Wigan Athletic loan star has Premier ambition

Kell Watts is in danger of playing himself out of a loan return to Wigan Athletic.

The 22-year-old centre-back enjoyed a successful season with Latics last term, returning to Newcastle with a League One title-winners' medal under his belt.

It was thought a second year with Latics - this time in the Championship - would be a very logical step in the development of a player who recently signed a contract extension with the Magpies.

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Indeed, Latics boss Leam Richardson did nothing to bat away the idea when asked about it last month.

Kell WattsKell Watts
Kell Watts

"I think we're open to everyone and everything at the moment," he said. "Kell did great for us last year, he's a player who's learning the game and had a fantastic season here.

"He's a professional who'll definitely go on and have a great career."

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But Watts has impressed the Toon management during pre-season, being the only player to complete the 90 minutes in Saturday's 5-1 friendly win over Gateshead and winning a place on this week's tour of Austria.

And despite daunting competition from the likes of Sven Botman, Fabian Schar, Jamal Lascelles and former Latics man Dan Burn, Watts is doing everything he can to show he is worth a place in their Premier League squad.

On Saturday's run-out, he said: “It was brilliant. I was told before the game I was playing 90 minutes.

"I think, for me, it was good. I’m happy with more minutes I can get on the pitch and show the lads how much I’ve improved from my loan spell last year.

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"I wanted to show the manager and staff, who I’ve just started working with, what I’ve got.”

Watts also admitted his year with Latics had given him the confidence to challenge for a place at Newcastle.

"I enjoyed my time at Wigan," he told the Northern Echo. “Winning the league is the best thing you can do in football. Winning trophies is what I want to do.

“Coming back here has been the same as every year. Get my head down, work as hard as I can.

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"Take each day as it comes, which I know is a cliché but that’s all I can do. Put my best foot forward, try not to overthink and play my best game.

“I’ve developed as a player from my first loan at 18 to now.

"I’ve played a lot of games now and that winning mentality at Wigan was brilliant but being back here has been brilliant.

"I’m enjoying working with the lads, the new staff and learning everyday so I can’t complain.

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"I’m a much more confident centre-half and going away to Wigan, getting that medal and getting that promotion, it’s something I will always remember.

“You can’t take that away from me but I just want to kick on and see where that takes me.”

Latics have yet to make a senior signing this summer, with Watts being one of four players – along with Gavin Massey, Tom Bayliss and Glen Rea – to have left or returned to parent clubs.