Mattie Pollock: The Watford Centre-Back Excelling on Loan

Mattie Pollock

As was expected, Watford made plenty of transfers following their recent promotion to the Premier League. Inevitably, most of the focus went to the first-team names who were destined to have a big impact this season, such as Emmanuel Dennis, Joshua King, Moussa Sissoko and Danny Rose, among others. However, one summer signing – Mattie Pollock – is deserving of just as much attention considering his stellar start to the 2021/22 campaign.

Mattie Pollock Impressing on Loan

Under-the-Radar Summer Signing

The 20-year-old signed for Watford for a fee in the region of £250,000 following Grimsby Town’s relegation out of the Football League. Considering his age and previous experience, a loan move this season – before gaining Premier League minutes – was a certainty.

Nonetheless, there were promising signs from Pollock during his days with Grimsby Town. He made 58 senior appearances for them, consistently being one of their best players on the pitch. The defender most notably stood out with his impressive aerial ability in the ultra-physical league.

Mattie Pollock Shining for Cheltenham Town

The Hornets loaned Pollock to League One side Cheltenham Town to allow the physical defender to further his development. It took him no time to settle into life in the English third tier. His League One debut came as a starter in a 2-1 victory over Charlton Athletic. He has since started the subsequent nine league matches, helping to keep two clean sheets in the process, as well as providing an assist.

In the FA Cup, Pollock scored goals in both the first-attempt 1-1 draw against Gillingham and in the 1-0 victory to advance to the tournament’s second round.

As was his case with Grimsby Town, one of Pollock’s main strengths has been his remarkable aerial ability. This season, he has won an average of 4.5 aerial duels per match (a trait Watford will take note of as aerial defending has been a weakness at Vicarage Road for a considerable amount of time). He has also defended more robustly in other areas: last season, with Grimsby, he averaged 4.8 clearances per game and 0.4 blocks per game. In this campaign, he averages 5.3 clearances per game and 0.8 blocks per game.

He has also become a better one-on-one defender. Last season, he was dribbled past 0.2 times per match, on average. This season, the figure is down to just 0.1 times per match (and, what must be mentioned is this season, Pollock is coming up against tougher competition).

Outlook for the Defender

Pollock will continue to play a key role in Cheltenham’s starting line-up for the rest of the season. It appears as if this loan deal was perfect for both sides: Watford are getting a player who could be able to make the jump to the top flight (or certainly to the Championship, if relegation occurs) and Cheltenham have one of the best young defenders in the division.

If Watford are relegated back to the Championship, Pollock will likely have a straight walk into (or at least near) the starting line-up: centre-backs such as Francisco Sierralta, Nicolas Nkoulou (albeit his contract expires at the end of this season anyway), and William Troost-Ekong would all probably seek moves away. Even if the Hornets stay in the top flight, players such as Craig Cathcart may be deemed as surplus to requirements, so there would be a huge chance for Pollock to stake his claim to whoever the manager may be to put him into the rotation for the upcoming season.

A lot of this season remains, but one thing is for certain: Watford fans should keep a close eye on Pollock, as he appears to be a player who will thrive at a high level for years to come.

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