If any of Watford’s young players carve a niche in the first-team squad this season, it will be because it is the right option – not the cheap option.

With his knowledge of Watford’s Academy following his stint in charge of the Under-18s, Tom Cleverley showed at the end of last season a willingness to give youth a chance.

Then again, when players reported back for pre-season, a number of Academy players were seen working with the senior players.

That could, of course, be seen as a cost-saving exercise – not so, stresses Cleverley.

“How we use our younger players will have absolutely nothing to do with funds or saving money,” he said.

“It’s a chance for me to see them in a senior environment, and it’s a chance for them to have access to working with first-team players. That is key for their development.

“These lads, if they’re good enough then they’ll play. It’s as simple as that.

“My philosophy is to create a level playing field within the club for every player.

“And that applies to a marquee signing from overseas or a young lad from north Watford who has been at the club since he was nine.

“Everybody should have the chance, and I intend to give every player a platform upon which to improve.

“They will have a chance to get into the team if they deserve it, and then stay there if they deserve it.

“The key thing is they have to prove their worth first.”

As well as Cleverley himself, both Damon Lathrope and Armand Kavaja have had experience of working with the Hornets’ younger teams.

“It helps that three senior staff members have worked within the Watford Academy,” Cleverley pointed out.

“But by no means will we be a charity for the Academy either, giving out debuts and games when maybe they haven’t been deserved.

“The young lads we are including have shown me they are talented and hungry, and they can add something to our squad.

“That is what having a clear pathway is all about.

“I think football fans are suffering a little bit at the moment, watching big clubs selling their Academy products.

“Seeing a player that has followed a pathway within a club go on to break into the first team is something that makes football special.

“Young players and their progression do play on my heartstrings a little bit, but ultimately any young player that ends up in and around the first team will do so because they have earned it.”

Alongside more homegrown players being involved in and around the first team, there is also a much more ‘Watfordy’ feel to the training ground with Lloyd Doyley returning to work alongside former Academy graduate and Women’s team head coach Matt Bevans in the Under-18s, and former midfielder Dan Gosling now coaching the Under-21s alongside Charlie Daniels.

“I can’t say that has been a conscious thing, although I do know and respect the culture that has gone before me here with Graham Taylor and how he did things,” said Cleverley.

“The main thing is creating a winning culture though – and if we can do that while bringing back a family feel and a Watford feel then even better.

“There is nothing I would love more than for a return to the history and heritage of this club to coincide with greater success on the pitch.

“First things first though, we have to be winners.

“If that is with Academy products or not, whether it’s doing things a Watford way or not, the thing I want to do is to be a winner with Watford.

“Hopefully with success comes an identity that is very Watford, which those who love the club will recognise.”