William Troost-Ekong may have grown up less than 50 miles from Vicarage Road, but his journey to Watford has been a long one.

Born in Holland to a Dutch mother and Nigerian father, the defender went to boarding school in Hertfordshire.

When there he spent time at Fulham and then Tottenham’s academies, but after being released by Spurs in 2013 he embarked on a journey that sent him all across Europe and led to him playing for six clubs in seven years.

“In Holland it was very much focused on playing football out from the back,” says Troost-Ekong.

“Then I played in Norway, which is a little more direct football. Belgium was probably a mix of both. “Then I went to Turkey, which was probably a higher level because you played against some really good players that were attracted by the money they have in the league there.

“Then coming to Italy tied it all together. It was a very strong league where every week I felt like I was learning something playing against top players.”


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It was always in Troost-Ekong’s mind that he would one day come back to England and he has had offers in the past to do so.

They never felt quite right, though, but after two years at Udinese the Nigeria international felt ready to take the plunge this summer when Watford came calling.

It is an ideal move for him, one that brings him back to his childhood roots, and the centre-back still has fond memories of his time in England despite being let go by Tottenham.

“That was like my really entry into professional football, I signed a scholarship contract at the time,” he says.

“I went into the Reserves, where I had Chris Ramsey, Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand working with me.

“I started off cleaning the boots for Ledley King (below), Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul and Sebastien Bassong. I had a relationship with them at the time because they used to give me some advice when I used to train with them.

“At that time he (King) was already in his 30s. I could see from up close his tactical awareness and positioning was fantastic. It is what you try to emulate.


“After that Jan Vertonghen came and he became a friend because he spoke Dutch as well as he was at Ajax for a long time. All the older players were open to helping the young players, which was a nice thing.”

Troost-Ekong was part of a talented young group at Spurs, which included Harry Kane and also the likes of Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Fredericks.

When it became clear, however, that the defender was not going to be break into the first team he sought out a move to Holland.

“It wasn’t entirely my decision,” he says. “They (Tottenham) kind of said that there wasn’t a real future for me there, at least not directly into the first team.

“You can hang around and maybe see if you can go on loan, but that wasn’t the case. It was more a decision after thinking, what am I going to do? Am I going to go down the leagues in England and try to build my way up? Or do I go abroad and try and get first-team football in a first division team. I went for the second option.”

It was a brave move by Troost-Ekong, but since joining Groningen and beginning his journey around Europe the 27-year-old has never looked back.

Now, though, he is finally back in England and closer than ever to realising the dream he had as a child.

“My dream is to play in the Premier League and to do that with a team like Watford would be ideal,” he says.

“Everyone’s idea here is to go back to the Premier League. That is the main focus. I can feel the energy in the group from the guys that are here.

“It was always the idea to come back to England. I was just waiting for the right opportunity. There were some in the past, however the choice wasn’t 100 per cent at the time.

“Now I felt like this was the right moment to come back here and prove myself.”