Something you often get when interviewing footballers is platitudes.

They say what they think you want to hear, rather than what they actually believe or want to say.

Speaking to Ken Sema was very different. Although we’d met before and I’d interviewed him a few times, this was the first occasion we’d had the opportunity to sit down for an extended period and not simply talk about the game that had just happened or the match that was about to take place.

And his honesty shone through. It was clear his answers were coming straight from the heart, and weren’t coming out of his mouth via a ‘media-trained’ filter.

“On the pitch I am Ken Sema, the footballer, that’s my job,” he said.

“But at other times, I am just Ken. I try to stay humble, I try to be a good person and I always want to be the best I can be.”

The 30-year-old Swedish international is now Watford’s second longest-serving player having joined the club from Oskersunds FK in 2018.

His elder brother, Maic, is also a pro who has made nearly 400 career appearances, mainly in his home country.

The Sema family love football, so Ken was probably destined to play the game.

“I started to play as a young kid. I’ve always loved the game and my whole family plays,” he said.

“I played with my Dad, and my brothers and sisters played. I’m the youngest of four so it sort of came natural for me to play.

“I always just loved playing, and I wanted to be the best I could be.”

But did he know, in those early years, that he could achieve more than just a casual kickabout?

“To be fair, yes I did,” he smiled.

“When I started at the age of five until I was around 15, I was really good.

“But then as I got older I was only ok, because a lot of other players started to grow and I didn’t. I was always a small kid, good on the ball but no physical presence.

“I wasn’t the strongest or the fastest anymore, so it became a bit hard for me actually.

“But at 18, 19, I started playing again but I had some setbacks at my hometown club (IFK Norkkoping) and I didn’t really play and was sent out on loan.

“But I got a chance with Ljungskile SK in the Swedish second division, so like the Championship, and it really clicked for me there.

“I had a good coach who gave me a lot of confidence, and encouraged me to be me.

“Plus I started to grow again, and I got bigger, taller, faster. I was enjoying playing football again.

“Then I moved to Ostersunds FK in the first division and that went well for me.”

Watford Observer: Taking on Arsenal's Shkodran Mustafi in the Europa League while at OstersundsTaking on Arsenal's Shkodran Mustafi in the Europa League while at Ostersunds (Image: Action Images)

Sema won the Svenska Cupen with Ostersunds in 2017, assisting in three of their goals in the 4-1 final victory over – ironically – Norkkoping.

The following season he played for Ostersunds in the Europa League and scored in a 2-1 away win against Arsenal.

It was during the 17/18 campaign he became aware of Watford’s interest.

“I actually had already been told about their interest in the January before I moved here in the summer,” he explained.

“I knew it was a big club that played on the biggest stage in England, and it was an amazing opportunity for me.

“Swedish footballers aspire to play in England. I always supported and loved Real Madrid, so for me my dream was to play in Spain or England.

“But these things were dreams, so when I heard about Watford’s interest I thought about how close I was to achieving one of my dreams – playing in England in the Premier League.

“So when I came here in the summer of 2018 it was amazing. It felt like everything I had dreamed of and worked for had come true.

“When I was 22 and playing in the first division in Sweden, if someone had said to me in two years you’ll be going to England and you’ll play in the Premier League, I don’t know if I would have believed them.

“At the same time as moving to England, I didn’t make the cut for the Swedish national team for the World Cup.

“So while I was having to deal with something hard, something amazing was also happening to me. It softened the blow.

“I was mad and angry at not going to the World Cup, but at the same time I was so happy to be getting a great move.”

Watford Observer: With his Swedish teammates in 2018.With his Swedish teammates in 2018. (Image: Action Images)

Sema said that leaving his homeland and heading for England wasn’t easy, despite it being his dream.

“To be honest it was hard, especially at that age.

“Players from Sweden, when they first move abroad, they often go to Holland, Belgium, Russia, a sort of middle move. And then from there you might go to England, Spain, Italy, whatever.

“I wasn’t a teenager but I was still only 24. I had a girlfriend at the time who was in England with me quite a lot, so that made it easier.

“And it’s only two hours by plane from England to Sweden, so I could get home if I needed to.

“I spoke good English then, because I had played for Graham Potter at Ostersunds, and so for me the language over here was easy.”

