Troy Deeney has turned his life around. In less than three years he has gone from sitting in a prison cell to making Watford FC history - and in the process has helped guide the club to the brink of promotion to the Premier League.

His story is one of remarkable highs and lows. It has been a roller-coaster but he has come out of the other side and on Monday became the first Hornet to score 20 goals in three consecutive seasons.

When the Pozzo revolution started in the summer of 2012 Deeney was in a Manchester prison serving two-and-a-half months of a ten-month sentence for affray following a mass brawl outside a Birmingham nightclub.

The Golden Boys had activated a clause in Deeney's contract a month after the fight to ensure he would be contracted until the summer of 2013 but when he was released on September 10, 2012 he had a new manager and employer to impress if he was to stay at Vicarage Road beyond the following summer.

Thirty months have passed and 65 goals have been scored in that time. Deeney is in Watford's record books. Now he wants to secure his place in the Premier League.

"It is quality to be fair," Deeney said on making Watford history. "It symbolises the year-and-a-half before, the wasted time and to now have scored 65 goals in three seasons and to go from that [prison spell] to this (making history) is massive and shows my turnaround as a player and a person.

"Now I have to get 25 goals."

The U-turn in Deeney's Watford career would have been remarkable even without his stint in prison.

The striker was the club's 'big-money signing' in 2010 - although the claims of an initial £500,000 fee were considerably wide of the mark - but the delay in concluding the deal from Walsall meant he only joined the day before the 2010/11 campaign started and Marvin Sordell's unexpected form meant he didn't make the impact he would have hoped.

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Deeney spent a large part of his early Golden Boys career either on the right of midfield or on the bench; he started just 24 of his first 54 games at the club and found the net only three times during that period.

After scoring his fourth goal in November 2011, he stated: "Look at me, I am 6ft 1in and nearly 15 stone so there is no way I am a winger." The striker accepted he had to earn his starts and felt he was starting to give then manager Sean Dyche "a few problems" as he attempted to break up the partnership of Sordell and Chris Iwelumo.

Another two goals in 14 games were to follow before Sordell's departure on the final day of the January transfer window. It was at that point that Deeney's Watford career turned a corner.

He bagged two in four games before the fight outside the Birmingham nightclub that was to change his life and he added another seven in 13 outings before the season was out.

Three goals in 54 games became 77 in 161 matches.

The comment about not being a winger was highlighted after he wrote his name in the record books on Monday. He was asked how satisfying it was to have proven his Championship pedigree over a sustained period.

"Being 15 stone would be good now," he joked, before continuing: "To be honest I don’t do anything to change anyone else's opinions. People say I’m rubbish and I don’t really care; it doesn’t affect my day-to-day living.

"I thick-skinned enough and I’m definitely ugly enough to take it. I run with it and as long as my kids are proud and my family are proud then I don’t really care what anyone has to say.

"I remember speaking to you about it [in 2011] but now it is a case of pushing towards 25 goals and I want to overtake Daryl Murphy [on 23 goals] – hopefully he doesn’t score for the rest of the season – and I will keep setting goals for myself.

"I want to keep going and keep challenge myself."

The key to Deeney's upturn in form has been his constant desire to improve. Even on his days off, the 26-year-old will often work with his personal trainer away from the club's London Colney training base.

The latest example came during the international break and he explained: "I don’t like being comfortable, it doesn’t suit me. I could have finished training [before the international break], gone home and let my kids beat me up and then put them to bed but I did the kids stuff and then it was a case of cracking on for myself. I did a two-hour session with my trainer Jamie Reynolds (of Velocity Training Club), who works with [Watford's boxing star] Anthony Joshua and a few other guys.

"I try to do the personal trainer work once a week but when there are Saturday-Tuesday schedules then I am restricted to trying to make sure I’m ready to go. That coupled with a good diet – which the club have helped me out with - means I’ve lost ten pounds in seven weeks so it has been good and I’ve been trying not to lose my muscle because it is a huge part of my game. I was not struggling [with weight] before but any little difference that can help is good."

