Academy graduate, striker Marvin Sordell made his debut for Watford in 2009 and then established himself in season 2010-11, partnering Danny Graham in a young side under Malky Mackay. His goalscoring rate of one in three persuaded Bolton Wanderers to offer Watford, or rather Laurence Bassini, £3m on transfer deadline day in January 2012, and offer Marvin an opportunity to play in the Premier League.
Marvin spoke to Watford Legends in the spring of 2018 while playing for Burton Albion.
Thanks for talking to Watford Legends. You came through the youth ranks at Watford. How did your involvement with Watford first come about?
I got released by Fulham at the age of 16, I wasn’t offered a scholarship there. I went to play in exit trials and got spotted for Watford, and went and trained for a couple of days with the u16s and the u18s, and was offered a scholarship.
You were one of many young players at that time to spend a loan period with Wealdstone. How did you find the experience?
It was very different! Obviously the experience of playing competitive football at a young age was huge for me. It definitely helped me along my journey to where I am today.
At the time I found it quite difficult, but you don’t get any success with an easy road, at least I don’t think so. It definitely got me ready for what was to come, and it was that next step up, alongside reserve football, before I was to ready to play first team football, on loan and at Watford.
You made your debut at Sheffield United in 2009. What do you remember about the game?
I remember I didn’t even think I was going to be on the bench that day.
There had been a couple of games before where I’d been in the squad, but I hadn’t actually made the bench. I’d told my Mum to not even bother coming up to the game because I probably won’t make the bench. Then lo and behold I’m on the bench, and then I think with about 25 minutes to go, I come on.
Making your debut at a stadium like that, it was brilliant obviously, a fantastic achievement.
Was your Mum disappointed to miss out?!
[Laughs] Yeah she was very disappointed. She also missed my first goal which was against Leeds, because I said the same thing! There’d been a few games I hadn’t been involved in, I just said there’s no point, it’s quite a long way to come up when I’m most likely not going to be on the bench. Then I end up being on the bench, and coming on and scoring my first goal as well.
You then made a couple more appearances before going out to Tranmere on loan. Was that a good move for you, or were you disappointed?
I think it was the next step really. Going out on loan at that time was the best thing for me. The bit of experience it gave me, the minutes playing professional football, and it gave me and the staff at Watford a chance to see that I could handle playing first team football.
It’s fair to say you hit the ground running the following season and struck up a good partnership with Danny Graham from the first game.
Yeah, I think the opportunity was there for me really.
At the time, Danny Graham was there. I think Will Hoskins and Nathan Ellington had just left, so the only senior striker at the time was Danny Graham. Other than that there was myself, Lewis Young and Liam Henderson – young players. The club wanted to play two up top at the time so there was a spot. The club were trying to buy Troy Deeney, and they couldn’t get him in until the day of the start of the season. I played a lot of games in preseason as he hadn’t been around and I started in the first game and did ok and well enough to keep in the team.
Who knows if they’d signed Troy earlier, I may not have had that opportunity because if you sign a player at that time for a big fee, they’re most likely going to be playing.
You kind of established yourself, keeping Troy out of the team for a lot of that season or he was played out on the wing.
Yeah, fortunately I’d picked up a bit of form and scored a few goals. If you’re a striker and scoring goals that’s always going to help your case.
Did you feel established in the first team at this point?
I’d say kind of, because I’d played quite a few games. But I still hadn’t played even 50 games for the club, so it’s not that many games as a professional, but for my age the experience helps for further down the line. I didn’t feel an established professional, I felt there was still a long way to go.
Sean Dyche came in at the end of that season. How did he compare to Malky Mackay as a manager?
I think they’ve very similar. At the club at that time, for coaches as well as playing staff there was a clear path from the youth team to the first team, because the club didn’t have a lot of money so always were looking to promote from within. I’d had Sean Dyche as my youth team manager, reserve manager as well as first team manager. I’d had Malky Mackay as reserve manager and first team manager.
The club had the same kind of ethos. I knew both of them very well and they had the same views towards playing and progression of the team and players.
