Once a Hornet: 6 Players You Didn’t Know Spent Time at Watford During Their Youth

Many youth players come and go each and every year, with a large number released because they simply weren't good enough. Every once and while however, there are youth team players which slip through a club's fingers, that should've been held onto for dear life.


Here are six players you may not have known spent part of their youth careers at Watford.

6. Adebayo Akinfenwa

Adebayo Akinfenwa spent eight months at Watford on trial in 2000, but was released as a 17-year-old, before joining Lithuanian side FK Atlantas the following year.


The now 36-year-old striker went on to play across multiple levels of the English Football League for the likes of Millwall, Swansea City, Torquay United, Northampton Town, AFC Wimbledon and current side Wycombe Wanderers.


Akinfenwa, who is famed for his size and stature, has scored over 200 career goals, and will be looking to add to his tally throughout the 2018/19 season.  

5. Lee Grant

Lee Grant spent two years on the books at Vicarage Road between 1998 and 2000, but failed to ever break into the Watford first team, before subsequently joining Derby County.


The 35-year-old goalkeeper recently made a surprising move to Manchester United in this summer’s transfer window, as cover for David De Gea and Sergio Romero.


The veteran shot stopper has made over 500 career appearances for the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley and Stoke City, as well as a host of international youth appearances for England.   

4. Britt Assombalonga

Britt Assombalonga began his career with Watford as a 17-year-old in 2010, and went on to finish the Hornets youth team second top goal scorer in his first season at Vicarage Road, as well as guiding his side to an FA Youth Cup quarter final.


After a two year spell in the youth set up, the striker was rewarded with his first team debut in a 0-0 draw with Coventry in 2012, becoming the 50th player to go through Watford's academy and represent the first-team.


The now Middlesbrough talisman only made four first team appearances for Watford, but is currently sat joint top of the Championship table under Tony Pulis.   

3. Demba Ba

At the age of 16, Demba Ba moved to the United Kingdom in search of a professional football contract, and joined the youth ranks at Watford through the recommendation of then Hornets player Gauthier Diafutua, under the reign of reserve team manager Ray Lewington.


The sacking of Lewington shortly after the Senegalese striker’s arrival at Vicarage Road signalled the end for Ba’s time with the Hornets, and the forward went on to have short trails at Barnsley, Gillingham and Swansea City.


Ba went on to make 99 Premier League appearances for the likes of West Ham United, Newcastle United and Chelsea, finding the net 43 times. The forward now plays his club football for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League.  

2. Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho joined the Watford academy at the age of seven and spent eight years on the books at Vicarage Road before making the move to Premier League giants Manchester City, in a deal which could reportedly have risen as high as £500,000.


The 18-year-old forward joined the ranks at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund in 2017, and after a short spell in the reserve side, has cemented his spot in the first team set-up.


The young left winger, who was discussed as a potential inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s most recent England squad, has already tasted success at international level, having won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2017, as well as picking up the Golden Player award at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship.  

1. Harry Kane

Harry Kane was released by Arsenal at the age of eight, but later joined the Watford academy in 2004 for a four to six week trail after being spotted playing for his local team Ridgeway Rovers.


After a short spell in the Hornets youth set up, the now 25-year-old England captain joined Tottenham Hotspur after impressing in a match between the two sides youth teams.


Kane has since gone on to score 142 goals in 217 appearances for the Lilywhites, and recently help guide England to a fourth place finish in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.