Who is Tuffley Rovers’ future star Jayson Watkins?

Last weekend saw Tuffley Rovers’ End of Season awards and one name in particular who stood out was Jayson Watkins. The young man picked up three awards, so who is this young man with such potential?

Well in April right here on Severn Sport, Watkins was named in Ryan Butler’s 11 U18s players to watch for the 2020/21 season where Butler said, 

“Anyone within the Development training set up at Tuffley will tell you how good this young man is and the scariest part about it for me is, I still don’t truly believe I have seen him at his best yet…but from what I have seen he has all the tools to make his mark for Tuffley.”

A number of weeks later and Watkins is named as the Tuffley Rovers U18s Players Player of the Year, Reserve Team Manager’s Player of the Year and was jointly named the Reserve Team Players Player of the Year – along with goalkeeper Kane Hyett. 

Along with First Team player Dom Kent, Watkins was received three awards, so we thought we would find out just exactly how good Watkins is and how exciting a talent he can be in the coming seasons. 

“To be fair after five minutes of the first trial 12 months ago myself and Mike [Development manager Michael Palmer] thought ‘there is our future captain’ and as the season went on he just got better and better and for me he’s up there with the best I’ve seen of anyone his age!” Said Tuffleys U18s manager Jamie Hyett. 

“He’s got the potential to go up to the Southern league and potentially higher. The main thing for me for him to work on is his self belief though. He’s such a nice quiet lad but maybe just needs confidence in himself,” Hyett added.   

Watkins is one of the many players that Tuffley are bringing through their improving Development system who plays for both the U18s and Reserves and will be part of the Development squad now registered in the Hellenic League Division Two for the 2020/21 season. 

Tuffley’s Development manager Michael Palmer had come across Watkins before the midfielder joined Tuffley’s setup and is delighted with how he has progressed. 

“I knew of Jayson from when I was at Gloucester City as he was in the age above. So when I knew I was coming to Tuffley I made it clear to his old coach Ash that Jayson was a main target for myself as I knew he could be key to want we want to achieve as a club.

Jayson become the U18s captain and as quiet as he is he has started to become a real leader and we have a great relationship with him, as we could always have great conversation on how we wanted to play and how to adapt.

Jayson has been fantastic for us this season, people ask me all the time how good Jason is my response if he is my vision of Chelsea’s Claude Makelele. He is does the simple things and without him we just don’t tick the same,” said Palmer. 

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So whilst he is performing well at Reserve and U18s level, the end goal for any development player is to be playing at First Team level. One man who knows the importance of bringing through youth players in at Tuffley is soon to be departing defender, Sam Hill.

Hill has previously been involved with the coaching of the U18s and Development players whilst playing for the First Team in the Hellenic League and he believes that whilst competition for places at Tuffley may make it tough for Watkins, he is sure Watkins will develop in the right way to make an impact for the Rovers. 

“Jayson is very good but can be, to perhaps the untrained eye, one of those players that quite easily go under the radar. He’s not out there scoring 30 yarders but he very rarely gives the ball away. He makes the game seem so simple.

I was convinced he was a bit of a Scott Parker in the early parts of the season but then he started popping up in the opposition box too. Is it perhaps a step to far to suggest he reminds me of a young Freddy Ward!”  said Hill. 

“Competition for a central midfield place in the First Team is very tough. For me he’s really not far off ‘first team’ football in general but to play in the Hellenic Premier he will need to learn some of the ugly parts of the game: hooking a ball into a corner, turning a fullback, playing on the half turn and probably the hardest thing for most youngsters making the transition is learning – what they do off the ball is now way more important than what they do on it.

Some players hate it and those players tend not to climb the levels. Instead they stick around at a level where they can still run games, take loads of time on the ball and dictate play. Jayson already has the physical side in his locker don’t get me wrong but that’ll be his biggest obstacle.

What I like about him most is how grounded he is. I’m pretty sure a couple of ‘first teams’ wanted him a year ago but he kept his head down and kept the faith in the plan at Tuffley (and Mike/Jamie in particular). So with bags of ability and clearly the right attitude people need to expect big things!” Hill added. 

So three of the men who have helped Watkins’ development over the last couple of years believe that Watkins has the ability but as we all know sometimes it is about being part of a strong team. 

We asked Tuffley forward Niall Priday, a player who himself only broke into the First Team during the 2019/20 season, about just how good Watkins can be to play with. 

“To be honest, I didn’t think too much of Jayson at the trials,” Priday admitted. 

“But as soon as we started training regularly with him you could tell he had something about him. On the pitch you couldn’t ask for more, he works hard and is just a all round good player and his eye for a pass is a joke!

Off the pitch he’s a good lad and is always involved in the banter. In my opinion he has got the makings to be an excellent player and I’d always encourage him to push further, cause he can achieve anything he wants,” said the striker. 

The reviews are there to be read and with the 2020/21 season hopefully not too far away, it will be an exciting time for Watkins and the whole of the Tuffley Development squad. 

With a new league for the Reserve side to be looking forward to and a whole host of local sides registering teams in the Cheltenham Youth Floodlit League for the U18s, maybe Watkins will be one of many looking to make the break into the First Team in the coming seasons. 

But as we said last month in our U18s players to watch next season, we still haven’t seen Watkins at his very best! 

Cover photo provided by Brian Rossiter. Please view his amazing photos on his Flickr page – https://www.flickr.com/people/ross0005/ or on Twitter @BrianRossiter1