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William Troost-Ekong looks to follow Odion Ighalo's footsteps with Watford in Championship

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William Troost-Ekong completed his move from Udinese in the Italian Serie A to Watford in the English League Championship this week, with the ambition to follow in the footsteps of fellow Nigerian Odion Ighalo and help the Hornets return to the English Premier League.

Troost-Ekong, 27, returns to England, where he began his football career playing alongside the likes of Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane at youth level, and he says that Watford's project of returning to the top flight moved the dial for him.

"The project of Watford has been something that has always been on my mind," he told ESPN. "Coming to Udinese two years ago, it was something we discussed at the time knowing that the Pozzo family also own Watford.

"And now when I heard about the project of them coming back up to the Premier League, and really trying to give it a good go in the Championship this year, it felt like the right time for me to join.

"So, yeah, it wasn't a complete surprise because it was something that could have happened also maybe last year. But I'm here now and I'm really happy to be here."

Troost-Ekong is not be the first Nigerian to join Watford or help them bid to reach the Premier League. Danny Shittu joined the Hornets in 2006, soon after they had secured promotion, and Odion Ighalo joined from Spanish La Liga club Granada -- another Pozzo-owned asset -- in 2014, with his 14 goals helping them secure promotion.

Troost-Ekong spoke to Ighalo before joining Watford.

"Yeah, I'm still in touch with Odion and, of course, Isaac Success as well," he told ESPN. "I spoke to him about the club; Odion had only have good things to say.

"He's been here, obviously, in a similar project as mine because he arrived and he brought them up. And then he stayed there. And he had a fantastic time.

"So, yeah, he's paved the way, really, and he's a big brother to me. So hopefully I'll be able to follow in his footsteps. There's been some really good Nigerian players here, and I hope that I can be part of that Nigeria legacy with Watford as well."

Troost-Ekong took time also to address the concerns of Nigeria fans, who made their opinions known on social media after the Super Eagles vice-captain had moved in a downward direction from Serie A to the Championship.

"This was something that I thought could come up," he said.

"But I have to make my decisions based on what I think is right, and not necessarily what people think is right on social media.

"I think this was the right step for me in my career, and hopefully we'll be able to get back to the Premier League and then that would have made it a lot more sense for the people [who] have that question marks."

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Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has previously told ESPN that his core players, whom he knows very well, have little to worry about dropping down a division if they play regularly and maintain high standards.

Troost-Ekong made sure to discuss the move with his national coach first, to be sure there would be no danger to his international place.

"I spoke with coach Rohr, and I knew that there was a decision to make for me to come here," he told ESPN.

"The coaches are on board with my decision, which is important for me as well because of course I want to be part of the Super Eagles for a long time to come."

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Very important to his decision, though, was the chance to fulfil the dream of playing in the Premier League -- eventually -- and remain close to his young family

"I think everybody knows England is like home to me, especially because I spent such a long time in my youth and it is where my family is based as well now.

"It was always my dream to come back to England and eventually play in the Premier League. And I think that this was the right step towards that for me, and and I think for my family."

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The defender has wasted no time getting into the thick of things with his teammates, joining them in training as they get ready for this weekend's games.

"Being here before, knowing the football culture in England already, and also being in and around the North London area, which is very familiar to me, all helps very much for settling down quickly.

"Anywhere I've gone in the world so far, I've managed to adapt quite quickly. But here I think would have been the easiest switch just because there's no new language to learn or new culture."

Troost-Ekong is confident that Watford can succeed despite what is usually a unforgiving race for promotion.

"Only three games played and 43 to go in the league," he said.

"So, I can't really talk about what's going to happen this season yet. But I'm confident seeing what the players can do here, and also seeing the squad and the idea of the manager and the general feeling around the club."

Watford face Reading this weekend, with the Royals second on the standings with three wins from three compared with the Hornets' two wins and one draw.

- Watch Reading vs. Watford on Oct. 3 from 3.55 p.m.(CAT) on on ESPN