First Team 22/07/2019

Deeney: “I’m Happy – And I’ve Lost A Few Extra Calories!”

By Kevin Affleck

Troy Deeney was pleased to come out of quarantine and get some vital minutes under his belt against Bayer Leverkusen.

The captain spent nearly 48 hours in his room at the team hotel in Tyrol last week after being struck down by a virus and claimed he lost 4kg as a result. He was given the all clear to return to light training on Thursday, stepped things up on Friday with a punishing session while everyone else was in the gym and then got 45 minutes under his belt against the Germans.

“It was just nice not to be on the toilet for longer than 20 minutes,” he said. “It was just nice to be out there. Obviously I’m not going to be up there and at the same level as everybody else, but it was good to get the minutes in and not pick up an injury.”

The illness came as a mystery as everyone else in the travelling party was fighting fit. Deeney was in great form around the hotel on Monday night and trained like a thoroughbred on the first two days.

“We landed Sunday, trained and I felt good,” he said. “I trained Monday and felt really, really good. I was thinking, ‘Here we go, start of a good week’ and then I woke up at 3am and thought, ‘Hmm, I’ve got about three seconds here before this all turns a bit sour.’ And that was it. From 3am Tuesday morning to late Wednesday was the next time I saw anyone. I was in bed not feeling great. I did a little bit on Thursday but still didn’t feel great. I was back grafting on Friday and here we are. I’m a big old boy and I’m just getting on and doing what I need to do. I was never going to miss any more days or games than I needed to. They had to stop me playing against Ajax! The only good thing is the weight is down.”

Deeney was given 45 minutes against Leverkusen and worked smartly against international defenders Sven Bender and Aleksandar Dragović, doing enough to blow off the cobwebs after an illness-hit week, but also keeping plenty in the tank to hit this week hard and step things up against Queens Park Rangers and Real Sociedad.

“I’m happy – and I’ve lost a few extra calories! It was just a nice end to a good week,” he said. “The boys have put a shift in and really grafted. We’ve played two high-quality teams who are a week ahead of us so it's a good solid start for us.”

Watford captain Troy Deeney and club-record signing Andre Gray dish the dirt on their teammates while on tour in Austria.

Watch the full feature via the Hornets’ YouTube channel below.

Deeney turned 31 during the summer break but showed he has lost none of his mental sharpness. His touch play for a strapping striker and ability to link the play is such an undervalued part of his game and he demonstrated that in the opening goal for Will Hughes on the banks of Lake Zell in the Austrian Alps. He was sent down the right by a ball from Gerard Deulofeu and rather than take an ambitious shot at goal or send the ball hurriedly across the face of goal, the striker bided his time, waited for support to arrive and then picked out the run into the box of Hughes with a perfectly-timed and weighted pass.

“It’s normal forward play, really,” said Deeney. “It wasn’t anything weird and wonderful. There was no angle to get a shot off so I just waited for Hughesy to get in the box. I thought I’d hit it a bit too fast as he;s not the quickest, is he? But I gave it him, he got there, and it was a nice goal.”

Will Hughes scores from Deeney's pass

The Hornets have certainly not taken the easy route in selecting their pre-season fixture list. They picked Champions League semi-finalists Ajax as their opening opponents and followed that up two days later with a game against Champions League qualifiers Leverkusen. It’s an approach that will ensure they are not undercooked when the Premier League season kicks off and the win over Leverkusen, who finished fourth in the Bundesliga, will provide the group with a nice little shot of confidence.

“Of course,” said Deeney. “Winning is just a mentality. We did it at the start of last season and it just snowballed. It’s a good habit to get into. We are very aware of where we are at and we need to go again this week in training.”

First Team 22/07/2019

Austria Diary: Day Seven

By Kevin Affleck

Kane Crichlow will have had plenty to tell his family and friends when he got home.

The Bermuda youth international, 18, was taken on the trip to Austria by Javi Gracia as a reward for his performances in training this summer and he will have absolutely soaked up working with, and being around, seasoned internationals and Premier League players. 

There was a lovely moment when Gracia took him aside at the end of yet another lung-busting session to give him some words of wisdom, while if he thought his tour was over when the final whistle went against Bayer Leverkusen, he had another thing coming as he and Marc Navarro were sent out to do some punishing length-of-the-pitch running before the bus departed for the airport. It was a good message to send out to the former AFC Wimbledon forward.

Crichlow was then roped into one final game of wolf by Étienne Capoue at the back of the plane bound for Luton. Troy Deeney and Andre Gray revealed in a hilarious Teammates on Tour feature that the Frenchman isn’t the best air passenger, so he probably wanted something to take his mind off the two-hour journey back to Luton. Gerard Deulofeu and Gray weren’t interested in being sucked into Capoue’s game of bluff and counter bluff, preferring instead to sit and relax but it became so exciting and reached such a crescendo that they were in the mix by the end and on tenterhooks. Nathaniel Chalobah, Stefano Okaka, Daniel Bachmann, Daryl Janmaat and Crichlow were all involved but it boiled down to a shoot-out between Capoue and Jose Quintana, from the strength and conditioning team. Montero outfoxed Capoue and the back of the plane erupted. It was like a scene on the bus back from Brighton when the team clinched promotion from the Championship in 2015.

Watford captain Troy Deeney and club-record signing Andre Gray dish the dirt on their teammates while on tour in Austria.

Watch the full feature via the Hornets’ YouTube channel below.

The weary players arrived at Salzburg airport at the same time as Istanbul Başakşehir, which threw up a Brazilian reunion for Heurelho Gomes, Robinho, Júnior Caiçara and Mossoró. There was also a Spanish reunion for Gracia and his staff with members of the SD Eibar coaching set-up as they were playing another Leverkusen-XI straight after the Hornets. 

It was fascinating to see the different habits of players on the plane. While a few got involved in Capoue’s team-bonding game, Deeney had his head buried in a book by civil rights activist Dick Gregory; the hugely likeable Adam Masina was up and down the plane like a yo-yo; Ken Sema watched a film; Isaac Success largely slept throughout while Navarro and Deulofeu were watching something with the You’ll Never Walk Alone music as part of the soundtrack. 

Everyone was glad to be back at the training ground at around 10.30pm after a demanding six days, but that didn’t stop Deeney and Gracia thanking the driver with a handshake. It was a small gesture but one that goes a long way. It was also interesting to note Harry Forster had parked his car in the overflow car park usually reserved for the Academy staff and players. The second-year pro still knows there is a lot of hard work to be done before he is at the top table, which was kind of an apt way to finish a tour where the players were shown again by Gracia that hard work is the basis for everything he does.