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'He’d be a 9/10 or a 2/10, but he's become that 7/10 player you need'

Stephen Bradley has hailed Dylan Watts’ improvement ahead of Shamrock Rovers’ clash with Ferencvaros.

Dylan Watts (file pic).
Dylan Watts (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

STEPHEN BRADLEY has hailed Dylan Watts’ development ahead of Shamrock Rovers’ Europa League qualifier against Ferencvaros this evening.

The 25-year-old has emerged as a key figure in the Hoops’ European campaign so far.

He had a starring role in their opening-round Champions League qualification win over Hibernians of Malta, scoring the second goal in a 3-0 win, with Bradley subsequently describing the performance as “up there with the best that you will see”.

Watts also started both legs of their most recent Europa League qualifier against Macedonian outfit Shkupi, with a fine effort helping the Irish side secure a 3-1 win at Tallaght.

Already, the Dubliner has had a career filled with highs and lows. Aged 19, he joined the then-reigning Premier League champions Leicester City from UCD.

The move to England did not work out, however, and the midfielder returned home, initially signing for Bohemians on loan, before completing a move to their arch-rivals in the summer of 2018.

Now in his fifth season with Rovers, he has made well over 100 appearances since joining the club. During that spell, he has helped his side win two Premier Division titles and the FAI Cup.

Nevertheless, for all the success Watts has enjoyed, as to be expected with a young player, his form has not always been consistent.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference in Hungary, Bradley highlighted the player’s progress over the course of his career.

“I spoke at length today about him that he’s grown into a real leader for us,” he told reporters. “When we got him he always had ability but he was very inconsistent. He’d be a 9/10 or a 2/10, but he’s become that 7/10 player you need to have at this level.

“He’s matured on and off the pitch. He’s one of very few players that can quicken the game up and take you from one zone to the other and I see him as a future captain of this football club.”

Source: Shamrock Rovers TV/YouTube

And although Watts has demonstrated his ability to finish clinically in Europe of late, it is an area where there is room for improvement overall.

In the Premier Division this season, he has one goal from 23 appearances, while his best overall tally for an individual campaign remains the four goals he scored in his debut season with the club in 2018. The player himself admits he must do better when it comes to finding the net on a regular basis.

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“I talked about it at the start of the last couple of seasons now, I need to add more goals to my game. I think I had a number of assists last year but goals are certainly something I want to add.

“Hopefully, I can score a few more between now and the end of the season.”

Looking ahead to this evening’s first-leg encounter in Hungary against Ferencvaros — a team who have won their last four domestic titles and were competing in the Champions League group stages as recently as 2020 — Watts is expecting a big challenge.

“It’s obviously nice to have European football confirmed [after Rovers guaranteed themselves a spot in the group stages of the Europa Conference League at worst], but I don’t think it changes a lot in terms of this game.

“It’s a game we’re looking forward to as a group. We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a difficult game. Any team you face at this stage in the competition is going to be a top side and they’re no different.

“But we need to try to impose our game on them as well and hopefully, we’ll bring a decent result back to Tallaght.”

- Originally published at 00.01

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Paul Fennessy

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