Under-18's 14/12/2018

Sarll: “One Of The Most Natural Players I've Ever Worked With”

By Kevin Affleck

Darren Sarll believes the club have got a gem of a player in Sonny Blu Lo-Everton after watching the playmaker underscore his huge potential with a corker of a free-kick in the FA Youth Cup tie.

The match with Birmingham City at Wingate & Finchley looked to be heading for extra-time when Lo-Everton, as all good players tend to do, stepped up to settle it with one moment of magic, bending and dipping a free-kick over the wall and into the bottom left-hand corner. It was a goal that prompted gasps around the ground and had Andy Scott, the club's Sporting Director, out of his seat. 

“Sonny is a wonderful talent,” said Sarll, the Head of the Academy. “I was lucky to inherit him and I think he's thriving under this regime and all we've got to do is keep challenging him. Everyone was telling me about this player they [Birmingham] had, but my number ten was as good as anything on the field.”

Lo-Everton, who only turned 16 in September, is two-footed, shows great poise, plays with lovely balance and has a terrific eye for a pass. He operated in the pocket behind strikers Dominic Hutchinson and Ryan Cassidy, and everything the team did well in the 1-0 win came through him. The way he won the ball off the giant Josh Andrews, pirouetted and then teed-up Hutchinson for a shooting chance in the first half encapsulated his all-court game.

“He's one of the most natural players I've ever worked with,” said Sarll. “I think he's a ten, but I think he'll go deeper still because he'll have a thirst for influence and want to get involved as he'll get older. 

“He's got to go through so many tests yet and the inevitable bump in the road which every player goes through. And he knows he won't get away with an ounce with me. I was furious with something he did in the game and he knows that. He know he needs to continue to work if he is to have this nice feeling all the time. If he is going to play ten, he knows he has to work the hardest. And he worked so hard tonight against their number four [Ryan Stirk] who plays for his country at Under-19 level. He's got a wonderful work ethic.”

Lo-Everton has been a fixture of the Under-18 side who have lost just once in two months and he has even been on the bench twice for the Under-23s, coming on for his debut at Nottingham Forest in August. He would have been involved more had it not been for injury and his education.

“He's got school and Under-23 games are on school days,” said Sarll. “He did the whole of pre-season with the Under-18s and he did not miss a run. I put on an archaic kind of pre-season and he just took it in his stride. He's had a back injury and I think that's because he's grown. He doesn't play small, he plays like a big boy. He put his arms about, he puts his foot in and he shields and rolls players so well. 

“And that's what you need. We are talking about having to produce Premier League footballers and you just have to see Javi's players. They are Olympic athletes and international class footballers. That's the level.”

First Team 14/12/2018

Gracia: “It Is A Good Chance For Us”

Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia is confident a win is just around the corner and retains complete faith in the way the Hornets are going about their business.

The Head Coach was hugely encouraged by the way his side shook off the double disappointment of the first half at Everton – the offside goal and the challenge on Isaac Success – to boss the second half and come within seconds of the registering their first ever win at Goodison Park.

It was much more like it, similar in ways to the performances at Fulham, Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers and showed there was no value in throwing the baby out with the bath water just because results dipped.

“My players are full of confidence and ambition,” said Gracia. “I can feel it. I know we have to win again, but we are really close to getting it because performances are good. I prefer to keep my confidence in the way we are working because we are in the right way.”

The Hornets are six matches without a win and it was way back on October 27 when they last tasted victory, but Gracia's trained eye and the statistics are telling him they are not far away. This isn't a team that looks like it is on a downward slope: it's one needing a little bit of luck to go their way.

“I think in the last games we have made good performances,” he said. “It wasn't enough to get the results we wanted. We have to keep going, to keep working hard and I think in the next games we will be able to prove this in the results. I am not concerned about that. I know playing this way, we will be able to do it.”

The Golden Boys will be favourites to beat Cardiff City in the game that pitches 12th against 14th, but the Bluebirds are on the upturn, having won three of the last five.

“We will respect them a lot,” said Gracia. “They are in a better moment with confidence with their last results. We know we have to be 100 per cent concentrated and give our best because it will be a demanding game.”

Cardiff head to Vicarage Road on Saturday without an away win in the league, but they only lost by a single goal at Tottenham and at Everton. Gracia respects the threat they will pose, but always fancies his side to get a result whoever they play.

“I am always positive,” he said. “I always see the chance to get points. I look back to try to improve the things we can do, but I prefer to look to the future and be focused on the next game. It is a good chance for us, at home against Cardiff, to come away with a win.”

Gracia is not fussed whether his team have home or advantage or not. If anything, the Golden Boys have looked better away from home this season.

“I don't like to think about if we going to play away or at home,” said the Head Coach. “In this case, the next one is the most important. We are going to play at home against Cardiff knowing it will be a tough game. We want to get a victory because the players deserve this reward.”