Former Luton Town midfielder Adam Watkins set to lead by example at Cambridge City
Adam Watkins is predicting exciting times for Cambridge City this season.
There has been a big overhaul of the Lilywhites’ squad in the past eight months as manager Robbie Nightingale has rebuilt the side ready for the new challenge of the BetVictor Isthmian League, North Division.
Captain Watkins is one of only eight players to remain at the club from the 2018/19 campaign, and is one of the senior members, at the age 27.
“There are three or four lads my age, but apart from that it’s lads 22 going down into their teens which is great as there is a good management here that will look after them,” he said.
“We’ve got a very good squad here, we’ve got some very good players in and it’s exciting times.
“It’s very young and very new which is a good thing.
“The lads seem to have gelled quite quickly, everyone gets along well, there are no bad attitudes, no egos and it’s nice to be around. And there is a good social life to it.
“We want to try minimum play-offs and try to challenge for the league – I think we can with this side.”
Watkins’ experience could well be a key factor for City this season, given his background at Luton Town.
He was a professional at the Hatters for four years, having joined the club initially as a 13-year-old, making his debut as a 19-year-old in an FA Cup tie against Southampton.
The attacking midfielder was also part of the Luton squad that toppled Norwich City in the competition in January 2013, when they were the first non-League team to defeat a top-flight club since the introduction of the Premier League.
“I came through the youth there, having joined aged 13 and then did my two-year apprentice and four-year pro – it was good fun while it lasted,” he said.
“There was Mick Harford, Gary Brabin, Paul Buckle and Richard Money – they were the managers there while I was there.
“Once one gets sacked, you’re on the level playing field again. It was a great learning curve.”
After making more than 50 appearances for Luton, he was released in 2013, after loans at Kidderminster Harriers and Eastleigh.
“I came out of the pro game four years ago and went into non-League life and working, as you do,” added Watkins. “It was a shame, but to be fair, now I’m loving it.”
He spent the next three years at Dunstable Town before spells at Bedford Town, Royston Town, Chesham United and AFC Dunstable eventually led to joining City in December.
“I’ve known Robbie (Nightingale) for a long while and he’s tried to get me to a few places – eventually it came to the stage where I thought I would give it a go and it’s been good fun,” he said.
“It’s a great club, that’s why I signed. It’s nice to be around, good bunch of lads and management.”
It all kicks off for City away at Tilbury on Saturday (August 17), and Watkins wants them to come out of the traps firing.
The performances have been encouraging in pre-season against sides from higher divisions, it is about how that is replicated in the league though.
“It’s always a good sign, but pre-season means nothing come the first game of the season.
“You’ve got to start picking up points early and hopefully we can get off to a good start, hitting the ground running.”
With Watkins set to be crucial to City, they will be left sweating on his fitness for the opening game after he was forced off through injury in their final pre-season match last Saturday, a 2-1 defeat at Bedford Town.