Here at Shoot! we endeavour to keep a watchful eye over the emerging talents in world football and keep you in the know in terms of who you should be watching out for in the years to come.
Today we turn our attention to Watford’s prized asset, centre-back Charlie Rowan.
Imagine, you’ve supported Chelsea your entire life. Your boyhood hero is John Terry. On one of your first visits to Cobham, you glance around. There stands the 2012 Champions League winning captain.
For Rowan, there is always only one man who he aspired to be like, Terry. At the young age of 18, the young centre-back has already flirted with Watford’s first-team. In years to come, could he be the darling of Vicarage Road, like Terry has been at Stamford Bridge for year-upon-year?
Rowan only remembers the glory days at the West London club. The 1997 FA Cup Final is, according to some, the start of the five-time champions of England’s purple patch.
Does Rowan remember it? Not at all. He wasn’t even born for another seven months!
Growing up in the early 2000’s within the English capital, Rowan only had one passion, football was his life. I guess it helped by the fact that Chelsea surged to their first title since the 1950’s in 2005; Rowan began to dream, one day could he lift such a glistening prize as the one Terry held high against Charlton Athletic on that luminous Saturday afternoon?
— Charlie Rowan (@charlie_rowan1) January 9, 2017
But despite various attempts to lure his way into academy squads, somethings just do not happen. Despite his dad urging academies to take a chance on the Hornet’s former Under-18’s captain, no one took the gamble. Some dreams just do not come true.
Well that was until 2012, when Rowan attracted the interest of Watford. It was a no brainer, an offer Rowan could not refuse. It was destination Vicarage Road.
Joining the club at Under-15 level, you may accept it if Rowan took a bit of time to embed himself into the Hornets’ philosophy. Not at all. With a scholarship still not 100 per cent guaranteed, Rowan put in all the hard work possible to ensure that he could call himself a professional footballer in years to come.
Eventually, the dream of a scholarship came true. All the dedication, commitment and hard-work payed off, Rowan could call himself a YTS.
But, ask anyone at this stage, and they will tell you that nothing has been achieved yet. In fact, it is only the beginning. The next aim, to break into the Under-18 squad.
That challenge came throughout the 2014-15 season. It is a challenge that he thrived in. He soon became a regular within the age group. You know what, he didn’t look out of place either. It was here where people began to sit-up and take notice of the London-born defender. Perhaps he could be a Hornet of the future?
It was the following year where everything began to take shape for Rowan. As the first-team, led by current Espanyol manager Quique Sanchez Flores, began their life back in the top-tier of English football for the first time since 2007; Rowan began to show his attributes in, well, more humbling surroundings, Watford’s training ground at London Colney.
But on the small stage, he flourished. He was not just an average player this year, either, he was the man with the armband. He was the man who guided the Hornet’s youngsters to the Professional Development South 2 title.
Despite FA Youth Cup heartbreak against AFC Wimbledon on penalties, David Horseman’s men prospered in the league, the highlight being 4-0 victories against Bristol City and Hull City on the opening weekend.
Harry Kewell and the first-team coaching staff were impressed with what they saw.
So, what were the odds of Rowan breaking through to the first-team the following season? Pretty high, most certainly. It felt almost inevitable that training with the first-team beckoned for the youngster. There was something that was missing, however. Something he had dreamt about since a child.
The opportunity to call himself a professional footballer.
That came over the close-season, Rowan was handed a two-year deal at Vicarage Road. You would be silly to decline. He had now achieved his lifetime aspiration.
There was one slight problem. There was a new manager at the helm, Walter Mazzarri. Would he take an interest in Rowan? Where did this leave the youngster? All the signs of Mazzarri’s appointment have been positive. It was destination Austria in the summer, pre-season beckoned.
And dreams do come true. Rowan made his debut in the first pre-season match of the summer. It didn’t come at Old Trafford, though, neither the Emirates, it came at the Kingfield Stadium – home of non-league Woking FC.
He’ll wait to play at The Theatre of Dreams in a few years time!