Deeney’s late winner rubs salt into Villa’s gaping wounds
It is hard to imagine a worse end to a match for an Aston Villa supporter than to have a Birmingham City supporter in the visitors’ ranks score the winning goal right in front of the Holte End.
Troy Deeney’s header in the 85th minute left Villa, sitting bottom of the table, seven points below the safety of 17th place in the Premier League. Only three times have a team accrued as few points from their opening 14 matches as Villa’s five. All three – Swindon in 1993-94, Sunderland in 2005-06 and Queens Park Rangers three years ago – were relegated, so the outlook for Rémi Garde’s team is clearly not good.
It might be asking a lot, then, for Villa supporters to share the view that Deeney’s story is as much an inspiration as the former factory worker Jamie Vardy’s rise to Premier League record-breaker with Leicester City. Deeney might have been a Villa player had he not been more interested in chasing girls than attending a trial at the club as a teenager. “My brother was the footballer – he was at Villa from age six to 20 – but I was more one of the lads,” Deeney said. “It was meant to be four days. I turned up for the game on the last day but I wasn’t really interested.”
There would be another chance, though. Having spotted him playing for his local team, Chelmsley Town, Walsall offered him a contract in 2006 and subsequently sold him to Watford, where his 81 league goals have put him among the top six Hornets marksmen of all time. Saturday’s was his fourth in the Premier League, all of which have come in the past five matches.
It has not been a fairy tale – Deeney spent three months in jail in 2012 after getting into a fight in Birmingham city centre – but he insists he is a reformed character and reflected on Saturday’s “dream goal” and the inevitable reaction from the Villa fans with a certain serenity. “Everyone knows I’m from Birmingham and that’s why they were giving me a lovely reception,” he said. “When we were running the clock down in the last 10 minutes I got quite a lot of grief. But it’s good fun.”
True to his roots, Deeney had planned a reunion with his old mates – Villains and Bluenoses – back at Chelmsley Town on Saturday evening. “I’ve had some Villa fans message me privately, saying ‘ today we’re not friends’,” he said.
“If I didn’t score and they won it would have been a bad weekend for me. Instead I scored and we won so it’ll be a bad weekend for them. But we will go back to the pub now and they will probably all buy me a beer, to be fair.”
A small part of him even hopes Villa somehow beat the odds and stay up, but only a small part. “Hopefully they can pick up but if they don’t I’m not going to be crying, let’s put it that way,” he said.
Deeney’s goal came after Odion Ighalo had given Watford first blood, cancelled out by Micah Richards before half-time. An Alan Hutton own goal restored Watford’s advantage before Deeney stretched it to 3-1 ahead of Jordan Ayew’s late consolation for Villa.
Villa boss Garde said: “With every game we do not win it becomes more and more difficult.”