Getting to know. . . George Byers
20th October 2016
As part of our Swans Academy content, we speak to an upcoming talent within the youth ranks at the club.
Next in our in-depth interview is under-23s midfielder George Byers, who talks about his EFL debut, working with Harry Kewell and his new life in Swansea.
"It was an unreal feeling, just to be out there in front of a big crowd playing with the first team. It is a moment I will never forget and one I hope to repeat now I am at Swansea City."
Summer signing George Byers smiles as he recalls his Football League debut with Watford, which came against Charlton back in January 2015.
The senior appearance came after a long journey for the then 18-year-old, who rose through the ranks at the Hornets' Academy after joining at the age of seven.
"(Former Watford boss) Slavisa Jokanovic gave me my chance after a few months' training with the first team," adds Byers, who sees his former and current club meet on Saturday when the Swans host Watford in the Premier League.
"It was a chance which I am still very grateful for.
"Even though I only had one game in the Championship that season, I fully believe my time training with the first team helped make me a better player.
"I learned a lot playing with grown men and training with them behind the scenes.
"Troy Deeney was a big help for me. I was very close to him during my time at Watford. I looked up to him and he gave me good advice on and off the pitch.
"He would take time out of his day to help me on the pitch. The advice he gave was something I took on board and tried to take into my game, so he was a massive help for me."
Byers' time at Watford also saw the Scotland Under-18 international work under former Liverpool star Harry Kewell.
The 20-year-old says the ex-Australia international, who took the reins of Watford's development squad in the summer of 2015, gave him guidance that will stick with him for the rest of his career.
"Harry was a very good coach to work under and I learnt a lot from him on and off the pitch," he says.
"I used to have one-on-one meetings with him where he would advise me on my game and tell me where I could do better.
"He would always say to treat training as a game, which is always in my mind now whenever I take to the training pitch.
"If you treat training like a match you are always showing what you can do.
"He spoke to me about experiences that he went through as a player which resonated with experiences I've been through.
"I feel very thankful to have had him help my career before I left Watford."
This summer, Byers - a box-to-box midfielder - said goodbye after 13 years at Vicarage Road, signing a two-year deal with the Swans.
"It has been hard to move to a new place and almost start again with football but I am relishing the challenge," he says. "The switch so far has been tinged more with excitement than worry.
"My 13 years at Watford were happy ones, I had some great experiences there and I will always be grateful to the players and staff for helping me start my career in football.
"I hope my move to Swansea will show I have come of age. I see it as a fantastic new challenge and one that I have only just started, so I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the future.
"My aim is to develop my game with the Swans and work for my chance with the first team over the next 24 months."
Since arriving in SA1, Byers has been a regular in the Under-23s' campaign in Premier League 2.
The Essex-born player has also represented Scotland at youth level, and his time in the international set-up means he has been reunited with another Swans starlet.
"I knew Oli McBurnie before I came to Swansea," Byers adds, "so he has been a big help for me settling in since I arrived."
"I am really enjoying it, I have loved my time here so far.
"It has been great to link up with the Scottish lads and to meet all the players and staff.
"The development squad really does have good bond and I think we will have a good season together.
"You need experiences in life and I don't think you get that staying in one place, so I feel the move to Swansea has come at a good time.
"I know I will need to work hard to get that feeling I experienced when I made my first-team debut for Watford last year, but the challenge for me is clear and I know what I am focused towards."