By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Their playing styles and physiques are different but there are many similarities between Watford’s burly striker and captain Troy Deeney and Leicester City’s livewire Jamie Vardy.
Both did the hard yards in English football’s lower tiers and arrived in the big time relatively late.
Both are cult heroes at their clubs and both have been fuelled by a desire to prove people wrong.
Vardy’s tenacity helped outsiders Leicester City win the Premier League title in fairytale fashion in 2015-16 and in turn made him a regular in the England squad.
Watford have begun the season with four consecutive victories and while it might be fanciful to suggest lightning could strike twice and they emulate Leicester’s feat, 30-year-old Deeney believes it is not too late for an England call.
Slimmed down and more agile since Spanish manager Javi Gracia took charge in January, Deeney has emerged from a disillusioning slump into one of the most dangerous strikers in the Premier League on current form.
England manager Gareth Southgate has indicated he wants to blood youngsters going forward, but with Vardy having opted surprisingly to end his international career, the top-flight cupboard is hardly overflowing with English strikers starting regularly for their clubs.
“I didn’t deserve an (England) call-up for the last two internationals because it’s only four games in and I believe that you have to earn your stripes to be with the national team,” Birmingham-born Deeney told BBC Radio 5.
“But if I can carry on what I’m doing I’m sure the media and the other guys will start to ask the question as to ‘what more can he do?’ My job is to make sure people ask that question.
“I will never rule out playing for my country. Jamie Vardy won the title with Leicester and had a fantastic season and made it impossible not to include him for England. But that’s what I have to try and do.”
Watford take on Manchester United on Saturday at Vicarage Road. In their last game they beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 there with Deeney equalising.
“We are enjoying it,” Deeney said. “The biggest thing for us was the Spurs game. That really gave us belief that this really could be something good because going a goal down against a so-called big club we had to show a lot of resilience and fight and again the fitness levels were perfect.”
Despite sitting above United in the table, Deeney said they can approach Saturday’s game with a nothing to lose attitude.
“We have done okay against United. We enjoy it because it’s like a free hit, people have already written us off,” he said.
“We know if we win the headlines will all be about (Jose)Mourinho and why this Untied team is not compared to the greats. On our tight pitch, with the floodlights on it’s a bit like a theatre and hopefully it’s raining!
“We can make it uncomfortable for them.”
Deeney says the arrival of Gracia has been a significant moment in his career, pointing to his running stats that have gone from 8km per game to nearly 10km and an improved diet.
The former Walsall player admits he never got on with former manager Walter Mazzarri who was in charge for the 2016-17 season.
Speaking in April 2017, Mazzarri said he had no plans to sell Deeney. “Why should we sell him if Deeney accepts the competition? I would like two players for each position,” he said.
Yet Deeney says Mazzarri had tried to sell him behind his back.
“I didn’t get on with him (Mazzarri) from the start,” Deeney said.
“He tried to sell me in January (2017) which I didn’t like so I asked if I was available to be sold and was told ‘no we need you, you’re the captain, you’re everything’ — next thing you know he is still trying to sell me behind my back.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)