Interview: Austin Eaton

Sports Mole talks to former Watford midfielder Austin Eaton, who will represent Spanish side Cordoba next season.

The World Cup might currently be dominating attention, but behind the scenes, every English professional footballer is preparing to return to their clubs for the start of pre-season.

That is also the case for 19-year-old Austin Eaton, but his story is slightly different from the masses.

The central midfielder's footballing journey has taken him from Watford via Chile to Spain, where he will represent newly-promoted La Liga side Cordoba next season, initially starting with their B team in Group 4 of the Segunda B Division.

Here, Eaton speaks exclusively to Sports Mole about his fascinating early career and hopes for the future, as well as touching on a disappointing summer for both Spain and England.

Cordoba player Austin Eaton© Twitter

Tell us a little bit about your early football career and how you ended up moving abroad to further your development.

"I started playing football when I was around four. I was at Stevenage Borough for about two years, but I was always playing like a year or two up and then when I was 10 I got a trial at Watford. I was there until I was 18 and during my time at the club I went to the Harefield Academy School.

"I was playing three hours of football each day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so getting a lot of football with the system there and then it progressed until I was 16 when I got the opportunity to go out to Chile through a family friend to train with a team called Santiago Wanderers, which was a really good experience just before my Watford scholar.

"I started my scholar at Watford and was doing really well. I got voted for Player of the Tournament in our first pre-season tournament in Holland and I came back and was training with the first team and playing quite a lot of reserve-team football until I got injured. I tore my retina in my left eye, which was a bit of a blow. I was out for a few weeks there and then in the second year of my scholar, the first week of training I tore my ATFL ligament in my ankle and I was out for four and half months and I came back and everyone had left.

"Under the new regime, there was no-one there that I had previously known - all the owners had gone and the first-team manager Sean Dyche had gone and there was a first-team squad of 53 players because of the influx of Udinese and Granada players under the Pozzo family.

Watford owner Giampaolo Pozzo (C) and son Gino look on during a game between their side and Leeds United on May 4, 2013© Getty Images

"There didn't seem to be much pathway to the first team, everything was changing and not for the good I didn't think. I asked to leave Watford in December 2012 and went out to Chile for six weeks to train with a team called Catolica. I got offered to stay out there and play for their Under-20 side, but it was just a bit too far.

"I came back and had a brief trial with Derby County, but unfortunately it didn't really work out. I really liked it up there, but they played me out of position on the right wing so it didn't really work.

"I then got the opportunity to go out to Spain for three months in January as part of the League Football Education Programme and was lucky enough, through my old coach at Watford, to get a contact at Cordoba and they said they wanted to see me for a trial. I went there for a week at the end of March and they got back to me saying that they would like to sign me."

Was it a difficult decision to seek pastures new in Spain at such a young age?

"I have always wanted to play in Spain. I have always said it. To be honest I didn't know it would come along this quickly, but when the opportunity came about I couldn't really say no to it."

Would you say your game is more suited to Spanish football?

"Yeah, at the moment anyway I would probably say that. If I want to make it anywhere then I have to adapt to the style of football that they play there. The way I play is quite a short game and quite technical and I think that is more suited to the Spanish style of football at the moment, but obviously I would love to come back to England. It is going to be a great experience."

What did you make of Cordoba's Segunda playoff final against Las Palmas?

"I couldn't believe it. It was crazy, I didn't know what I was watching. [Cordoba] scored in the 97th minute to equalise [and eventually triumph on away goals] and I couldn't believe it. It was a really scrappy goal, with Ulises Davila (who is on loan from Chelsea) tapping home from close range."

What about the chance to play under former Spanish international Albert Ferrer?

"I cannot wait. I am really excited about going back on July 16 so I am just trying to keep as fit as I can, but I am trying to balance it in terms of fitness. I will originally start with the B team which are in the Segunda B and then hopefully I get some chances to play or train with the first team."

Albert Ferrer of Spain on the ball during the International Friendly against Argentina at the Olympic Stadium in Seville on November 17, 1999© Getty Images

Switching our attention to the World Cup, what did you make of Spain's surprise early elimination from the tournament?

"I was gutted. I was really supporting Spain. I was really surprised, but I think in the first game against Holland they could have finished the game off in the first half.

"They are technically brilliant over in Spain, but maybe they might need to adapt. I think the game at the moment, especially the Germans, they are a lot more counter-attacking. Spain did have their time with Barcelona a few years ago with all the passing, but I think teams have been able to tactically deal with that now. The game has moved on, but Spain are certainly not past it."

And England's summer excursions?

"Before we went into the tournament I was quite optimistic, with all the young players coming through. The likes of Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling in the Premier League were brilliant and I think that those two were the standout players this summer. It looks promising with all the players coming through."

What about your own hopes for next season?

"If I can get a few bench appearances or get on for a few minutes then that would be amazing. I am only 19 and it would be a dream come true to play a few minutes in La Liga. I am looking forward to getting into regular football with the B team and do my best for them and see where it goes."

Finally, how is your Spanish?

"It is alright. I would say it is broken Spanish at the moment! I am going to get lessons out there so it is something I will work on."

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