: a feature on proper English loanees (barring the Congolese bloke, the Irish one and the kind of Italian kid). Connor Smith has shown that anyone can get into the squad if they prove themselves good enough. With that in mind, no loan should be completely regarded as an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ job – each Watford player currently plying his trade elsewhere has something to prove and improvements to make, and if they do well enough, could find themselves in contention for a place in the squad.
Coming to the end of the second month, let’s have a look at how our young upstarts are getting on:
Britt Assombalonga – Southend United
A late-comer to the Academy system, having been discovered through a community project of the club’s, Britt has shown himself to be a prolific goalscorer in his previous loan spells at Wealdstone and Braintree – twenty one goals in twenty nine starts according to the Bristol programme. His first foray into league football – bar a few fleeting appearences at the back-end of last season – has proven no different.
“Bongo”, as Southend fans call him, has featured in eight league games, starting seven of them, with a Football League Trophy victory over Dale Bennett’s AFC Wimbledon for good measure. After a slow start, he scored his first goal for the Shrimpers in a 3-3 draw at Northampton, and has gone on to bag five goals in six games since. The majority of his goals have been close-range finishes, headers, rebounds and the like – so is he just a fox-in-the-box that doesn’t contribute elsewhere on the pitch? We hit up Shrimperzone to find out:
“Pace, aerial ability, workrate and awareness are obvious parts to his game. He’s also spoken several times about his willingness to improve and get better.” – Welly7
“As he has got to know the players and the way we play he has become a very good threat in front of goal in every game he has played since [his first game], looks a great player at this level and also works very hard off the ball,” – tottenham541
“In League Two of course you come up against some donkeys! And certainly Britt has the strength, skill and speed to take advantage.” – kentblues
So he works hard for the team, and shows good physical attributes as well as his knack of getting in goalscoring positions. There was one slight criticism that came up more than once in amongst all of the unanimous praise for the 19 year old:
“Last couple of games he has been up against good defenders and they have kept him relatively quiet…” – kentblues
“On Saturday, Exeter had done their homework and knew to stick close… and not let him turn. Big strong centre backs got close and stopped him playing. Like a lot of quick kids he is dangerous when facing goal and he needs the rest of his season learning how to turn a League Two lump before he can progress to troubling Championship defenders.” – Firestorm
Britt is steadily making his way up the pyramid. With his contract at Southend extended until the New Year, he now has a chance to test himself regularly against different types of professional defenders for an extended period. His confidence will undoubtedly be high, which makes this a great time to learn, so hopefully there is no temptation to react to his form with a recall to the Championship, where his involvement would be sporadic.
“Seems to be improving weekly playing 90 minutes.” – Shrimper2thecore
“Better than most of them Italians you have anyway.” – FarmdogSUFC
Adam Thompson – Wycombe Wanderers:
There was some surprise when Thompson, who some would argue deserves a place in the first team matchday squad, dropped all the way to League Two in his search for regular football. The Chairboys have been struggling so far this season, boss Gary Waddock was sacked earlier this week, and find themselves in 21st place after seven games.
Thompson himself has only played in two of Wycombe’s five games in the month that he has been at the club, picking up bookings in both, and has been an unused substitute in two others. His involvement will have been hampered somewhat by his call up to the Northern Ireland under 21s as there is no international break for League Two, but commenters in The Gasroom suggest that a team fighting to stay in the league is not a good place for a young defender to cut his teeth:
“We need people to dig in and fight to get results at the minute; young players on loan aren’t really the answer. It’s unfair to ask inexperienced players, however good they are, to step into our struggling team at present.” – chairleg
That being said, there are rumblings that he hasn’t performed quite as we would have expected him to.
“This bloke is supposedly a full international and yet he can’t get in this crap team.” – tadpole
It is easy to forget that Thompson is still only 19, and so does not have too much experience of the struggles many teams go through to maintain their standing. Perhaps he is still a bit too green to be involved in such a scrap, but that he is not first choice at a club that employs Gary Doherty is a bit worrying.
