Watford’s chief executive has explained why Manchester City failed in their bid to sign the Hornets’ highly-rated midfielder Sean Murray.

Julian Winter, who was speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Hornets’ parent company last night, has described how difficult it is for smaller clubs like Watford to keep hold of their talented schoolboys when the big clubs try to sign them.

Winter said: “The reality is if the young players decide to leave the club and they don’t re-sign even though you have offered them schoolboy terms or scholarship terms, then the stupidity of football regulation is they are allowed to look elsewhere.

“Sean Murray is a key example of that. All of a sudden an agent gets involved, he is 16 years old and definitely signing for Watford, there is absolutely no questioning that, but the agent is looking at what other options are available and he is legally allowed to do so.

“Sean eventually decided to stay here as he saw the opportunity, that he could be in and around the first team in the next 18 months to two years, contributing on the pitch, which adds to his value and then he can step up to the level what ever level he can.

“If a player decides to leave then it always ends up at a tribunal so hopefully what you invest in the player developmentally will relate to the value of the player at a tribunal, now all big clubs try and play that game.”

A combination of Man City’s reluctance to go to a tribunal and Watford’s Harefield Academy helped ensure the excellent Murray stayed with the Hornets.

Watford’s unique relationship with the Harefield school means their youngsters receive three times more football coaching than other clubs and the extra expense results in the Hornets being able to demand more money when bigger clubs try to sign their Academy players.

Winter continued: “Manchester City made an offer but it wasn’t right and it wasn’t right because they were attempting to value our player and they had no rhyme or reason for how they got to that value.

“Whereas we can sit down and quite clearly work out a true valuation and they said ‘well that is too much’. We said ‘fine, then we will take it to a tribunal and see where we end up’ and they were never going to take it to a tribunal, hence the fact they disappeared. They thought they could just make an offer and the boy would sign.

“It is a complexed area and it is painful for clubs our size when big clubs try and sign your players and rules should be changed to protect how we develop players and so we get true value for the players.”