Newcastle United prodigy Kelland Watts is gunning for first-team place

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MAY 13:Kelland Watts of Newcastle United (6) runs with the ball  during the Premier League 2 playoff final between Southampton FC and Newcastle United FC at St. Mary'...

The Magpies academy graduate, 19, was in Rafael Benitez's matchday XI for the Premier League finale at Fulham.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MAY 13:Kelland Watts of Newcastle United (6) runs with the ball  during the Premier League 2 playoff final between Southampton FC and Newcastle United FC at St. Mary'...

Newcastle United academy graduate Kelland Watts has outlined his desire to break into the Magpies first team next term after being named in the senior squad for the club's final Premier League game of the season.

The 19-year-old centre-back was selected by Rafael Benitez in the matchday 18 against Fulham last Sunday, though he remained an unused substitute in the 4-0 win over the relegated Londoners at Craven Cottage.

 

The following day, Watts featured on the losing side for the under-23 squad after a 2-1 defeat against Southampton in the Premier League 2 division two playoff final at St. Mary's Stadium, a second showpiece defeat after the 1-0 loss to Everton in the Premier League Cup.

Despite the contrasting emotions of going from the highs of being selected in a Premier League matchday squad to the lows of losing a second crucial final, Watts is nonetheless feeling overall confident with how his first year as a professional has gone, and is only looking forward.

Kelland Watts of Newcastle United (53) walks outside during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on May 12, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.

"Being on the bench in the first team gives you a little taste," he told the official Newcastle website. "Because of having that, I want more and I know to get more, I know I need to work harder and make sure I listen and learn more to people ahead of them as that's the only way I can get there.

"It's my first full year as a professional and I've really enjoyed it. The level is much higher and we've played more than 40 games this season compared to under-18 level where I was injured for the most part of it and we didn't play as many games. I've also played in a new position as a centre-back and this season I've been learning under Ben and the more older players in the team."

According to the official Newcastle website, Watts - who has switched to defence from the centre of the park, having previously played as a box-to-box midfielder - has been with the academy since 2008 and he identifies Zlatan Ibrahimovic as his footballing idol.

Kelland Watts of Newcastle celebrates scoring his sides third goal during the FA Youth Cup Fourth Round match between Crystal Palace and Newcastle United at Selhurst Park on January 19,...

Have something to tell us about this article?

Register for NEWCASTLE UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch