Watts can't wait for Saints showdown
Written by Tom Easterby
Kelland Watts says Newcastle United Under-23s will be raring to go as their ten-day break comes to an end with the visit of Southampton on Friday night.
United welcome Saints to Whitley Park (7pm kick-off) for the Premier League 2 Division Two clash as they look to build on the impressive 3-1 Checkatrade Trophy victory over Doncaster Rovers last Tuesday.
Goals from Tom Allan, Callum Roberts and Elias Sorensen saw off the League One outfit at the Keepmoat Stadium, earning Ben Dawson’s youngsters plaudits for the way they dealt with an experienced Football League team.
And 18-year-old Watts, who featured in that win over Donny, feels the brief break his side have had since then will mean they go into Friday’s contest with renewed energy.
“I’m expecting us to start quickly – the last game was Doncaster, but that will have been ten days ago by Friday,” he told nufc.co.uk. “I think after Doncaster, we just wanted to play another game, but we’ve had to wait, and obviously a couple of lads have been on international duty.
“So I think we’ll start quickly, just get at them and being at home, we want to have a good record and we want to win the game.”
That victory over Grant McCann’s men came after a 4-2 home defeat to Reading – a game in which the Magpies had led 2-0, thanks to Sorensen’s brace.
United are yet to record back-to-back wins in the early weeks of this term, but Watts feels they’re getting closer to where they need to be.
“I think as a group, we’re all coming together. We all understand what each other’s strengths are so we try to use that as best we can,” he said. “All the young lads settling in have done brilliantly, and all the senior lads who’ve been in the 23s for a couple of years have really looked after us on and off the pitch, guiding us to where we should be going.
“At Doncaster, they had quite a strong team out and it gave us a chance to see what level it is, and what it takes to be where they are in a good division like League One. To go and beat them at their place, in front of a couple of thousand, was a really good feeling, and we need to take that back into the league and get some wins now.”
Watts has begun the season at centre half for Newcastle’s second string, though the versatile teenager has played in a variety of positions as he has made his way up the ranks at the club, including midfield and attack.
“I’ve had a lot of gametime at the back, and it’s a bit of a new role, playing week-in, week-out at centre back,” he explained. “I’ve dealt with a few strikers – obviously the League One strikers were a bit of a test – but I’ve been playing alongside Stefan O’Connor and he’s a few years older than me. He’s been giving me good points, and Ben has too.
“To go into a new role at under-23 level, it’s a bit testing, but with all the support, and the questions I’ve asked and the answers I’ve got, it helps a lot when I go on the pitch.
“As the games go on, you can see it gelling together. When I played with Stef in the first game of the season, it was the first game I’d ever played with him, and now it’s the fifth game in – sixth on Friday – we’ve got a god partnership going on.
This year has already been a memorable one for Watts, who received his first international call up in the summer when he was named in the England Under-19 squad for the European Championships in Finland.
That experience, says Watts, had a big impact on him – and it’s one he’s keen to use to his advantage when it comes to performing for his club.
“It was just great to feel like all the hard work you’ve put in since being at the academy at the age of eight is all being rewarded,” he said. “The main thing was bringing back loads of confidence in myself and in playing the game I know I can. What I was doing at Newcastle was worthy of going away with England so when I went away, England just said, ‘play as if you were playing for Newcastle – don’t change because you’ve come away, we’ve picked you because of what you were doing at Newcastle’. When I came back, I had a bit more belief in the style of my play.
“I’m always pushing, I always want another call up – that feeling of putting on an England shirt is obviously a thing that motivates me.
“But when I’m in the game, when I’m playing and training here at Newcastle, I’m just trying to do what I was doing before – working hard in everything I do – and then rewards happen for you. If you’re a good lad and you work hard, things just seem to happen.”
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"I think we’ll start quickly, just get at them and being at home, we want to have a good record and we want to win the game."