Talent Scout: Marvin Sordell, Bolton Wanderers
Saturday 04 February 2012
In the high pressure, results driven world that is modern football, building a youth orientated recruitment philosophy and putting trust in the inconsistent business of young players is a luxury many can't afford. Yet for some, it's a necessity.
Take Championship outfit Watford, who's leafy London Colney training ground neighbours with Premier League giants Arsenal, a side synonymous with investing in making superstar talent, not buying it. They can afford to, but hop over the fence, and Watford are a club who put their faith in youth because they have to, with academy graduates covering squad gaps their finances can't, while also being sold for precious funds that help keep them ticking over, just like Marvin Sordell did this week, by joining Bolton on transfer deadline day for £4m.
The 20-year-old steps up into the big time with a reputation as a raw but exciting striker, with 10 goals in 29 matches this season for the Hornets, who regularly boast five or more fellow production line talents in their ranks. The question now is if he can turn potential into end product quickly enough to help Bolton stave off relegation.
Sordell is primed for the fight though, born in the London Borough of Harrow, he battled with friends whilst at local side St Josephs to eventually get the chance as a striker, having previously played in goal. A hat-trick in in his first game cemented his place, before being inducted into the Fulham academy following a trial.
It looked like being the making of Sordell, but aged 16, Fulham told the frontman he would not making a career in the game with them, refusing to give out a scholarship and releasing him. Premier League offers came, but stepping down a division, Watford have always had the motto that they will give chances where others won't, and signed Sordell after a training stint, before making him a professional a year later.
He struggled to settle across London initially, but following loan moves at non-league Wealdstone, who have produced fighters like Stuart Pearce and Vinnie Jones, and then Tranmere Rovers, he found his feet and finally broke through at Watford last season, scoring 15 goals in 46 matches. Sordell was also drafted into the Pearce managed England Under-21 setup, and capped off some good performances with a stunning effort against Israel to finish a remarkable few months.
This term has been much of the same for exciting Sordell, who has continued learning as part of another much changed Watford side, battling to beat the drop once again. He woke up on Tuesday expecting to be doing that in a yellow shirt, but finished the day facing a different fight in a white one, as Bolton took advantage of Watford's desperate need for a cash injection to seal a deal. Owen Coyle has put in faith in young players before, and now needs to begin the process of moulding Sordell's raw qualities into rounded end product, and quickly.
On paper, Sordell should settle into life in the Premier League seamlessly. He has good technique, close control and skill on the ball, and combines that with speed, energy and determination to be a real handful in and around the box. Sordell used to be more of a wider forward, who could cut inside and run in behind defenders, but has proved successful playing on the last man, and being alert to scraps in the box, in perhaps a more natural centre forward role.
Off the ball, he is still learning about making intelligent runs to best effect, but is not afraid to get stuck in and adapt to the physical side of the game, using every inch of his five foot 10 inch frame to best effect.
Sordell has been adapted to lots of different roles, so is still finding out how best to use his qualities, like a wizard searching for the best potion. As such, he experiments a lot, with mixed effects. This is something that can frustrate and excite in equal measures, and means he could be more effective as an impact player for the short-term.
In terms of improvements, Sordell has good composure and a good finish, but is over-reliant on his right foot, and seems to panic and snatch at chances on his left or with his head. He also needs to learn when to pass and to become a bit more of a team player, often preferring to try himself than find colleagues or keep possession.
Overall, Sordell is a raw and natural talent, who needs nurturing and shaping to complete his evolution from boy into man. He boasts great pace, close control and work rate, plus he can find a finish, but must improve on his all round team play to fulfil his blossoming potential.
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