Leeds United: Watt focused on here and now INTERVIEW

Sanchez Watt's first goal as a professional footballer was all it took to illicit comparisons with Thierry Henry.

To be judged by the standards of Arsenal's many icons is a burden the club's young players are required to bear.

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Back when he made his first big splash with the Gunners, scoring in a League Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion in 2009, the subject of Henry – his aura, his talent and his influence on Watt's career – was broached immediately.

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"I've looked up to many players here," Watt replied diplomatically, while admitting that advice offered to him by Henry had been gratefully received.

Sixteen months elapsed between Watt's maiden goal and his second, scored for Leeds United over the weekend, but he was unable to walk out of Elland Road on Saturday night without hearing the name of a certain Frenchman.

If nothing else, it reminds him of the benchmark which exists at the club who loaned him to Leeds at the start of this season.

The correlation with Henry is as premature as it sounds, but Watt has at least reached the stage where he can be accurately assessed in the company of the typical English footballer. The verdict is flattering, depicting a skillful teenager who has grown into his loan at Elland Road and settled easily into the Championship.

His goal in Saturday's 4-0 win over Scunthorpe – the catalyst for a heavy victory and his first strike in 22 appearances for Leeds – brought a belated reward for a player who has been more dynamic this season than his record suggests.

Injury has taken more responsibility than form for his failure to start more than eight league matches.

Before United's manager, Simon Grayson, let him loose against Arsenal in an FA Cup third-round tie on January 8, Watt had been all but anonymous for nearly three months.

An ankle injury suffered at Middlesbrough in October caught up with him in a game against Leicester City three days later, curtailing the involvement of a forward who Grayson had been happy to start against

Derby County on the opening weekend of the season.

Fielding him at the Emirates Stadium was a gamble on Grayson's part but his effective performance on a challenging afternoon in London was replicated against Scunthorpe, culminating in his fine strike after 17 minutes.

With permission to play in Wednesday's replay against Arsenal, Watt's name is as likely as any to appear on United's teamsheet.

It was put to Watt that his display against the Iron was that of a

footballer who had no intention of losing his place when Arsenal descended on Elland Road. "Any game I play in, I try to play to my best," he said. "But I hope this isn't my best form. Hopefully there's more to come from me and I'll help get the team promoted."

The 19-year-old might be the best example of the discipline shown by Grayson's squad in days surrounding their clashes with the Premier League high-fliers.

No player at Elland Road has more interest or more emotional involvement in a third-round replay between the club he aspires to represent in the future and the one who committed to signing him on a season-long loan in August, but Watt was as clear as Grayson about the FA Cup's peripheral status even after United's 1-1 draw in the capital.

Saturday's defeat of a toothless Scunthorpe side defended fifth position in the Championship and kept Leeds within touching distance of an automatic promotion place. It also maintained a necessary cushion of four points over the clubs attempting to force their way into the play-offs.

Leeds are no more than two wins short of reaching a position which is realistically beyond the threat of relegation – 50 points – and it is clear already that the club have more than an outside chance of climbing in the opposite direction.

"We were beaten by a team who could well find themselves in the Premier League next season," admitted Scunthorpe's manager, Ian Baraclough.

Watt said: "Our main goal is to get promoted. We're in a really good position and we've got a lot of players in form, even the players who are on the bench or fighting to get into the squad. There's a lot of competition here.

"But we want to give Arsenal a game and I keep in touch with a lot of the players there – Jack Wilshere, Keiran Gibbs and people like that. They're all saying that they're going to get revenge on us back here, but we're going into the game with confidence.

"To beat them, we have to play as a group and not as individuals. If you play as individuals, you can't beat a team like Arsenal. We need to stick together, just like we did at the Emirates."

Watt's availability for both the initial tie against Arsenal and Wednesday night's replay at Elland Road gave him a priceless and unexpected opportunity to shine in front of Arsene Wenger.

Wenger's decision to make Watt eligible went against the long-standing tradition of loan signings sitting out of fixtures against their parent clubs, but Arsenal's manager took the view that it would benefit all concerned for one of the club's prospects to play in two high-profile games.

Watt is tied to Elland Road until the end of the season, at which point his future will be open to debate once more. The teenager plans to find a niche under Wenger but last played for the Gunners in December of 2009, and interest in his signature might grow elsewhere – not least in Leeds – if his performances continue to make an impression.

"Everyone wants to play for a big club, and everyone knows that Arsenal are a great club," Watt said. "I can only give my all and see what happens with my career.

"I'd like to say that I'll go back there in the summer and get a chance, but football changes every minute."

CONGRATULATIONS: England's Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow walk off at stumps at the end of day one at the WACA. Picture: Jason O'Brien/PA

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