Fired by the prospect of what would have been the birthday of his late father this week, Troy Deeney will mark his first ever appearance at Emirates stadium by captaining his adopted town with his Arsenal supporting son in a hospitality box not knowing who to cheer.
Paul Anthony Burke, the man Deeney refers to as his father, would have been 51 on Wednesday had he not died as a result of cancer of the throat in the summer of 2012. Expect Watford’s captain to look to the heavens and have a glance at the tombstone tattoo, which bears the name of his father, on his right arm when he leads Watford out in the FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
“It’s getting easier the longer the time goes on,” said Deeney this afternoon. “I could be fine all the way through the week and then, on then on the day [Wednesday]… I didn’t cry – it was what more a kind of ‘What if?’ type of thing.”
What if, you mean, he could see his son spearheading Watford’s attack at the swankiest ground in English football and trying to add a cup semi-final appearance to what looks, all bar the shouting, another season in the Premier League?
“It’s been a long week,” said Deeney who looked in top physical condition when we met this afternoon. “But I have two kids who don’t care what day it is. Myles had Watford training on Tuesday, swimming Wednesday and then Taekwondo as well. We’ve had different things going on. I don’t have time to sit around and sulk and be reflective. The 45-minute drive into work is my time to reflect. There was that song, 7 years [by Lukas Graham], on the radio. I turned that straight off and put on a bit of talkSPORT.”
Sport, and football in particular, has often been Deeney’s salvation. So are his family, his wife Stacey, his daughter Amelia and his son Myles.
“He’s buzzing,” said Deeney. “It’s the first time I’ve taken him to the Emirates, so he’ll be happy. He’s an eight-year-old boy so it doesn’t matter if daddy is playing or not – he wants Arsenal to win. He’ll be getting no pocket money. He likes Alexis Sanchez but he can get away with that because of the Udinese link. He loves Hector [Bellerin]. He gave him a shirt after the game [at Vicarage Road] and we had Hector here [at Watford on loan].”
Deeney’s immediate family will watch the game from a hospitality box and he has had no more than five ticket requests for the game. He might yet get two more on the eve of the game.
“I don’t where my brother [Ellis] will be but knowing him, he’ll ask me Saturday night like my mum,” Deeney said. “My mum is moving house so she’ll probably watch it on the TV.”