Tommie Hoban admits it may have become harder for Watford’s Academy players to break into the Hornets’ first team but understands that is because of the club’s growing ambition.

The 20-year-old joined the Hornets at the age of 14 after being released by training ground neighbours Arsenal.

The centre-back has risen through Golden Boys’ youth ranks and made his Watford debut in the final match of the 2010/2011 campaign. It was two seasons later, under Gianfranco Zola, that he established himself in Watford’s first team.

Hoban, despite missing a year of football due to an ankle injury, has made 38 appearances for the Hornets.

He accepts the pressure of battling for promotion to the Premier League means head coaches are less likely to turn to younger players from the Watford’s Academy.

He said: “When Malky (Mackay) and (Sean) Dychey were managing here a lot of young players were given the opportunity to go out and play.

“When the Pozzos took over there was still that chance to get in the side. I was given the chance and Sean (Murray), Connor (Smith) and (Jonathan) Bondy all played games as well.

“So the takeover didn’t cut out all the opportunities for young players to break into the first team.

“Before the takeover we were a mid-table Championship club, that used to be a good season for us.

“Now we are a side that wants to get promoted to the Premier League. So it may now be harder for younger players to break into the side.

“We have got a lot of good quality players but I think if you are good enough you will still be given a chance.”

When Hoban made his debut under Mackay at Preston in May 2011, only one player in Watford’s squad was not from the UK or Ireland - although Lloyd Doyley and Adrian Mariappa have represented Jamaica’s international side.

The dramatic change in philosophy at Vicarage Road since the Pozzo takeover has seen the Hornets name starting XI’s without a British or Irish player this season.

Hoban believes that is just part of modern football but says the Golden Boys’ core values have not changed.

He said: “The first season was a mix (of domestic and foreign players) and but the club has changed so much since then. There are now probably more foreign players here now.

“But if you look at most Premier League sides that is the case and the Premier League is where we want to be.

“The club has definitely changed a lot but deep down the core is the same. We still have the community values, everyone is friendly and it is a good club to play for.

“There is no doubt though that the club’s ambitions have changed.”

Watford added experienced defenders Craig Cathcart and Gabriel Tamas in the summer and Hoban briefly thought a loan move away from Vicarage Road would be his only chance to play first team football.

However, he has made 11 appearances for the Hornets this season and has represented the club in the Under-21 Premier League Cup.

The ankle injury which kept Hoban out for 12 months still needs to be carefully managed but he says that is nothing out of the ordinary.

He explained: “When I get up in the morning it is a bit stiff and it takes a while for it to get going.

“You can ask any of the lads here though, you always have knocks but you just have to get on with it.”

Hoban has spent this week with Ireland Under-21s as they prepare for friendly matches against the USA and Russia.

He was born in Walthamstow and currently lives in Woodford Green but says he considers himself an Ireland player rather than English.

He explained: “My mum and dad have Irish parents and my Mum was born over there.

“So when I got the call to join up with Ireland I was extremely honoured. I was only 16 when I first played for Ireland (at Under-17 level) and I was never going to turn them down.

“I could still play for England in the future if I wanted to but, with my whole family being Irish, I am proud to play for Ireland.”