Troy Deeney, who one could never accuse of lacking in confidence, admitted he had concerns at the start of the season about whether he could cut it in the top flight of English football.
Deeney banged in 20 goals in each of the previous three Championship seasons for Watford but admitted he rocked up at Everton on the opening day with a seed of doubt in that iron-will mind of his.
“This season has made me appreciate that I’m not a bad footballer,” he said in an interview (exclusive, of course) with Hornets Player. “Everybody has doubts, going into the unknown. You always have that little bit of: ‘Am I good enough?’ I didn’t score [at Everton] but I played really well and got an assist in that game as well.”
It took, however, until the tenth game of the season for Deeney to find the back of the net. He stressed at the time his lean spell wasn’t bothering him but you only had to see the celebration at Stoke to tell it was. He wouldn’t be human if it wasn’t.
“The first four or games I was playing really well and you know the goals are going to come, once you are consistency playing well,” he said. “It was only the first couple of games [that I didn’t score], then the goals came and people’s perception started changing. Even though I wasn’t scoring, people were saying how well I was playing, which was nice.”
Deeney played the first three games of the season in his regular position, at the apex of the attack, before getting the first taste of how versatile Quique Sanchez Flores thought he was by playing on the right-wing at Manchester City, spending some of the game doubling up with Allan Nyom at right-back. Sanchez Flores then made the call of the season, playing him in a slightly withdrawn role to initially combat the threat of Jon-Jo Shelvey against Swansea. He was asked to man mark the England midfielder on that sunny afternoon at Vicarage Road.
“It was new, and it was a challenge,” he said. “Anyone that knows me will know that I like a challenge, but this one was different because I had actual number 10s, like Almen, not playing who could probably do the job better than me. There was a clear difference when I was playing in that role. I was isolated on the first game of the season at Everton, but against Swansea when Iggy was up top, the gap was bridged because I was pushing up, which allowed the midfield to push up.”
Watford built their survival bid on that formula and never looked back until Christmas. The way Deeney grew into the No 10 role was one of the highlights of the season and he produced what we felt was one of the performances of the season away at Old Trafford, where he was outstanding. The sacrificial nature of the role got to him at times, particularly when he was stationed out wide against Bournemouth in front of the England manager and at Anfield where he had the raving hump at full-time.
“The team as a whole did really well though, and personally, 15 goals in my first year in the Premier League and nine or 10 assists, it’s not bad,” he said.