Troy Deeney was in such typically combative mood yesterday that you wouldn’t fancy being Chris Smalling or Daley Blind tomorrow.
You certainly weren’t going to pull the club captain up on being an hour late for his scheduled meeting with the media, although, in fairness, the club were not obliged to offer him up. Never one to take a backward step, it was something of a surprise when he blinked first, and pulled to one side, when his red Bentley was on collision course with a tractor as he pulled into Occupation Road.
He had his game face firmly on with United due in town.
Asked about the threat of a terror attack at a Premier League ground, Deeney shrugged his shoulders and said: “My thought is that if it is going to happen there is not much I can do to stop it.”
Then he took aim at those who had written the team off before a ball had been kicked. “Everyone put us last at the start,” he said. “A few journalists said we were only going to get a point, so we are 15 ahead of them. It’s easy for a pundit to say the three who come up are going to go back down. That’s the easy thing to write if you just look at stats. It’s funny because with the greatest respect they [the pundits] don’t know anything. They only know what they see. When people say we are going to lose, I just sit there and say, ‘We’ll see’. Hopefully they’ll give us a bit of respect now.”
Sky Sports’ Ian Bolton asked Deeney if any positive result Watford picked up against Manchester United, the dominant side of the Premier League era, would count as a bonus. “You’ll think we’ll lose then?” he snapped back.
Deeney’s default position is to counterpunch when he perceives he, or indeed his team, are under attack. He comes out swinging. It’s the edge he sharpened growing up in Chelmsley Wood. You wouldn’t therefore consider not adhering to the unwritten rule of bringing in cakes to training, his manor, on your birthday (even Football Manager supremo Miles Jacobsen came down to UCL with at least three boxes of donuts a fortnight ago) or leave the dinner table before Deeney has finished his food the night before a game.
“They can’t leave the dinner table until I say,” he said. “I like it. I’m purposely a slow eater.”
Nor, if you were part of the administrative set up at Vicarage Road, would you dream of not going the extra mile to muster six tickets, at the captain’s behest, so a half a dozen of the people who he shared his lowest ebb with can enjoy the moment he captains Watford against what many people believe to be the biggest team in the world.
“I’ve got friends coming down on Saturday, my cellmates, people that helped me get through and helped me get motivated when I didn’t really want to,” he said when asked by WD Sport if he even dreamt this moment would be possible when the lights went out for the night in Winson Green and Thorn Cross open prison.
“I told them it would all come true,” Deeney said. “I knew what I was going to do. I couldn’t say this team will buy me or this team will keep me. I knew what I would do from that moment. I knew no matter what, it wasn’t going to happen again. No matter if people push my buttons or push me to my limits it wouldn’t happen again. Most people talk. Why get angry about it?”
He did get slightly tetchy, though, when asked if he had ever contacted, by phone or letter, the students he attacked to express his remorse.
“The people before, from the other side? With the nicest respect we’ve done this how many times? We are four years deep and we are still talking about it. We are talking Man United and relevancy. If you want to talk about that then don’t bother asking a question. It is a nice perspective. If anyone else wants to talk proper questions then we’ll talk.”
There was more talk. He launched a staunch defence of Wayne Rooney (“we should show him a lot of respect… he’s earned the right to have a dip,” he said) and he bristled at the suggestion that Daley Blind might look to rough him up. “I doubt he’ll come and go against me physically,” Deeney replied with incredulity.
As you can detect, Deeney is pumped, conveying the impression of someone who has been climbing the walls for the last fortnight waiting for this one. He has been lifting extra weights during the break to “make myself feel a bit better” and was the last fit senior player to leave the training ground on Monday.
“I know what I do every single day,” he said. “I push myself to the limit.”
It’s like he has created a siege mentality, one similar the ones Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson specialise in. Attack is the first form of defence.
“I’ve done it my whole life,” he said. “When people write me off, that is when I do my best work.”
Was Deeney able to afford himself a little bit of rest and relaxation, like a few of his teammates, during the first week of the international break?
“I’ve got a missus and two kids so I don’t really get a break,” he said. “It’s all Peppa Pig and running around.”
As a result, he’s looking forward to joining the rest of the squad for the overnight stay at Sopwell House.
“Football is my release,” he said. “I know I’ll get a proper night’s sleep [away from the kids] so I’m looking forward to [staying in the hotel].”
Whether Smalling, Blind and Marcos Rojo will be sleeping easy is another matter.