Quique Sanchez Flores claims it wasn’t a risk to bring on Troy Deeney for the final 15 minutes of Watford’s defeat to West Ham United, insisting the Hornets skipper wanted to play just four days ahead of the biggest game of his career.
With Watford trailing 3-1 at the Boleyn Ground and, more importantly, an FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace at Wembley on Sunday, it was astonishing to see Deeney stripped and ready to play the final quarter hour of a dead rubber Premier League fixture.
“Why would Flores risk that?” said BBC Three Counties sports editor Geoff Doyle. “That was very strange to me. Perhaps Deeney said: ‘I want to come on’.”
Indeed he did.
“I was speaking with Deeney and he was ready to play 15 minutes,” said the head coach when asked by WD Sport. “It was like a warm-up for him. It wasn’t a risk. In 15 minutes he could warm-up a little bit and have some last feelings on the pitch before the weekend. I said to him: ‘Inside the pitch?’ He said OK so he went inside. I didn’t want to risk any player. You can get injured anywhere, even in your house. It wasn’t an issue.”
It was still a gamble and the ramifications of an injury to the captain, second top-scorer and the fifth best goal-getter in the club’s history don’t bear thinking about. As it was, the only blow he suffered was one to his confidence after he missed a late penalty.
“It was a brave decision,” said former Watford midfielder Derek Payne. “I wouldn’t have done it. It was very very risky. Deeney is massive for this club and he could quite easily have got an injury.”
Mario Suarez, Watford’s newest midfielder recruit, backed the judgement of his coach.
“We want to win every game and Troy is an important player for the team, and he came in because we wanted to try and win the game,” said Suarez. “We had to play today and tried to win but it was just one of those days. We were not thinking about Sunday.”