Deeney's physique has noticeably changed in the last year. The Birmingham man was far from overweight before but that didn't stop the fat boy jibes from opposition fans - something the father-of-two made a joke of on social media.

"I get stick don’t I?" Deeney said laughing, "I get fat boy this and fat boy that from the away fans and I thought I would play with it a bit. Then a friend of mine said you need to worry when they stop talking about you which is a good point so I got bored of it after a few weeks and then it is on to the next joke."

Deeney's consistency in recent months has been remarkable. He has scored nine goals in his last 11 games and even before then, he was performing well without finding the net. His partnership with Odion Ighalo, who has 16 in his last 14 league games, has been the catalyst behind Watford's automatic promotion push.

So what is the key to Deeney's form? Has he been doing anything differently in recent months?

"I have been in the gym, I have lost a lot of weight and I am looking after myself even more now. And I want to take it to the next level," Deeney replied.

"I have a lot more expectation this year and I have a lot more competition for places which is good.

"There was the expectation when I signed [the new contract in the summer] that I was to take everyone over the finish line [to promotion] and we are on course to do that and I would like to think I have played a part in that with either my scoring or just general performances. I would like to think I’m holding my own at the moment."

Deeney reached the 20-goal landmark on Monday with a well-taken left-footed finish. He revealed afterwards that some of his mates have given him grief in the past after all 25 of his goals last season were with his right foot. A few headers and left-footed goals have put an end to that discussion.

Monday was to be an important day for Deeney but there was a special atmosphere inside Vicarage Road even before kick-off, as supporters in all four stands sang songs, which is unusual for the Hornets, and fans group The 1881 had arranged for hundreds of flags to be placed around the stadium.

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Deeney believes what happened to Hornets fan Nic Cruwys has helped bring the players and supporters closer together and also improved the atmosphere in recent weeks.

He said: "We have massively tried to help keep it about ‘us’ [this season]. The [1881] boys in the corner have been instrumental as well. I think with what we have done earlier in the season and the [Nic Cruwys] incident coupled together has meant that the fans feel they are kicking every ball with us and that is what we want.

"The atmosphere was fantastic today, there were just short of 20,000 fans here and it was lively from the start.

"There were a few situations where we weren’t in control of the ball and not in control of the game and they kicked up a song because they knew we needed them.

"We have two more games at home and we want to try to make 20,000 if possible - and the away games have been top draw all season.

"The lads (players) paid for the fans' Derby travel and the club are paying for the travel to Nottingham Forest [on April 15] so hopefully we can get the full allocation and have a good party and hopefully go up together and create a massive atmosphere here."

It was Deeney's idea for the players to pay for the supporters' coach travel to Derby following the attack on Cruwys in Wolverhampton on March 7; not that he wanted the gesture to be public knowledge.

He said: "Ikechi (Anya) stitched me up and told everyone on Twitter. It was my idea but I wasn’t looking for any credit.

"It was just something that I thought we could do. We didn’t want to go to visit Nic in hospital because that is a family time and you would be intruding so we wanted to keep our distance and this was the only gesture I felt we could do without overstepping the boundaries."

Deeney's goals, the ever-improving bond between the players and fans; all of it has contributed to the Hornets being one point off the Championship's summit and level with second-place Norwich City heading into the final five matches.

Deeney is a very confident person. He is refreshingly honest with his views. But he wouldn't allow himself to be carried away when he was asked if this would finally be the year the Golden Boys returned to the top flight.

He replied: "We will see. Just enjoy the ride - it has been a good time hasn’t it?

"We have five games to win. If we do that then we will go up and if we don’t do that then it could be another day at Wembley."

Just over eight years ago an 18-year-old Deeney was training to be a bricklayer. Now he has the possibility of captaining a team into the most high-profile league in the world. Only a fool would bet against him doing it.