Troy Deeney is speaking candidly – the Watford captain knows no other way – at the sun-kissed London Colney training ground which has been his home for the past month.

Self-improvement informed the 30-year-old’s decision to spend his summer closer to Watford’s base rather than at his family home in the midlands, with the outward signifiers of the hard yards put in evidenced by a slimmer physique and strong pre-season showings.

A nutritionist has been brought into Deeney’s team and, perhaps more pertinently after a 2017/18 campaign in which he bore more slings and arrows than most, the striker has been working with a psychologist.

It’s a tool Deeney has used since serving time in jail for affray, and one which he credits with helping him cope with the stresses of professional football by providing a release through talking which people so often shy away from.

“I have got my own little team together, with a nutritionist and psychologist as well as a trainer obviously. I have a plan. The hardest thing for me is not having a plan and being left to my own devices which isn’t good for most men I think,” Deeney says.

“I have seen a psychologist personally for five or six years and it was a process which started in jail as part of me getting an earlier release. That broke down barriers.

“I have found someone who I would class as a friend now because I have told him more things than I have told my mum. It is good but don’t get me wrong it is tiring to break down those barriers.

“I am probably among the last of the old school where you don’t cry or say certain things, so, when someone gets through that and I have conversations, I end up napping for two hours after because it is so tiring.”

Watford Observer:

Watford's captain looks revitalised ahead of the new season.

Deeney’s view of himself as a stoic man’s man, which is likely to strike a chord with many who watch him from the terraces every weekend, makes the outlet provided by these barrier breaking talks all the more vital.

The former Walsall man cites a lack of a male figure in his personal life as a contributor to the difficulties which arise from playing football at the highest level.

“It’s helped me cope with my dad being dead and my grandads being dead,” he says. “There are times, and this can be related to football, where you want to pick up the phone and talk to your dad but I don’t have that.

“I only have women in my life in my mum and my nan. Again this is an old school standpoint, but you don’t put pressure on them because they have enough pressure with the household. It is normal day-to-day s*** that can get to me and it is good to have someone to talk to.”

Those daily strains were at their most public at times last season, as ill-discipline – Deeney was banned twice and fortunate to avoid a third when giving Chelsea supporters a single-finger salute – punctuated a campaign in which the captain was on the back foot from day one.

Watford Observer:

Deeney admits that off-field pressures manifested themselves on the pitch at times last season.

Injury took away pre-season heading into 2017/18 and Watford’s “main man”, which is a moniker the Hornets’ fourth highest scorer of all-time enjoys the fit of, admits his place at the top of the striking food chain was challenged for the first time.

From then on Deeney was battling to reach his best and a desire to please contributed to an up and down season he feels mirrored his own state of mind.

“This year has been a huge change from where I was 12 months ago,” he explains. “I was busting my b******* off to try and get fit and chasing everything.

“I was third choice and I had gone from being a starter to that position just because I got injured, which was probably my first [serious] injury.

“For the first time I had to go ‘oh s***, you are going to have to prove yourself here.’ Every time I came in I felt I had to do something to prove myself.

“I over tried and got sent off in one game. We had the odd game where I did well but my season was up and down and mentally I was as well. It was tough.”

With his injury concerns now hopefully consigned to the past, Deeney’s focus is firmly on impressing in the here and now.

At the forefront of his mind is proving those who doubt him wrong and Deeney, who is never one to shirk a challenge, will be driven on by a desire lead from the front and perform at the highest level after falling back in love with football.

“Excited is the right word for it, I’m excited to get started and have the buzz back for football,” he says. “I lost the love for many reasons.

“I am not a fake person and I like to say what I want and that can sometimes get me in trouble. The pussyfooting around in football was really getting to me.

“People were writing me off. I didn’t like it then but I like it now because they will have to keep the same energy when they come back begging. I can’t wait for that and am waiting for people to change what they said.

“I am going into my ninth season for a reason and it is not because I score the odd penalty here and there.

“I have a feeling this ninth season is going to be the best one yet.”

With Deeney in this mindset, you wouldn’t bet against Watford’s talisman of years gone by to deliver on that resounding statement of intent.