THERE aren’t too many FA Cup Final captains with a more compelling life story to tell.
He is the son of a drug dealer, an old-school bruiser of a target man and a plain-speaking motormouth of the highest order.
Yet Troy Deeney is also one of the most engaging characters in the Premier League, and a man who has brought authenticity to Watford’s recent rise.
When Watford arrived in the top flight in 2015, the club’s ownership certainly didn’t represent traditional English football values.
The Pozzo family also owned Udinese in their native Italy as well as Spanish club Granada (since sold), and they were going through managers at a chilling rate.
Their dressing-room was cosmopolitan, even by Premier League standards, with Watford employing more different nationalities, with fewer minutes played by Englishmen than any other club.
This was, wrongly, held up as another sign of instability and potential flakiness.
These days, however, nobody thinks of the Pozzo ownership of Watford as anything other than a success.
The Hornets have stabilised under the management of Javi Gracia, whose 16-month reign is almost Fergusonian by the recent standards of Vicarage Road.
But Deeney has been the one constant throughout Watford’s ascent.
Signed from Walsall nine years ago, he became a regular 20 goals-a-season man in the Championship – famously scoring a dramatic clincher against Leicester in a play-off semi-final, then firing the Hornets to automatic promotion the following year.
Yet it’s not the goals – 123 and counting for Watford – which make Deeney a stand-out footballer.
It’s Deeney’s blunt talking which has singled him out.
While Deeney would rank highly in any table of “footballers opposition fans love to hate”, he is a charismatic and likeable man away from the pitch.
He is probably the most interviewed player in the top flight, this week especially so, and he has never been shy about his often-traumatic back story.
He’s talked about everything from his complex relationship with his father, to his own three months in prison, an episode he has never tried to hide, excuse or sugar-coat.
After a long period during which Premier League clubs ensured their footballers never said anything of an interest or intelligence at any point, Deeney has been a breaker of moulds.
His glorious post-match dissing of Arsenal, for a lack of “cojones” following a defeat at Vicarage Road, was arguably the most succinct and scathing critique of Arsene Wenger’s latter years.
The directness Deeney brings to Watford’s game is what gives his team their puncher’s chance against an obviously superior City side.
Dave Kidd on the FA Cup final
In his own unique way, Deeney has been a forerunner for players like Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose voicing their opinions on racism and mental health.
For years, there has been a stifling culture within many Premier League clubs, which insists that players mustn’t speak in public without their words being carefully vetted by club officials.
And while that approach was obviously frustrating for the media, it was also unhealthy for many players – who were keen to open up and engage with the public.
After scoring an equalising 94th-minute penalty during Watford’s astonishing semi-final comeback against Wolves, Deeney gave a couple of remarkably emotional interviews, which were unashamedly selfish in their content.
Here was a player who’d started off working as a brickie and playing in non-league, and who has experienced the kind of lows which many more fortunate people could barely imagine, taking time to reflect on his path.
And the fact that reaching an FA Cup Final should reach an obvious career highlight for Deeney, is almost old school in itself.
His opposite number, Vinny Kompany – a Belgian who is more Mancunian than most Mancs – also enjoys that sense of history and of belonging.
And Kompany’s presence as his marker, will ensure that City don’t possess the sort of softness Deeney once identified in Arsenal.
Yet the directness Deeney brings to Watford’s game is what gives his team their puncher’s chance against an obviously superior City side, aiming for England’s first domestic treble.
If, by some minor miracle, they end up fixing yellow and red ribbons to the old trophy tomorrow teatime, then Deeney will surely have played a major role.
And, love him or loathe him, the post-match interviews will be unmissable.