What with all this takeover talk recently it seems most other news can get a bit lost amongst it all. The other day I read an interview with former £3.2 million signing, Marvin Sordell. This can be read *here* and I highly recommend doing so. Marv’ did not have the best of times here to put it mildly in the extreme. Bought on deadline day in January for a side in a relegation scrap and in desperate need of goals. Shockingly David N’gog was finding it hard to do that.
There was much hope for a promising career, 15 goals in the 10/11 season, aged just 18. That is exceedingly good for a player so young in the Championship. 8 League goals for the season up to January in the year that we bought him and an England under 21 international. He arrived at Bolton Wanderers and made 3 appearances as we went down. The immediate omission from the team was baffling. In the odd appearance he made I remember it being commented upon how lively he looked; not to mention looking much more dangerous than N’gog he was.
The following season he again failed to convince Coyle and latterly Dougie that he deserved a consistent place. Despite being in and out of the team, he managed 8 goals in 26 appearances. (For reference, our current strike force combined has 4 goals in 52 games). 2 of which came in our 2-0 victory over Sunderland. Post-match, Dougie had praised Marv’ saying:
"Marvin has done very well for us. He is only a young guy and there is a lot of pressure on him with a big move up to the north then being called into the Olympic squad.
"With my experience of working with young players like Marvin, we got him back to basics and stripped down his game and he's started to prove what he is - a goal scorer."
In true Dougie fashion, he managed to root out the good with a combination of haphazard team selections and poor man management. One particular example Sordell gave was that Dougie had insisted Sordell celebrate if he scored against Watford despite it being he former club. Curtis Flemming had told him he was right not to celebrate. They had told him this before the game (in which Sordell did score and didn’t celebrate). Sordell said this was just a distraction pre-game and knocked his confidence.
As time went on his performances dipped. In another piece of PR excellence, Dougie publicly questioned where his head was. Rumours of being home sick and not working hard at the training ground become gospel despite no actual evidence of either. The trial by twitter took place and fans didn’t like his reactions to the accusations.
The truth was Sordell appeared to be depressed. In the aforementioned interview he spoke of how he had tried to fill the void left by friends and family with other activities such as cooking, learning the piano or his charity work. This angered some fans because players have to be about football and nothing else but also promoted Phil Gartside in to calling Sordell’s mother. He asked her what was up with her son and told her that he should be concentrating on football. This created further alienation for Sordell who was now faced with fans hating him, not being in the team, his emotional state being ham-fistedly mismanaged all be it with the best intentions; oh and some racial abuse to boot.
There will be those who will say he should have just ‘manned up’ and ‘he should have got on with it’. Mental health isn’t so easy. Looking back now with the increased awareness around mental health, I look back with even more sympathy for what Sordell went through. His head wasn’t in the right place and that translated in to poor performances. We as Wanderers fans know what the extremes mental health can lead to after the tragic death of Gary Speed. I’m in no way saying Sordell was feeling that way; merely highlighting we should treat the mental state of players with the same reverence as we do physical injuries. It certainly seems to have just as much of an effect on their performances.
He had been a good Championship striker who had fallen on hard times. He was bought for an overly inflated price (not his fault) and tasked with saving a sinking team. I rated him then and I rate him now. If he can get back to a place where he enjoys his football, he’d be an asset to any team in this league.