Young midfielder Louie Watson is approaching a full year on the books at Derby County – and he has loved every minute so far.
The 20-year-old joined the Rams’ Academy last summer as a free agent after leaving Premier League outfit West Ham United.
His impressive form for Pat Lyons’ side in Premier League 2 - Division 1 in the early stages of last season quickly saw him catch the eye of manager Wayne Rooney.
Watson was promoted to the first-team set-up late last year and he made his senior bow for Derby off the bench in the side’s 4-0 win at Birmingham City last December.
The attacking midfielder went on to make a handful of appearances in the second half of the season and was rewarded with his first senior start in March as Derby held promotion-chasers Brentford to a 2-2 draw at Pride Park Stadium.
Watson also gained his first international honours, for the Republic of Ireland at Under-21 level, during the 2020/21 campaign.
After shaking off an ankle problem, sustained earlier this month, he made his first appearance of pre-season in Derby’s 1-0 win over Real Betis on Wednesday night.
The youngster made an immediate impact too as he set up Max Bird to score the only goal of the game and he is keen to kick on and push for more game time in the 2021/22 season.
Watson told RamsTV: “It’s been a journey, an amazing journey, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
“Coming into the club, I knew the pathway was there to the first-team and it was a big call for me to move up from London on my own.
“I started last year well with the Under-23s and gradually I made my into the first-team.
“Since the first day I have been here everyone has made me feel welcome and I am getting to the stage where I feel part of the group and comfortable in it.”
He added: “I’ve missed a bit of pre-season with injury, so it is nice to get back out on the pitch.”
Watson is indebted to Rooney for giving him his senior debut at the age of 19.
He has enjoyed working under the Derby boss and says he is determined to make the most of playing under England and Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Watson said: “The manager has been class and I say that to everyone when they ask me about him.
“There are not many other people you’d want to work with; he’s been at the very top of the game and knows what it is all about.
“Working with him has been a dream come true to be honest. He is one of the greatest English players ever, so you have to feed off that, learn and pick his brains.”
Watson has nine appearances to his name in a Derby shirt, with eight coming off the substitutes’ bench.