The lads were PATERSON KEEN TO STAY AT excited about BURNLEY a new season. Iwassatinjail
the most of his talent. “The one good thing about being inside is that people don’t bulls***,” says Deeney, a bricklayer before joining Walsall at 18.
“There were plenty of harsh words said to me. Not in an aggressive way, just in a no-nonsense:‘Get your head together’ way. People basically said: ‘What are you doing in here, you tit?”
“They’d say: ‘We’re here because we’ve got no qualifications, no prospects. We do these things because we’ve got no choice.You do’. It was a case of seeing myself from the other side and realising what a good life I had.”
So some nice guys? “No, no,” he says wryly. “They are bad people. They’re not in there tickling each others’ stomachs. But they’re all human and they do have a good side, like all of us.
“When I couldn’t be bothered to go in the gym because the food weren’t the best or I wasn’t feeling well, they were the ones who said: ‘Come on, get your arse in gear’. In a way, I owe those guys a lot.”
Though he seems unaffected – affable and quick to laugh, he is the undoubted joker in Watford’s pack – Deeney says prison was far from easy. “If you’re not mentally strong, it can be a very horrible place,” he adds. “And everybody who goes to prison has hard times, me included.
“I’d just lost my dad before I went in. I’d buried him two weeks to the day before I got sentenced. I spent my birthday there, which wasn’t nice. I missed my friends and my family.
“I just read a lot, did a lot of courses. I did first aid, level one coaching, English and maths – just things to keep my mind active and stave the boredom off.
“I wrote a lot as well: letters, diaries. Not so much what was happening but my thoughts about what I wanted to do when I came out.
“As a result, I’m in the process of sorting out a charitable foundation now. I’d had a few ideas over the years about what I wanted to do but never really acted on it. In prison, all you’ve got is time, so you may as well use it.”
That time came to an end after four months in September last year. Released on the Monday, he was called by Watford on the Wednesday and summoned to training.
“That was the first time I’d been told face to face that they still wanted me,” he says.“Though I’m sure that if I’d come back a big balloon, they’d have thought :‘There’s no way we’re waiting for him to get fit!’ When I came back, the boss (Gianfranco Zola) said to me: ‘You’re not going to play straightaway’. I think they thought I’d be quite far behind because I’d had no pre-season.
“But I was actually fitter than I was before I went inside. I was faster on the sprint tests, got further on the bleep tests. It was a shock to me as much as to them.
“So we had a friendly against QPR in the week, then on the Saturday I was back. It was 12 days from leaving prison to being in the first team.”
And it could get even better than that. A revelation since his return to the side, Deeney has scored 16 goals and struck up a prolific partnership with Championship Player of the Year Matej Vydra.
Last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Cardiff left the Hornets just three points behind Hull in the second automatic promotion place – meaning Deeney could go from prison to the Premier League in less than 12 months. Has it crossed his mind?
“Are you mad?” he retorts. “No way. I’ve only been out of prison six months. In August, I didn’t even know if I’d have a career so I could never have dreamed then that I’d be in with a chance of playing in the Premier League. I’m not thinking about the future – I’m just making the most of every second.” MARTIN Paterson is keen to extend his stay at Burnley, and reckons the Clarets still haven’t seen the best of him.
Since arriving at Turf Moor back in 2008 for £1million, Paterson’s career with the club has been blighted by injury.
However the striker has enjoyed a relatively injury-free time this year and has already featured in more Championship games this season than ever before.
And after suffering relegation from the Premier League with Burnley in 2009, the 25year-old wants to get a new contract sorted out so that he can get on with his “unfinished business” with the Lancashire club.
“At the moment talks are ongoing and they’ve been ongoing for a while now. I think it will come to a head very soon,” Paterson said.
“Unfinished business is the right way to put it. I don’t think Burnley fans have seen the best of me.
“My best football possibly for Burnley was in the Premier League. I was possibly at the top of my game. When I came back from my knee injury it was probably the best I've been.”