Troy Deeney began the 2012/13 season imprisoned for affray. He finished the 2011/12 season as Watford’s top goalscorer with twelve. He was beginning to show form for the hornets, something he had struggled to do for the club since his move from Walsall. Whatever hopes and dreams the Englishman had for the following campaign seemed to have vanished when he was sentenced to ten months in prison, however an incredible turn of events led him from cleaning toilets to playing at Wembley in eight months. Here is Troy Deeney’s story.
The twenty-five year old was sentenced to ten months in jail, yet was released just short of completing three as he showed remorse and was only a first time offender. Deeney apologised to the club and the fans but, more importantly, he apologised to the victim.
Before facing Crystal Palace at Wembley, Deeney was asked about his time in prison.”It was probably the best thing that could of happened to me,”
“I’m not going to say I’m thankful (for being jailed) but I’m glad that I got to see the opposite end of the scale. I have grown up massively. I nearly went broke so that was a massive thing as well. I save money and stuff now, I don’t drink. It is a case of making sure that my partner and my son never have to go through all the stress they went through, because when I went away nobody saw what they had to deal with because all the bills still come through and I wasn’t getting paid so she had to cope with all that.”
When the assault took place, he was out with some friends and his brother. They were celebrating one of the friends’ birthday. Deeney admits he had been distracted at the time after the death of his father the previous week. His ‘great nan’ had also passed away in the time leading up to the incident, “My great nan died just before, then my dad died in May so at that time I had a lot going on”.
On the twenty-fifth of June 2012, the former Walsall man was sentenced to ten months imprisonment after kicking a man in the head in the midst of a mass brawl. Deeney continued his attack on the victim as he lay defenceless on the floor.
On the twelfth of May 2013, the former Walsall man was shot to stardom and his name was known nationwide… Again for a kick. To a Watford fan this kick was the sweetest they’d ever seen. Five minutes of injury time had been played, despite only four being signalled by the fourth official, when a young, exciting French talent, Anthony Knockaert, burst into the Hornets nest. He was stung. Or maybe bitten. The twenty-one year old went down theatrically after feeling the full force of Marco Cassetti’s arm brush against his side. Despite the protests from Watford players, staff and fans, a penalty was awarded by referee Michael Oliver. The away section at Vicarage road erupted with cheers and wild celebrations. This was Leicester City’s moment.
Knockaert stepped up bravely to take the penalty. The man that had been Leicester’s bright point over both legs, faced former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia. The Spaniard was carrying a hamstring injury and needed pain killing injections to simply stay on the field of play.
Knockaert began his run up and approached the ball with intent. He struck the most important touch of a football in his life low, and just to the right handside of the centre of the goal. Guessing which way the penalty would go correctly, Almunia saved it with his feet. The home supports cheers were stifled when they realised that the ball had bounced back into the direction of the penalty taker, who pounced on the opportunity and attempted a chipped rebound which was also blocked by the Watford keeper.
Cassetti hammered the ball out of the Six yard box and was greated by the roars of Hornet fans. The sense of euphoria overwhelmed all home supporters in the stadium. Ikechi Anya controlled the Italians Clearence impeccably and held up the play briefly while support came rushing forward. The now Scottish international, slipped the ball through to Fernando Forestieri who sidestepped a Leicester City defender and found an excellent cross towards Johnathan Hogg at the back post. The midfielder showed excellent composure and awareness as he nodded the ball down towards Troy Deeney.
The man who had hit nineteen goals throughout his clubs campaign, thumped the ball into the back of the net and scored his twentieth in dramatic, incredible and emphatic fashion. Vicarage road exploded. A sea of yellow leaked down onto the field and flooded the pitch to celebrate with their heroes. The man who had began the season in prison, gave his club what can ironically be described as a get out of jail free card.
Another name to be made that day was Sky Sports News reporter Johnny Phillips. His dramatic, and lets face it funny reaction to the goal made him an instant Internet sensation. Since the twelfth of May he has published a book called Saturday Afternoon Fever: A Year On The Road For Soccer Saturday. In his book Phillips leaves the last chapter to the day that earned him the publicity and status to have his book published with a wider audience aware of it. The book is about English football club stories. The ones that don’t get told. The ones that don’t get publicity. So upon reading the book it was a shock to me that he had mentioned nothing of Troy Deeney’s amazing turn of events at any point throughout the chapter.
The man who had; less than a year earlier received a ‘criminal’ record, had just sent his Watford side to Wembley. Not just with this single goal, but with the twenty he had accumulated over an incredible eight month period for him personally and the club. Unfortunately for the club, Watford were defeated in the play-off final to a Crystal Palace side who are currently struggling in the Premier League.
As the news broke of Troy Deeney’s court trial, Watford fans were calling for the termination of his contract. Many appealed to the then new manager, Gianfranco Zola, and the Pozzo family who had just taken over the club. The argument being, they don’t need or want Deeney, with the Pozzo’s being capable of bringing in many new young talented strikers from sister clubs, Udinese and Granada.
Deeney recalls thinking that Watford wouldn’t take him back, “I had no contact from Watford while I was inside (prison), I was just reading papers like everybody else. They kept signing all these players and I was thinking I had no chance.” Upon being released from prison, Deeney had a meeting with the club board. They agreed to give him a second chance. Newly appointed manager, Zola, requested to see him train for twenty-five days before making a decision. After ten, he told Deeney he would consider him for selection again. “He was too good,” were the words Zola used after being asked about his decision.
There was a happily ever after for Troy Deeney. In eight months he went from prisoner to hero. The man who began the season “cleaning toilets”, finished it as a Championship icon and a role model to the Watford faithful.