CHANGING man Marvin Sordell heads into familiar territory at Watford tomorrow – but might need a re-introduction to Wanderers’ travelling contingent.
On the face of it, the England Under-21 striker looks a different player after seizing his opportunities under Dougie Freedman, and doubling his efforts on the training ground.
Four goals in his last five games, and two stand-out displays against Sunderland and Everton in the FA Cup have had Whites fans clamouring for him to be given another chance in the side.
And they might well get their wish this weekend as a year after arriving at the Wanderers in a last-gasp £3million deal, Sordell looks ready for lift-off.
It is a quirk of fate that his rebirth could occur on the ground where he cut his teeth as a professional, working through the youth ranks to make his Hornets debut in 2009.
Sordell made 73 appearances for the Hertfordshire club, scoring 27 goals, before Owen Coyle snatched him from under the noses of Cardiff City 12 months ago.
But there is no trepidation heading back to home turf for the youngster, even though the personnel in Gianfranco Zola’s Hornets squad are much changed from his time at Vicarage Road.
“I was there quite a long time, so it will be quite sentimental for me,” he told The Bolton News.
“It’s my home, where I grew up with all my family and friends, so it should be good.
“A lot of the team and backroom staff have changed but you get the people behind the scenes who are still there. It will be good to see them because it’s a tight-knit club.
“I’m sure I’ll bump into the kit man, Will Jones, who was quite a character.
“Their work goes unappreciated but it will be nice to see a few faces who helped me out so much when I was first coming through.”
It is a measure of how far Sordell has come that Freedman openly discussed the possibility of putting Sordell in from the start against his former club.
His career course has undergone a few bumps in recent months, but the 21-year-old remains confident of a fair hearing when he takes the pitch tomorrow.
“Football is a funny game sometimes,” he said. “When David Beckham went back to Manchester United he got a great reception before kick-off and then every time he touched the ball, they booed him.
“I think he appreciates the fact they still love him, and, from what I hear, the Watford fans still like me and respect me. I’m sure they want me to do well in my career. And I certainly appreciate them.
“The majority of people would understand that once an opportunity like this comes along you can’t turn it down.
“You never know what will happen when you move clubs and things haven’t gone exactly according to plan for us but we move on, learn from it, and I think I have done that.”
Homesickness had already caused problems for the youngster by the time he was plunged into the much-publicised unpleasantness at Millwall last year. And his subsequent issues with Twitter – cracked down on by his manager in no uncertain terms – have also made their fair share of headlines.
Thankfully, Sordell is now getting the opportunity to get the right kind of attention. And after working with Freedman and his staff in extra training sessions to improve his fitness, the pacy front man now has a smile on his face.
“When you are playing football, you are always going to enjoy it,” he said.
“If you don’t think you are going to be involved on a Saturday then you can get into a cycle which does no good. But I have had a few games recently and scored a few goals, so I can kick on from here.
“The gaffer has changed everything and brought people on board with his methods.
“Everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, as you’d say.
“He has given me a chance and all I want to do is play and score goals.
“I’ve worked a lot with him, doing fitness more than anything. I’ve done quite a few sessions a day on my own.
“That hard work has been rewarded now through opportunities and goals.”