Dale Bennett – AFC Wimbledon:
Dale was another player to head to League Two at the end of August, joining everybody’s favourite phoenix club AFC Wimbledon. Dale has been a near ever-present in the six games that the Wombles have played in his time there, missing only the 2-1 home defeat to Rochdale in that time. The club haven’t had a great time of it so far this season – they’ve only come away with any points on two occasions in the league – and had conceded eleven goals in the two games before Dale’s arrival.
In the five league games that have coincided with Dale’s spell, Wimbledon have conceded at a rate of 1.4 a game, whereas beforehand they were shipping 3.66 goals a game. Of course, there are lies, damn lies and statistics, but his continued presence in the back line mean he must be doing something right, even if there isn’t much competition in the squad.
Wimbledon, like Thompson’s Wycombe, have recently sacked their manager, showing the iconic Terry Brown the door after five successful years. Dale initially went on a one month loan, so will be making his final appearance on Saturday unless any extension is agreed.
Ross Jenkins – Plymouth Argyle:
Jenks only made the long trip to Devon last week, and has thus only played one game – Argyle’s fantastic comeback victory at Morecombe. You would expect a player of Jenkins’ quality to excel at League Two level, and though it is still early days, his debut was hugely promising.
A place in the League Two team of the week was just reward for a performance that included a superbly-hit 20 yard drive to ignite Plymouth’s second half fight back, a performance that won the Man of the Match vote on Pasoti, the Pilgrims’ supporter’s website, at a canter. He linked up well with young starlet Conor Hourihane, to control the midfield – something Watford could use a bit more of at the moment.
“Class above anyone else on the pitch, the closest player we have had to [David] Friio since he left in the box-to-box mould of player.” – greenmarc
“I thought Hourihane and Jenkins played very well together. Both kept the ball, got stuck in and pretty much ran the midfield when the ball was there.” – olive_green
With injuries and competition preventing regular game time since he initially emerged under Rodgers, it will undoubtedly be good for Jenkins to be the main man in midfield, and not just a stand in. He’s only there for a month initially, and could find himself in a League One stint should he not extend this one.
Piero Mingoia and Matt Whichelow– Accrington Stanley:
Accrington Stanley fans were a bit bemused when the club announced the signing of two young attacking midfielders from Watford. Not only had they made a good start to the season, holding down a place in the top six by midway through September, but they also had a surfeit of midfielders at the club already. Nothing indicated that they needed any additions, especially inexperienced loans.
As Stanley fans point out, it’s too soon to say whether the two will prove to be better than what they had in place: Mingoia has come off the bench in the two matches since arriving, playing 65 minutes of football, whilst Whichelow joined him on the bench for the first before making the starting lineup for Saturday’s 1-0 win against Aldershot.
Those on the AccringtonWeb forums were surprisingly loathe to pass early judgement, a most popular past time for football fans, but their first impressions were fitting with what we already know about the players.
“Whichelow looked quite lively for the first few minutes, then faded completely, to the extent that I thought he may get subbed at half time. He lasted another 15 minutes without really contributing.” – Frank Moody
It’s obvious that Whichelow has talent, but tapping into it on a consistent basis is going to be essential if he is to reach his potential as a footballer.
“Mingoia came on after about an hour and I thought looked promising, he can obviously play, but physically he may struggle at this level.” – Frank Moody
Such is the trouble with Piero. It’s always irritating when a player is cast off because of his size, but the diminutive winger faces an uphill struggle to show his talent when a foot shorter than the majority of matchday mascots.
Hopefully both can push on, Matty with his consistency and ability to really affect games, and Piero with his strength, or aptitude to showcase his skills despite his lack of physical presence.
Joe Garner – Carlisle United:
Joe is another player whose loan spell is still embryonic. Having returned to the club at which he made his name for a month, he made his debut the same day as a half-time substitute in the Cumbrians’ 0-0 draw with Crewe. His first start came the following Saturday, playing 84 minutes at the Ricoh Arena as Coventry’s terrible start to the season continued with a 2-1 defeat to Garner’s Carlisle. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but did waste a good chance when he headed straight at Coventry keeper Joe Murphy from close range.
For all his hard work, there probably won’t be a future at Watford for Garner, so hopefully he can find some sort of form during his loan and find himself a better fit in January.