You also made your England u21 debut in 2011.
Yeah that was amazing.
When I was at Fulham, I saw a lot of players in the team I was in get call ups for England in different age groups, and when you think you’re doing ok but not getting calls you’re going to be disappointed, and then when you get released you probably think those days are gone and you’re not going to get the opportunity in the future.
It was amazing really, a dream come true to play for England.
Did you have a favourite strike partner at Watford?
I’d probably have to say Danny Graham, because we had the most successful partnership. In terms of playing games and scoring goals, it was probably the best season I had was playing with him.
At the end of January, you were literally sold on Deadline Day to Bolton, despite being in the Watford matchday squad. How did that come about?
It was all very, very quick.
I was in London, in a hotel with the team preparing for the game. I didn’t have any other thought than I was playing. I got a couple of phone calls saying this might happen, that might happen. We go into a meeting before the game, and I’m not seeing my name on the teamsheet. My first thought is what have I done, have I been dropped from the squad?
Sean Dyche pulled me aside after the meeting and told me the situation is that the owner had pulled me out of the squad just in case something goes through, and then obviously Bolton is what came up, which was a fantastic opportunity to test myself in the Premier League.
It must have been hard to then be relegated back to the Championship at the end of the season?
Yeah it was difficult because I didn’t really get much playing time. I was about to turn 21 at the time, and all I wanted to do was play. I’m no different now. If I’d had any inkling that I wasn’t going to be playing, then I would have just stayed at Watford.
I was playing at Watford and enjoying my football and doing well. There was no reason for me to leave other than an opportunity for me to play in the Premier League, and you never know if that opportunity will ever show itself again in your career.
You then played in the Olympics for Great Britain. What was that like?
It was quite surreal really, I never expected it to happen.
I remember being at school at the time when London was given the Olympics and going to the event and celebrating as a kid, not actually realising that I might actually be involved in the football team playing in this tournament.
It was very strange because playing for England at the time and being involved in the international set-up, and then going to play for a team that consisted of four different nations coming together.
The whole feel around the Olympics itself was out of this world, because it’s so much bigger than just football, and I think being involved in that, you realise how prestige a tournament it is and how lucky you are to be amongst the elite of the elite athletes in the world.
How did it feel to come back to the Vic the following season?
It was a bit strange really, because me leaving hadn’t been something that was coming, you know, it just happened. I hadn’t had the time to say goodbye to a lot of people, there wasn’t really any closure.
It was a shame because I hadn’t been there for such a long time and seen a lot of faces but at the same time it was really nice, because Watford are a club I always hold close to my heart. It was nice to be back and see a lot of people really.
You scored at the Rookery end as well!
I know, I know!
Are you still in contact with anyone from your time at Watford?
It’s changed a lot so I’m not really in contact with anyone now.
Sean Dyche signed you again for Burnley – that must have been an exciting opportunity back in the Premier League?
In hindsight, I went there and maybe my own personal expectations were too high. It’s probably just how I am really and my character in that wherever I go, I want to be playing and I want to be starting regularly. Maybe at the time I should have had a more realistic view of signing for a team who had just been promoted and so players have their positions and rightly so, and it takes a fair while to break in.
Obviously things didn’t work out as well as I’d planned and I got released at the end of the season but all these things are things that I’ve learned from and a great experience in my career.
You’ve spent time since then in League One and the Championship. Do you still feel you could do a job at Premier League level?
What I think and what other people see are different things.
Realistically, I may not get another opportunity to play in the Premier League unless that happens via me getting promoted with a Championship team. I still work the same as I worked before, still have the same ambitions and the same goals, to be as good as I can.
If the top of my game is playing in the Championship, whether it’s playing in League One, whether it is going back to the Premier League, whether it’s not, I still think my career experiences that I’ve had have been a lot more than I ever dreamed of. Even to play one game in this career is very difficult. To play the amount I have and to have had the career I’ve had so far, and there’s still so much to learn, I’m very grateful.
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