First Team 27/08/2019

Match Report: Watford 3-0 Coventry City

By Kevin Affleck

Ismaïla Sarr had probably never heard of Coventry until he was told last week there is a cup game squeezed in between Premier League fixtures this week, but whatever career he goes onto have in this country with this club – and the expectation and the signs are that it will be a decent one – he will always remember the Sky Blues as the opponents when he got his feet under the table.

The Senegal international was denied the chance to turn Saturday's game on its head because West Ham scored the killer third just as he was receiving his final instructions from Javi Gracia, but he was afforded the chance to shape this one from the outset and he took his chance. He set the Hornets on their way with a nicely-taken goal after 37 minutes and the confidence seemed to surge through the veins of the 21-year-old after that.

There were a couple of turbo-charged runs down the right in the second half and enough to suggest this lad, with some more training, more minutes and further acclimitisation, could add some real stardust to the attacking end of this team. It was quite the night for the team's flair players as Adalberto Peñaranda rattled in a beauty just five minutes after coming on. It would have been the perfect night had Tom Dele-Bashiru scored, as he will have expected to, within minutes of coming on. As it was, three unanswered goals did very nicely indeed and this represented the result everybody needed after the first three matches of the season.

It took a while for the Hornets to get going. There was a slight apprehension and anxiety after Saturday's events and also a getting-to-know-you spell. This, after all, was a newly-figured side trying to establish some cohesion and a rhythm on the hoof. That said, there was still a fair amount of quality on show, with nine full internationals and one in Domingos Quina who is expected to go on and gain full honours. 

Quina showed exactly why he is likely to carve out a fine career with a lovely twinkling of the feet and swaying of the hips in the middle of the pitch after just six minutes. He ghosted past two players as if they weren't there and the portents, at the stage, look promising.

There was then a nice move involving Roberto Pereyra and Isaac Success that resulted in Sarr smashing one against a defender and you thought, 'Here we go'. But Coventry weren't in the mood to be dictated to and Callum O'Hare, the schemer on loan from Aston Villa, was proving a real bright spark. He flashed one past the post on 11 minutes and it represented a warning shot being fired across the bows. 

The home side just shaded the possession in the first period – 54 per cent to 46 – and with it they fashioned a free-kick that Nathaniel Chalobah flashed wickedly across the face of goal and then Danny Welbeck smashed one over with his left. Chalobah and Welbeck also showed they were not afraid to mix it, with Welbeck dumping a defender on the seat of his pants in front of the dugout and Chalobah crunching into O'Hare. It was exactly the spirit Gracia was after.

You always felt the the Hornets had that bit of extra quality in their ranks and soon after Pereyra forced a flying save from Ben Wilson, Sarr fired one into the bottom corner. There was some nice play from Chalobah in the build-up and a nicely-weighted pass from Success.

The Hornets kept their foot on the gas at the start of the second half. Welbeck had a couple of bites of the cherry early on and then Chalobah sent Sarr haring down the right flank. It was front-foot attacking play at its best.

There was a hairy moment when Adrian Mariappa didn't put enough on a back-pass to Heurelho Gomes, but from then on it was virtually all the home side. Daryl Janmaat cracked one in on 56 minutes to stake a big claim for a starting place at St James' Park on Saturday and then Peñaranda went one better 13 minutes later. It was the icing on the cake on a night when Gracia couldn't have asked for things to go much better. Now to transfer this momentum to the Premier League on Saturday.

HORNETS: Gomes; Foulquier, Kabasele, Mariappa (C), Janmaat; Sarr (Dele-Bashiru 72), Chalobah, Quina, Pereyra (Peñaranda 63), Success; Welbeck. Subs not used: Bachmann, Prödl, Deulofeu, Cleverley, Femenía.

First Team 27/08/2019

In Depth: Sordell On Watford, Coventry & Retirement

Marvin Sordell was speaking to match programme THE HORNET – see Tuesday’s Coventry edition for the full, in-depth interview.

Marvin Sordell made his professional football debut for Watford in August 2009, as a substitute in a 2-0 loss at Sheffield United. This summer, fewer than 10 years later, he was announcing his retirement from the professional game.

The former Hornet will be returning to Vicarage Road as a fan on Tuesday night when Watford face Coventry City – another of his old clubs – in the Carabao Cup.

“It will be really nice, being back where my career started and at a place that feels like home,” he said. “I will just enjoy being back as a fan and being able to watch the game and enjoy it without thinking about anything else.”

It’s been a turbulent time for Sordell since he left Watford to join Bolton Wanders on the final day of the transfer window in January 2012. The forward played for seven clubs in seven years before deciding to hang up his boots and pursue other interests.

“I’ve known for a long time, for years, that I wasn’t going to be one of those players who plays until they’re 35 or 36,” he explained. “Over the last year or so different situations meant I was coming to the conclusion I was enjoying life more outside the game than life inside the game.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talk about money, but I value my happiness more than I value the financial side that comes with the game. There are so many negatives that are a part of football.”

Football has never been the be all and end all for Sordell, who has exciting plans for his retirement. He kept up his passion for writing and media during his playing career and recently launched production company 180 Productions with two close friends.

“This is something I’ve been passionate about for quite a long time,” he said. “Film, television and being able to be creative through visuals. This is what I see as my new career path and it’s quite exciting to see where it’s going to take me. We’re fortunate that we’re starting off very quickly, we’ve got a lot of conversations and a lot of different people talking about creating things.”

One of the first projects 180 Productions will release publicly is a campaign for mental health charity CALM.

“It’s a campaign really to get people to talk about mental health,” said Sordell. “I’ve been speaking to CALM for just over a year now and I became an ambassador earlier this year. I think what they do is amazing.”

A move back to Watford is next for Sordell, but as a supporter rather than a player. Living close to Vicarage Road, he drives past the stadium regularly and said he cannot believe how it has changed since he was at the club.

Sordell said he plans to be a regular visitor to the ground this season, starting with the League Cup tie between the two clubs he remembers most fondly.

“I’ll be rooting for Watford. If it was Coventry against anyone else – other than Arsenal – it would be Coventry. But Watford are my team.

“If there are two clubs that I would say I would really be rooting for, it's Watford and Coventry.”