Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting WO to 80360, or email us
England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce tips Watford to secure automatic promotion to the Premier League
England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce has tipped Watford to secure automatic promotion this season and believes Nathaniel Chalobah’s loan spell with the Hornets is “vital” for his development.
Chalobah was first called into the England Under-21 squad by Pearce as a 17-year-old back in November and the national set-up have high hopes for the Chelsea starlet.
The versatile player was a mainstay in the England Under-17 defence when they won the European Championship in 2010 and was made captain the following season.
He has made more than 50 caps at the various England age groups since his debut for the Under-16s in 2008 and won the England Men’s Youth Player of the Year at the inaugural FA England Awards earlier this year.
Chalobah has always been considered a special talent and he has excelled in the heart of Watford’s midfield during the club’s promotion challenge.
“Nat has done extremely well of late on loan at Watford,” Pearce said.
“Nat is a younger member of the squad but he’s forced his way into the Under-21 set up recently, I’ve watched him twice in the last couple of weeks and he’s been in outstanding form.
“Watford are playing a great brand of football at the moment and they look like they’re heading for the Premier League.
“They probably won’t thank me for saying that as there are still many games to play but from what I can see, them and Cardiff are the teams to beat.
“Watford’s form has been fantastic and it's benefiting Nat massively; playing first-team football is vital for players like Nat’s development and it will stand him and Chelsea in good stead for the future.”
Chalobah believes he had a shaky start to his time at Vicarage Road as he arrived with the goal of simply “being around the first team”.
The 18-year-old didn’t expect to become a regular so quickly and claimed “I couldn’t have asked for more at Watford”.
He said: “I am happy with my consistency but that is down to the people around me. The manager speaks to me every now and then and makes sure I am doing the same things week-in, week-out.
“I think the manager has helped me a lot, his assistants Dodo Sormani and Giancarlo Corradini have also been giving me advice and trying to make sure I focus on my game. It is going really well.”
Chalobah has spent considerable time playing at centre-half during youth football but is now focusing primarily on developing as a midfielder.
The former Chelsea Reserves captain has yet to speak to the Blues about their plans for him next season but he is hoping his performances on loan will provide him with the opportunity of competing for a first-team place at Stamford Bridge in the summer.
Chalobah’s displays in the yellow of Watford has led to the starlet being tipped to replace Frank Lampard in Chelsea’s midfield.
Gianfranco Zola agreed, saying “Nathaniel could be the player to replace Frank and I try to give him everything I can to make him a better player” but the Hornets’ head coach also stressed that he sees Chalobah more as a holding midfielder, whilst accepting the youngster can play in a more advanced role.
Increased media interest and scrutiny might hamper some young players but Chalobah is a confident young man.
He said: “It [the plaudits in the media] is not difficult to deal with at all. I take it as a compliment for people to say I could replace Frank Lampard. He is a world class player and they are big boots to fill.
“But I am just concentrating on myself and working on my game. Frank Lampard is a player I would like to emulate and play like so I don’t see it as a negative.”
Chalobah’s comments were made as part of an audio interview with the Watford Observer, which can be heard on our website.
Pearce was talking ahead of England Under-21’s game with Romania on Thursday, March 21, which will take place at nearby Wycombe Wanderers’ ground Adams Park (kick-off 7pm).
Adult tickets are £10, Under-16s, OAPs and students are £5 and a family ticket, consisting of two adults and two children, costs £20.
Tickets can be bought online at www.tickets.wwfc.com or by calling 01494 441118.