Watford have signed hulking young centre forwards in successive summer transfer windows with contrasting outcomes.
Obbi Oulare and Isaac Success were only born 24 hours apart but they are miles apart in their football development. The instant word we got back when Oulare signed was that he was very much one for the future. That would have been all well and good had Matej Vydra been kept as back up to Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo but the over reliance last season on the pair meant the spotlight shone brighter on the big Belgian as he was the next cab off the rank.
Whereas Oulare was signed on the final day of the summer window as a calculated punt (if he was to turn into the next Lukaku or Benteke, Watford figured they had a bargain at €8m) Success was part of a clearer strategy. The deal for him was agreed in February and the plan was always for him to come in and hit the ground running. He wasn’t a project. Watford were spending £12.5m for a more polished player who had been pulling up trees in La Liga. Oulare, on the other hand, had been publicly admonished by the coach at Club Brugge for his lackadaisical display against Manchester United in the Champions League.
Sources close to Oulare tell us Quique Sanchez Flores did not even know who he was when they first met at the training ground, and Oulare had the coaching staff casting eyes at each other when the Belgium lashed a shot high over the netting above the goal in his first training session. Success, on the other hand, once he got his work permit sorted and joined up a few days later than everybody else, immediately impressed with his pace, power and end product.
“Everyone forgets he’s just a young man,” said Deeney in a statement that could equally apply to both Success and Oulare. “He’s built like a big man but he’s definitely a young man. He’s got a lot to learn, a lot to offer.”
He was, in fact, talking about Success. “As the captain, you just try and guide him. We see the talent he possesses and the pace, we’ve just got to put the ball in the right areas for him and he can cause havoc. I’m happy for him and now it’s his job to keep in the team. It’s the hardest thing to do: to stay in the team.”
He could take some shifting on Sunday’s evidence, although one does have to factor in the dips in form that young players go through as part of their development. But he has already got fans out of their seats and the pundits purring.
“Each time you see him you go, ‘Oh, hang on a minute. This boy has got something’,” said Matt Le Tissier on Sky Sports. “He looks sharp and deserves his start as Ighalo has been struggling for quite some time now.”
Pundits rarely appraise Watford without talking about Deeney and Ighalo. They now have another centre-forward to throw into the mix.
“Deeney will enjoy having someone like Success running off him,” said Jamie Redknapp. “He’s got real pace; he’s an exciting talent. He can travel with the ball and gets you up the pitch. They were so reliant on Deeney and Ighalo last year – this guy gives them a different option. You can hit teams on the counter with him in the side.”
Indeed, it was during two counterattacks, from varying distances, that Success drew cynical fouls from Antonio Barragan. “I think the second challenge against me was a red card,” said Success. “If he went out, it could have been an opportunity for the team to be more relaxed to play football.”
You suspect the hapless Spaniard won’t be the last to find Success too hot to handle but word will quickly spread through the league about this wrecking ball of a forward Watford have in their armoury. The army of analysts in the league will be doing their homework on this Nigerian bundle of energy, but it’s one thing knowing about him, but another entirely stopping him.
Walter Mazzarri is treating him with kid gloves and it would not be a surprise if he dipped him in and out of the starting XI. Sunday’s game at the Riverside was, after all, the first time he started any game since Granada’s 5-1 win over Levante on April 21.
“He did much better in the other games when he came on from the bench,” said the head coach on Sunday. “It’s not easy to start a game. It’s completely different but if he gets his full condition then he also needs to learn some things and he will be a great player.”
Not half. But even being, say, 80 per cent at his best was enough to earn him Sunday’s man of the match award. “I’m happy to get my first 90 minutes with the team, we won the game so it’s a good start for me,” said Success.