Troy Deeney believes he has silenced his critics. Like he said, scoring 20 goals for a second consecutive season – in a team which has struggled at times – is no fluke.
Only Manchester United and Port Vale scored more goals than Watford during the regular 2012/13 season, as the Hertfordshire side netted 85 – 13 more than any other Championship team.
With strike partner Matej Vydra attracting a lot of the attention, both from the media and the opposition, Deeney was arguably allowed more space last year.
But this time around, Deeney has often ploughed a lone furrow. Fernando Forestieri has excelled in a withdrawn position but Deeney has been the focal point for his team and defences.
And Watford’s expansive and free-flowing football from last season has become more conservative. The Hornets are still the fourth highest scorers in the division but they have netted 12 goals fewer compared to this stage last season.
By his own admission, Deeney has not performed at his best during the whole of the current campaign. Yet he has still managed to score 20 goals in all competitions for a second consecutive season – a feat not achieved since Luther Blissett in 1983.
“It’s a massive step for me because it means people can’t say last season was a fluke,” said Deeney, a player who has yet to provide a dull interview during his four years at the club.
“I scored 20 last season but we were riding high and some people were saying it’s only because I was in a good team. Now, we’ve had an OK season and I’ve still scored 20 so, in my eyes, it’s silenced a lot of people.
“Last year I scored 19 in the league and one in the play-offs. This year I’ve got 19 and one in the FA Cup. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t better last season’s tally now, with eight games to go.
“I’ve got a family who never let me rest, so I’ve got to hit 25 now. The aim was to hit 20 and anything above that is a bonus.”
Deeney is a proud man. But not too proud that he can't acknowledge learning a few tricks from last season’s top scorer Vydra, who netted 22 in all competitions.
The Birmingham City fan’s first goal against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday had a touch of the Vydra about it. Through one-on-one, he remained composed and calmly shot earlier than expected to catch ex-England international Chris Kirkland off guard.
Deeney said: “Some cheeky so-and-sos called it a toe-poke, I’ve given him [Kirkland] the old shimmy.
“For a big guy, I can move my upper body a bit, just maybe not my lower body. I gave him the shoulder and, as he went one way, I just tucked it in, so happy days.
“I’ve been working on one-on-ones and last season we had the best one-on-one finisher that I’ve ever seen in Matej Vydra so I picked up things off him. I’m not too proud to say that.
“We’ve got good goalkeepers here and I ask them ‘what don’t you like?’ and they give you more information. I’m always trying to learn. Thankfully it worked on Saturday.
“To score past a very good goalkeeper, it’s always pleasing.”
The 20th of the season came soon after. A reactive finish after the initial effort was blocked.
Deeney was described at the “complete player” by his head coach at Hillsborough.
When asked if the striker was frustrated not to have scored a hat-trick, Beppe Sannino replied, in English: “Deeney is a very good man and a very good professional player. I am happy with the two goals if Deeney scores the other in the next game.”
One journalist asked the experienced coach how Deeney compared to the other strikers he had worked with.
“He is a good player – a complete player. He has everything in terms of physique, technique and tactics. He can be an assist man and he can be a good finisher.
“I wish him a fantastic career, even if Watford still needs him [in the Championship].”