By Kevin Affleck
Young defender George Langston plans to use Craig Cathcart as his inspiration as he bids to build on signing his first professional contract by breaking into the first-team squad.
Langston, 17, penned a contract until the summer of 2022 and is so hungry and determined that he is already eyeing the next step in his promising career. He has watched Cathcart from afar and plans to follow in the footsteps of the Northern Irish defender both in terms of his attitude and playing style.
“You see Cathcart in training and every day he is so professional and I look at him and try to model myself on him,” said Langston. “He does his job nine times out of ten and I think that's the way I try and get in the first team. Signing the contract is just the start. I want to be training with the first team and try to get in the squad as soon as I can. The main priority is to get in there and stay there.”
Langston strikes a nice balance between confidence and humility, evoking memories of another local lad in Paul Robinson who was never keen on just making up the numbers after turning professional. Robinson actually played in the youth team and Reserve side with George's dad, Matthew, who also signed a pro contract with the Hornets, in 1998.
“Me and my dad have a special bond,” said George. “He has helped me a lot over the years and I want to say a special thank you to him. He watches all the games and gives me little pointers, that extra bit of help that I don't think others get. This contract is a proud moment for me and my family.”
The contract is a reward for the former King Langley School pupil's ability as much as his hard work and attitude.
“I'm always getting on my mum's nerves as I'm staying behind at training for a couple of hours, getting that extra yard and getting that little bit better,” he said. “It paid off last year, getting in the Youth Cup squad.”
Langston emerged as one of the stars of that remarkable run to the semi-final. He played as a 16-year-old at right-back and produced a series of mature performances as the team beat Birmingham, Southampton, Ipswich and Leicester before being edged out in the semi-final against Liverpool at Anfield.
“It was a surprise to be picked,” he said. “I was still at school and the coach said, 'Come and grab some food' ahead of the Birmingham game. I thought would just be the 18th or 19th man and that I would just sit in the stands, but we had a team meeting and all of a sudden I was in the team. I had to get my head round it and managed to play a part in a big win. The cup run was a special one. It was just a shame about the result at Anfield.”
Langston would have bitten your hand off had you offered him a run to the last four of that competition when he was released by Tottenham as a schoolboy.
“I was at Spurs from eight and then got released at Under-12s,” he said. “One of the Watford scouts asked if I wanted to come and have a six-week trial. It was perfect as I'm a local lad and it was easy for my family. I enjoyed the first couple of days so much and I really started enjoying my football again. That's the key for me: if I'm enjoying my football I play a lot better. I'm a local lad and all my mates are fans so it means that little bit more to play for this club. Hopefully one day I'll be playing at Vicarage Road in a full stadium.”
First, Langston needs to battle his way back from a long-term knee injury, although the fact the club have offered him a contract while he is sidelined shows the faith they have in the strapping defender who prefers playing centre-half but who looks just at home at right-back.
“I was coming back from a little niggle in pre-season and felt good and strong,” he said. “We were about to play Aston Villa away in my first pre-season game and my knee buckled on me and I ruptured the ACL in my right knee. It wasn't ideal, to say the least. It's a pain but I'm determined to comeback stronger. I'm working hard in the gym, on the bike, on the rowing machine and the anti-gravity treadmill and starting to see the positives. When the time is right I'll be back on the pitch. The injury is disappointing but I can't wait for the next season to come round. I'll be back stronger.”