First Team 03/01/2019

Affleck's Angle: The Siege Of Troy

Kevin Affleck offers his take on a stellar performance by Watford captain Troy Deeney...

There was a lovely snapshot of Watford’s past and present at the Vitality Stadium.

While Troy Deeney was cementing his place in the pantheon of Watford greats, the camera panned to the main stand and sitting there in a flat cap and overcoat straight out of Peaky Blinders was the one and only Luther Blissett.

Blissett may have been sitting slightly uncomfortably as he has ever so slightly divided loyalties given he played more than 100 times for the Cherries and scored more than 50 goals, but the main body of his work came in a yellow shirt and that’s how he’ll be remembered, as a Hornet and a great one at that. He holds the record for most league appearances and most goals, landmarks that aren’t about to be broken any time soon.

Deeney is having a damn good go, though. He is 88 short of Blissett’s league appearance record and would probably have to play nearly every game in the remaining two and a half years of his contract to stand any chance of chasing him down. Deeney is 31 strikes shy of the all-time league goal record and as he’s rattling along at a goal every three games, he would need to either play 90 more times or improve his ratio.

You wouldn’t put it past him, though. This is a guy who thrives off being written off, who gets a kick out of proving people wrong. Obbi Oulare, Alessandro Diamanti, Isaac Success, Stefano Okaka, Andre Gray and Adalberto Peñaranda have all come through the door in the Premier League era, but Deeney has seen them all off and is still, as the song goes, Watford’s No. 9. 

Walter Mazzarri and Marco Silva both tried to gradually ease Deeney aside and see what the future looked like without this totemic striker, but they quickly realised the error of their ways and how he is the glue that holds the whole playing side of things together. 

There will be a time when this team evolves and Deeney is gradually phased out, and Javi Gracia, given the length of his contract, will probably be the man faced with that onerous task, but that doesn’t look like being anytime soon. Gracia had a stab at fielding a team without Deeney, away at Southampton and Leicester, but it was telling that when things didn’t go accordingly to plan, he summoned the striker on both times before the hour mark. Again, when things weren’t going swimmingly against Newcastle the other day, who did Gracia send for? That man Deeney.

“Everybody knows Troy is very important for us,” said Gracia after the bonkers 3-3 draw at Bournemouth.

He was at his belligerent best on Wednesday night. We’ll talk about the execution of his two goals later, but his all-round contribution was what caught the eye. He took one for the team by picking up a booking for tactical foul on the free-running Ryan Fraser; trod the disciplinary line by knocking over Bournemouth captain Steve Cook soon after; he astutely waited by the tunnel at half-time so he could get in the ear of rookie referee David Coote; he was first over to remonstrate with Dan Gosling after he clattered into Tom Cleverley and he showed the deftness of touch he is not always given credit for by playing in Roberto Pereyra late on with a lovely cushioned pass. Only the tackle of the match – and there were a few – from Cook stopped Pereyra from scoring what would have been a sensational winner. 

Not done there, Deeney then followed it up with a typically illuminating post-match interview. Deeney was omnipresent and although the panto season is over, no-one quite plays the pantomime villain quite as well as him.

“It was one of those great captain’s performances from Troy Deeney, a real bullying performance and really caused Bournemouth problems,” said Match of the Day host Dan Walker.

Former England defender Matthew Upson has been around the block and knows all about having to mark awkward forwards, so his view of the threat Deeney poses carries real weight.

“He did what he does so well which is be physical and upset people,” said Upson on Match of the Day. “On his first goal he shows all his intelligence there just to find that little pocket of space and it’s a great header. The second goal is all about anticipation, he’s running inside, expecting someone to get a tackle and it could not drop into a better area for him. He’s still got to show the composure and calmness to slot it in and it’s a lovely little finish.”

Deeney said after his penalty at West Ham that: “I like to score, but it doesn’t bother me if I don’t score. I just want to keep my performances high.” 

That’s codswallop. 

You don’t rattle the back of the net 117 times for one club and not give a monkey’s about when your last one was and where your next one is coming from. Goalscoring is in his DNA and goals are the currency he deals in. 

“People have an opinion on me and my family and that’s the only way I can shut them up,” he said after smashing in a nerveless penalty at West Ham.

He is a dab hand when it comes to football trivia and would be a decent team member in a sports pub quiz, so he won’t need anyone to tell him he has now scored four goals from open play this season, twice as many as in the whole of last season, and that he’s now scored seven goals against Bournemouth as a Watford player, the most against an opponent for the Hornets. Five eagle-eyed Fantasy Premier League managers clearly did their homework on his record against the Cherries as they used their Triple Captain chip on Deeney in this Gameweek.

Perhaps it was the prospect of improving his record against one of his favourite opponents in October that led Deeney to declaring himself fit when he probably wasn’t.

“It’s my own fault in a way, though, because I was too stubborn and a bit naive in playing against Bournemouth when I should probably have conceded defeat to the hamstring strain,” he said in his programme notes that are almost worth the cover price alone. “I was enjoying a new lease of life during the first two or three months of this season, so it was annoying to then have to spend some time out because of the injury.”

He reckoned that injury set-back put him “at the bottom of the pile of four strikers.” Not anymore he’s not. In fact, he’s now one goal shy of being joint third in the pile of the club’s all-time leading league scorers. Only two men will have scored more for this club by the time he's done. His eventual successor will have some pretty big shoes to fill.

First Team 03/01/2019

Highlights: AFC Bournemouth 3-3 Watford

See extended highlights of Watford's six-goal thriller with the Cherries.