Troy Deeney wanted only a haircut when he sank into a barber’s chair in Watford town centre – but he hooked up with a future world heavyweight champion.

The Watford captain had no idea the 6ft 6in colossus having a trim next to him was Anthony Joshua , who was training to win gold at the London 2012 Olympics so jogged the five miles home after his own close ­encounter with the clippers.

Striker Deeney had yet to suffer ­notoriety as a jailbird, or his ­spectacular character reformation as captain and pied piper of ­a band of Premier League underdogs who defy the odds.

But the conversation they struck up that day spawned an alliance of kindred spirits from gritty backgrounds and a mutual respect for each other’s trade.

Deeney was in chipper form the morning after his charitable ­foundation’s first major function – a golf day and gala dinner to ­support Garston Manor school, a specialist college for kids with autism and learning difficulties just down the road from where Joshua grew up.

The striker told the Mirror: “I first came across Josh before he was an Olympic champion. I walked into a barbers in Market Street, in ­Watford town centre, and he was in the chair.

“I noticed he had his food with him, and I thought it was a bit ­unusual to be eating while he was getting his hair cut, so I asked him, ‘What’s for lunch?’

“He explained he was a boxer who was going to represent Britain at the Olympics, and was going to run the five miles home, so he was just putting some fuel in the tank. I thought, ‘Fair play to you’.

"We just got talking. It was never a case of, 'Ooh, you’re a boxer! Can I be your mate?’ None of that s***.

“I just respected he was working hard towards a goal, and every conversation we’ve had since then has been straight down the barrel, no grey areas, no bull.”

Watford Observer: Anthony Joshua's third professional fight will be at York Hall in Bethnal Green. Pictures: Action Images

Deeney’s friendship with Joshua was put on hold in the summer of 2012, when he served three months for affray, the ­definitive turning point in his life.

While he was ­inside, he missed the London 2012 triumph which put Joshua on the road towards his stated aim of becoming a boxing billionaire.

“I was locked up when he fought at the Olympics,” said Deeney. “But I was banging on my cell door when he won the gold medal.

“I’ve never claimed to be his best friend. I’m just proud of what he’s achieved and I think we get on ­because our ­backgrounds are similar.

"We both grew up in an area where the ­distractions were all there. I made my mistakes and he did, too, when he was younger.

“Josh is a ­massive role model now, and he knows it – he just doesn’t brag about it.

“He’s done remarkably well and the best part about it is that he hasn’t gone around bad-mouthing people, threatening to put them to sleep or any of that nonsense.

“Don’t get me wrong: I used to love Mike Tyson, and he was one of the worst for trash-talking. But ­British boxing is doing so well now that we don’t need any of that.”

When Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko have stopped trading punches on Saturday night and the belts have been draped around the ­undisputed champion, Deeney will visit his pal backstage.

But he is no celebrity ­cheerleader: “I never go in his ­dressing room ­before a fight, and all I do afterwards is to shake hands, say well done and step back because that’s his workplace.

“I do feel more involved ­emotionally when he is fighting. Of course I’m biased, but I think Joshua wins.

“I’ve seen him in the gym and I’m not sure there is anybody who can live with his power.

"And if he catches you, it’s not just one punch. You are likely to get three, four, five of them raining in.”