His experience of moving to England from Scandinavia means he can empathise with summer signing Mileta Rajovic, who has taken time to settle.

“Of course. I know how it is in Sweden, and just because you are a good player in Sweden it doesn’t mean you will just come here and instantly find your feet.

“It is very different. The quality of the league, the teams, the football, it all takes time to get used to.

“Mileta has done well to be honest, scoring 11 goals, and I can see him settling in.

“He is from Denmark and speaks good English plus he speaks Swedish, so we can talk to each other easily.”

Sema arrived to join a Watford squad so strong it feels far more than six years ago.

“We had players like Deeney, Deulofeu, Perreyra, Capoue. Players that had played at a high level for good teams.

“I thought it was good, because when I arrived there was already a good team here.

Watford Observer: Sema celebrates a goal at Bournemouth with the likes of Femenia, Doucoure and PereyraSema celebrates a goal at Bournemouth with the likes of Femenia, Doucoure and Pereyra (Image: Action Images)

“So when I came I felt I needed to improve and to be at my best to play, which I think was a good thing.

“I didn’t want to come here and just act like normal, because it wasn’t. It was a higher level.

“I had a good spell of games, I think I started like 10 or 11 games, and then came in again to the team.

“I felt like I had a good season and that I could look to the next season with the aim of being a regular starter.”

However, that summer Sema was sent out on loan to Udinese, a move he didn’t see coming.

“Yeah I was a bit surprised, I’m not going to lie.

“In my mind I didn’t think I would be going out on loan and it felt like the club and the coach at that time wanted me to go on loan because he had other players.

“I wasn’t angry at the club, I just felt that it was very strange.

“I always had belief in myself and if I was going out on loan then as far as I was concerned I was going there to play and do my best.

“I knew if I did that then who knows – maybe I’d come back here and play, maybe I’d find another team.

“But it felt to me like the club wanted me to go there to improve, and the aim was actually for me to go after that.

“If I had a good season with Udinese, then Watford would sell me.”

So Sema’s Watford career could have been over before it had really started, with a move away from the club after the season in Italy?

“Actually, that was the plan – but sometimes the plan changes, which it did in my case,” Sema explained.

“When I went on loan Watford went down, and so everything changed.

“I enjoyed the season at Udinese. I learned a new way to play, I learned a new language, and I felt good.

Watford Observer: Playing for Udinese against Juventus in 2020.Playing for Udinese against Juventus in 2020. (Image: Action Images)

“I think it added to my game, because any experience you gain is positive and when you’re young and you’re playing it’s the best way to improve.

“If you’re training with good, older players – but you don’t play – it’s hard to improve yourself.

“But by playing I was gaining experience and facing different kinds of opponents in teams who have different types of playing style.”

The winger was mulling over a transfer that would have kept him in Serie A, but then everything changed and he was heading back to Vicarage Road.

“I had options in Italy, and I felt happy if I was to go somewhere else big, because I knew that was the plan.

“But the club had different plans when they went down, and I had to respect that.

“As it turned out, that season was a very good season for me. I’ve always just wanted to play football and compete to be the best I can be, no matter where I play.

“So when I came back to Watford, the plan had changed and I wasn’t being sold, there were no hard feelings from me.

“I wanted to play at the highest level, and the Championship wasn’t that. But on the other hand I wanted to be in a team that was able to compete and to be promoted.

“So the season was amazing in that respect, for me and for the team.

“It was a really enjoyable season, and the team built into something great.

“It was also weird as because of Covid and there were no fans in the grounds. The fans were the one thing that was missing.

“We had all those nice wins but because the fans couldn’t be there with us it didn’t feel quite as great as it should have.

“To be honest, through those years of Covid the whole world turned weird. Everything was so different, and if you think about it today it feels like a totally different world.

“I remember wearing masks, no handshakes, you could only go one at a time at the shops.

“I played in Italy through the pandemic, and that was even worse. You couldn’t go out, you couldn’t do stuff. It was like your home was a prison.

“The fact Watford got promoted that season when everything was so strange I think showed us that we were even stronger than we actually thought we were.”

• In part two of this interview with Ken Sema, to come tomorrow, he talks about being promoted with a "proper" team, his frustrations around too much change as Watford were relegated, his preferred playing position and his thoughts on new head coach Tom Cleverley.