Having spent five of the last six seasons playing for Watford means Ken Sema has seen more downs than ups.

Promotion to the Premier League and an FA Cup Final are probably not enough to balance out relegation and a couple of seasons of mid-table mediocrity in the Championship.

Indeed, the day we sat and talked was exactly three years since Watford were celebrating securing promotion back to the top-flight with a 1-0 home win over Millwall – April 2024, 2021.

“That was a really fun day, a great day, and a really great achievement,” Sema recalled, with a big smile.

“We had a proper team. It felt like we were all in it together – some seasons at this club it has felt we had good players and tried to do something, but that season the coach, the staff and the players were in it together.

“We were one big team, one group that was fighting together.”

Sema made 41 league appearances in that 20/21 season, the most of any Watford player and only Ismaila Sarr (39) made more starts than the Swede’s 38.

However, the following season back in the Premier League was very different.

“I had been a regular starter in the season where we came up from the Championship. I think I missed about three games during that season, and I felt really good,” he said.

“But once we went up it felt like everything changed, and that was the second time it had happened to me.

“Each time we went up to the Premier League, it felt like the plan changed.

“I think we signed like 15 new players, and it’s so hard to build a team when you sign that many players, regardless of how good they are.

“It’s difficult to build a team around players who don’t know the club, they don’t know everything that goes around the club.

“It takes time. Look at the Man City and Arsenal teams of today: it took time for them to become great.

“Then there were the changes of head coach. That doesn’t help either.

“It’s easier to have a coach and stick with him, no matter what, through the good and the bad times, so he can try to change things and have time to build his own ideas and systems.

“Trying to get things to fit into a manager’s system over time is better than changing the head coach every season.

“Even if you have a great team, it’s hard if you change the coach every season, two or three times.

“It was a hard season obviously, and as a player all you can try and do is deal with things positively.

“And for me personally I had a knee injury and it affected me quite badly.

“I don’t think I got back to the standard I wanted, and at the same time we were changing coaches. We didn’t know how the coach saw us, and the team was just everywhere and nowhere.”

Watford Observer: Getting to grips with former teammate Will Hughes at Crystal Palace in May 2022.Getting to grips with former teammate Will Hughes at Crystal Palace in May 2022. (Image: Action Images)

It was a campaign that ended in another miserable relegation, and although there were hopes that the Hornets could once again bounce back, the 22/23 campaign was a massive disappointment.

“I think last season I had a good season on a personal level, six goals and eight assists,” said Sema.

“But even if I had a good season I ended up feeling that with the team we had last season we should have done much more.

“We had the players and the team that really should have done much more, but again we changed manager after 11 games.

“Then we had Slaven Bilic, who I liked a lot, and it felt like he could handle this team. But then when we felt like we had something going he was sacked, and we had Chris Wilder.

“Even if you have good players, you can’t just expect them to go out on the pitch and just do it.

“Everything has to be aligned to a clear plan.

“I think, if you look at the teams who are successful, all of them have the same coach for a long time. Klopp has been at Liverpool for eight years.

“When a manager has been there that long everyone knows how he plays, they know what he wants them to do.

“All the good teams have a clear plan and a clear system.

“It takes time, and things don’t happen overnight in football. You need to have patience, and I know in the football environment it is hard to be patient.

“But you have to try and look at the future and be patient, no matter how hard that is.”

Watford Observer: Seam said we felt like we had something going when Slaven Bilic was head coach. Seam said we felt like we had something going when Slaven Bilic was head coach. (Image: PA)

This season Sema has had a stop-start campaign which has been blighted by injuries.

“To be honest, I’m not a player who usually gets injured a lot.

“I look after myself in a good way and I always try to be the best I can be, on and off the pitch.

“So this kind of season it affects me a lot, because I have tried my best to be able to be out on the pitch.

“I want to help the team and my teammates because I love this club.

“Playing football and being competitive is my life, and when I can’t do that it affects me.

“I don’t know why I’ve had injuries this season, I think I’ve just been unlucky. I always look for the 0.01% improvement I can make in anything.

“Hopefully now, though, those injuries are behind me.”

Over recent seasons, Sema has also found himself deployed in a variety of positions on the pitch.

“I’m a bit older now and I’ve been here six years, so I’d say first and foremost I just like to be on the pitch playing.

“But I see myself as a winger. A winger in the old sense. I think if you play me there then you get the best out of me.

“I think my greatest strength is I’m good on the ball, I want to go forward and I like to create opportunities for my strikers.

“I’m more of a player that passes and assists, than scores goal.

“As a winger I like having a full-back behind me. Lewis, Holebas, Masina, those sorts of players.

“I love having a proper No.9 in the box. When I played with Troy Deeney I knew exactly where he would be, so I knew if I did my bit right then he would bag.”

Watford Observer: Sema will have to watch the Euro 2024 finals, rather than be playing in them.Sema will have to watch the Euro 2024 finals, rather than be playing in them. (Image: Action Images)

While he may see himself as a creator of goals, Sema did score one absolute peach this season, which was also very significant as it was the winner in a 1-0 success at Swansea that ended months without an away win.

It was an unstoppable shot that seared into the top corner – and he must have meant that?

“Of course I did!” he laughed.

“I remember around that time I had been injured and I came back and said to the coach that I wanted to play.

“He said he didn’t want to risk me and put me on the pitch too early.

“As a footballer, even if you only feel slightly alright you still want to be on the pitch. You don’t think about the risk, you just think you’re fine.

