FEATURE: Cobblers move tops off a great week for Ryan Watson
It’s been quite a footballing week for Ryan Watson...
On Saturday night, the lifelong Liverpool fan was celebrating after watching his team claim their sixth European Cup crown.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were 2-0 winners over Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final in Madrid, and that certainly brought a smile to Watson’s face.
The Crewe-born midfielder grew up on Merseyside, and although his dad is a Tranmere Rovers fan and he actually started his career in the youth set-up at Everton, Watson is very much a Red.
Less than 48 hours after that big cup win, the 25-year-old was beaming again, but this time it was because he had just put pen to paper on a two-year deal to become the Cobblers’ fifth new signing of the summer.
Signing on at Sixfields is not something that is new to Watson of course, as he has previously played two loan spells at the club.
Then boss Chris Wilder signed the player on both occasions, borrowing him from Premier League side Leicester City.
His first stint in 2014 ended when Watson suffered a serious knee injury in training, but he was then brought back in August, 2015.
He played a handful of games, but struggled to impose himself as Wilder’s title-winning class of 2016 started hitting their stride.
Watson returned to the Foxes at the turn of the year, before being released from the King Power Stadium in the summer of 2016.
He has since enjoyed two years with Barnet and then spent last season at Milton Keynes Dons, helping Paul Tisdale’s team clinch automatic promotion from Sky Bet League Two.
Over the course of his first two stints at Town, Watson showed glimpses of what he is all about as he made 12 starts and eight substitute appearances for the first team, but it was all about potential.
He now has an extra 75 senior appearances under his belt for the Bees and Dons, and comes to the Cobblers with added experience.
So how does the Watson of 2015 compare with the Watson of 2019?
“I would like to think I have matured on and off the pitch since I was last here,” said the player, who made 22 league two appearances for MK last season.
“I am still the same sort of player, I am a box-to-box midfielder and want to bring energy to the team, and I just have ambition really.
“Getting promoted last season was brilliant, it was a great feeling and what football is all about, and I just want that feeling again. To do it here would really mean a lot.”
Watson played a small part the last time Town went up in 2015/16.
He has fond memories of that spell with the club, and having seen the Cobblers at close quarters last season, he sees no reason why Town can’t enjoy such success again.
“I was here when the team went up last time and that was brilliant,” said Watson.
“They went up and then came back down which is disappointing, but last season I think they were pretty steady.
“We (MK Dons) played a couple of good games against Northampton and they were decent, so I think we just need to try and kick on again and hopefully get promoted.
“The club is going through a little bit of a transition, but I am sure that everybody here wants the same thing.
“Hopefully we can hit the ground running and it doesn’t take too long for the new lads and whoever else is here to settle in.
“I think it is going to be a positive season for us all.”
Watson joins the Cobblers having enjoyed the high of that final day promotion with MK.
He came off the bench for the final half-hour as they beat Mansfield Town 1-0 to seal third place, and he admits he had a positive experience at Stadium MK.
“It was good, and it was an exciting season,” said Watson.
“We were a little bit hit and miss at times as well, but I am sure everybody was at some point in league two, I think that is the league we are in.
“The main target always stayed the same though, we were striving towards promotion and we got there in the end.
“It was such an amazing feeling to be part of that.”
So, for those Cobblers fans who didn’t see him play under Wilder, what sort of player is Ryan Watson?
“I am a central midfielder who likes to bring a lot of energy to the team,” he said. "I like to get on the ball, and I would say I am a technical player as well.
“I am box to box, and I feel like I need to chip in with a few more goals which would be nice.”
Improving his strike-rate is something manager Keith Curle has also spoken about, so how does he go about doing that? Is it about positioning? A mindset?
“It is possibly a bit of both,” said Watson. “Obviously I am not 100 per cent sure where I will be playing at the minute, but I want to try and get a bit more forward and try and get in the box and chip in with a few goals.”
Watson turns 26 next month, and he feels the time is right for him to really make his mark as a footballer.
Asked if he thinks he is just coming into his prime, Watson admitted: “I still feel like there is a lot more to come.
“I feel like I need to kick on this season, and it is a big season for me at my age.
“I am at a good age now to really go on and progress, and hopefully I can do that here.”