Loan Watch: Caleb Watts scores first professional goals


Southampton’s loanees have seen plenty of action during the turn of the new year, with Nathan Tella continuing to shine at the Championship league leaders whilst Caleb Watts notched his first professional goals as a key part of Morecambe’s recent rise. All this and more from a busy period in the latest Loan Watch...

Starting with Saints’ Premier League loanees, defensive duo Jack Stephens and Jan Bednarek both played a full 90 minutes in the Emirates FA Cup third round with AFC Bournemouth and Aston Villa respectively as they exited the competition at the hands of lower league opposition.

One of those sides causing an upset was Tella’s Burnley, with the midfielder featuring off the bench in the Clarets’ 4-2 victory over Bournemouth.

The win capped off a productive festive period for Tella, who notched his second assist of the season in last week’s 2-1 win against Swansea City in the SkyBet Championship.

Combined with a 20-minute cameo in a 1-0 win over Stoke City on the 30th December, Tella’s Burnley side still top the table with a healthy five-point lead.

Elsewhere in the Championship, Will Smallbone picked up more valuable minutes with Stoke as the midfielder played over 70 minutes in the game against Burnley and completed the full 90 minutes a week later in a narrow defeat against Preston North End.

Down in League One, young Australian midfielder Watts has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes with Morecambe.

The Shrimps were bottom of the table and seven points away from safety prior to Christmas, but have rocketed themselves clear from danger with three successive wins against relegation rivals.

Watts was introduced as an 80th-minute substitute in a 2-0 win against Accrington Stanley at the end of December, then came off the bench to devastating effect against Burton Albion on New Year's Day.

He scored his first senior goals with a second half brace that helped Morecambe to a 5-0 victory over Albion, prodding home the first after a melee in the penalty area before confidently slotting home a one-on-one opportunity in the closing stages.

Watts shared his delight at getting off the mark after the game as he said: “I’ve been crying out for that first league goal for the Club and now I’ve got two in one match, I’m hoping I can push on and have a good year.”

He followed up that impressive display with an 81-minute performance in a vital 2-1 win over Cheltenham Town on Saturday.

Watts has been joined at Morecambe by Saints teammate Dynel Simeu, who was an unused sub against Cheltenham, after cutting short his loan with Tranmere Rovers to move up a division for a League One test until the end of the season.

Dan Nlundulu was on the opposing team as he featured for just over an hour in that game, but he has also enjoyed success over the festive period.

The striker scored the decisive goal in his final game of 2022, rushing in at the near post to finish and set up a 1-0 win over Shrewsbury Town.

He then also recorded a full 90 minutes on New Year’s Day in a narrow defeat against Bristol Rovers in what has proved to be the final game of his loan spell with the Robins.

South African midfielder Kegs Chauke also added to his League One minutes on New Year’s Day, playing just over an hour for Exeter City in their 1-0 win over Oxford United.

In the Vanarama National League, Jake Vokins added another substitute appearance for Woking in their dominant 4-1 win over Aldershot on the 1st of January.

The Cards are unbeaten in three games and remain in fourth place with a substantial 12-point difference between them and the final playoff position.

Outside of England, Polish goalkeeper Mateusz Lis returned to action in Ligue 1 with three successive starts for ESTAC Troyes.

He kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with Nantes in the final game of 2022 in the French top tier and kept his spot for a 3-2 win over Strasbourg and a 2-0 defeat against Lille in the Coupe de France.

Finally, Kazeem Olaigbe continued his development with Scottish Premier League side Ross County; he made a substitute appearance against Dundee United to close out the year, before earning back-to-back starts with an hour appearance against both Aberdeen and Livingston.