“It was 0-0 at half-time, so to come on and score the winning goal was really nice.

“I do need to shoot more. I have a good left foot and I know that, but I use it to shoot less than I should.

“I think that has always been a weakness through all of my career, I should shoot more than I do.

“It’s crazy, when you think back to that night at Swansea, that we hadn’t won an away game for nearly a year.

“We’ve scored some wonderful goals this year to be fair. If I were picking my goal of the season then it would be Hoedt against Hull.

“It was an amazing goal from almost halfway on the pitch. That’s a proper goal.”

With the appointment of Tom Cleverley, Sema is now playing for his 12th permanent head coach in six years.

The difference this time is he’s a former teammate: the pair played together more than 50 times for Watford, and Sema got the assist for Cleverley’s last professional goal, the winner against Burnley at Vicarage Road on August 12, 2022

“I knew that he could be a manager one day, definitely,” said Sema

“He was a great teammate. I always respected him as a guy who led by example.

“When he was captain he might not have been the guy who spoke the most, the most outspoken or vocal, but he always, always led by example.

“In training and in games, even if he was tired, disappointed, angry, whatever, he gave 100%.

“He was always on time and constantly tried to be the best he could be.

“For me I respected Tom a lot, and I tried to be the same as him. I tried to always be the best version of myself.

“I’m one of the oldest players in the team now, I’m the player that has been here the second longest, I think I’ve played more games for Watford than anyone else in the squad.

“I feel have a responsibility to try and lead the way. And like Tom, I am maybe not the most vocal in the dressing room but I always try to lead by example.

“I always try to make myself available to help other players, if they want to talk or if they need advice.”

Is Tom Cleverley, the coach, any different to Tom Cleverley, the player?

“He’s not changed since he retired, he’s still the same person with the same values,” said Sema.

“He’s been here a long time, but since he became coach I’ve been injured so I’ve not had so much time with him lately.

“I mean this honestly and not just because I know him well and have shared many memories and stories with him on and off the pitch – Tom is the right man for the job.

Watford Observer: Tom is the right man for the job, says Sema.Tom is the right man for the job, says Sema. (Image: PA)

“He knows so many of the squad on a personal level and that will help him improve the team, and help us to improve.

“He knows when something is off or not right, because he was still a player last season.

“Tom knows the club, and that for me is the key thing. He knows Gino, he knows Scott, he knows Gianluca.

“He knows how the club is built, how it works, what it’s been through. When things go bad he will know how to deal with it. He’s been there and done it all before.”

Having been at the club for only a year less than his new boss, does Sema now feel that Watford is home?

“Yes, yes it is.

“I’ve been here six years, and it’s where I started a family. My child was born in the hospital next to the stadium.

“Watford is very much a part of me and my family.

“I live quite close to the town, and I’m there quite often. If I need something you’ll see me at the shopping mall.

“The people of the town, the fans, they have always been supportive of me since day one.

“We’ve been through good and bad times together, and the fans have always been right behind me.

“Watford is my home. Watford is my club.”

There’s little doubt the fans love him. After all, they call him King Ken!

“When that started it was perhaps a funny joke, but it’s stuck.

“I’m happy because it’s a nice thing to be called. Being called a King is not bad!

“I’m humble about it. I think it’s very nice and it’s more something fun for the fans.”

Sema will be an armchair fan this summer, as he and his Swedish teammates failed to qualify for the Euro 2024 finals.

“I went to the Euro 2020 Finals, but I was on the bench and didn’t play.

“It was an amazing feeling to be involved, but as a footballer you want to play.

“It makes me feel a bit down that a country like Sweden are not in the Euros this summer because we have a great team with good players. We should have been there.

“So this summer will be hard – but I’ll still watch. I love football too much not to.”

One thing he’s also happy watch is an ad he made for the Dove Men+ Care range.

“Ah, that was a good commercial wasn’t it?!

“It’s a Swedish brand, and my agent came to me with a proposal for the commercial and I thought it was alright. It was a nice thing, to be fair.

“I got a lot of dressing room banter! A lot of the lads were like ‘yeah, that’s great, but where’s our shower gel?’.

“So I did bring a lot of shower gel and shampoo for them.

“Plus my skin is very soft!”

Watford Observer: Ken Sema

Away from the pitch and back in Sweden, Sema has started a foundation aimed at helping youngsters fill their spare time in a positive way.

“We try to give kids where I am from back home in Sweden more to do.

“In these times there are a lot of bad things happening: crime, drugs, guns.

“Sweden used to be a calm country where kids were safe, but it feels far more unsafe these days.

“I had an amazing upbringing in my hometown. I was always outside playing football and I never really had to worry about crime in those days.

“It was safe to play outdoors then, but today it’s not the same.

“So with the foundation we are trying to give young people the chance to play football, the same sort of opportunities I had.

“It’s important for me to use where I am today to do good things. I am quite well known in Sweden and I feel I have a responsibility to use that and try to give something to the kids of today.

“It’s not something I have to do – I do it because I want to do it.

“I was like the kids I try to help. I was a young kid who wanted to play in the Premier League and people told me to be honest with myself and accept that probably wouldn’t happen.

“But I had a dream, I achieved that dream, and now I want to give those kids who have dreams today an opportunity.

“If I can do it, so can they.

“In my own small way I am doing something. Nobody can do everything, but if everybody does their own part then it all adds up.”