The bad news is coming thick and fast on Tyneside at the moment, and Steve Bruce is fortunate Newcastle United already have their ticket booked for next season’s Premier League.
In the 3-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, the Magpies lost Fabian Schar for the remaining two matches of the season with a dislocated shoulder. Furthermore, the Magpies boss confirmed that Jamaal Lascelles requires ankle surgery, meaning he will also miss both fixtures.
Short of options in central defence, Bruce must turn to the youth ranks for inspiration to keep the opposition out and end a woeful run of three defeats. Kelland Watts could provide the solution, he has been with the club’s academy since 2008 and spent the season on loan with Stevenage FC until the League Two season was curtailed.
The 20-year-old has never appeared for the first team, but he did make the bench for the final Premier League game against Fulham last season when he was an unused substitute. But his performances in the lower leagues, along with some excellent displays in the Premier League 2, suggest he may be worth a look at, especially when Bruce is without two key contributors at the back.
For Stevenage this term Watts made 20 appearances, including a 1-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers in the EFL Trophy, who recently secured promotion to the Championship. When he has featured in the fourth tier, the 20-year-old has helped to keep the opposition out on seven occasions, despite the Boro experiencing a woeful campaign, which left them bottom of the table when the division was halted.
Watt’s has experienced greater success with the Magpies’ U23 side, making 22 appearances last term, which included 13 victories before Newcastle lost to Southampton U23’s in the Premier League 2 playoff final. Furthermore, Watts did not miss a match in Newcastle’s run to the U23 League Cup final. The central defender’s performances at youth level have also seen him twice capped by England’s U19’s for the 2018 UEFA European U19 Championship.
One slightly more surprising attribute the defender possesses is a keen eye for goal, as he formerly occupied a midfield role, the 20-year-old’s already bagged two hat-tricks for the Magpies at youth level.
Bruce could select the more experienced Florian Lejeune or Ciaran Clark for the match against Brighton this weekend, but with survival a certainty, it might be worth assessing what Watts could offer this side next season.