TROY DEENEY prefaced his comments with the words: “I’ll have to watch what I say . . . ”
Then Watford’s captain said Arsenal lacked ‘cojones, a bit of nuts’.
And he said that whenever he played against the Gunners he thought, ‘Let me whack the first one and see who wants it.’
Deeney said he had won his first aerial duel with Per Mertesacker and then Arsenal had ‘backed off’ — as they tossed away a lead and ended up losing 2-1 in injury time on Saturday evening.
He’d already suggested that some of his opponents were more concerned with their own ego than the team.
Then, after BT Sport pundit Martin Keown had said Arsenal’s players should be listening to Deeney with their blood boiling, the Hornets skipper added that Mesut Ozil had been ‘naive’ and ‘nonchalant’ when squandering a chance to put Arsene Wenger’s side 2-0 up.
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It was a shame Deeney had been watching what he was saying.
A shame he didn’t tell us what he really thought of Arsenal’s players — who, by the way, train literally next door to Watford and probably see Deeney most mornings.
It provided some truly compelling TV. Keown and Robbie Savage sat open-mouthed alongside Deeney in the studio, stunned by a current Premier League footballer actually speaking his mind.
Up and down the country, viewers roared their approval.
This is what everyone assumed Arsenal’s opponents thought, but very rarely heard anyone say it. Even Arsenal supporters nodded sadly in agreement.
There would have been a few media officers at Premier League clubs watching with horror, as a player dared to break their overbearing culture of secrecy.
Such is their self-importance, they would have been imagining a national security crisis or a further crash in the value of the pound.
They don’t realise football is supposed to be part of the entertainment industry, that it exists to add to the gaiety of the nation.
It’s not as if Deeney was being worthy, of course.
His words could have achieved nothing more than giving Arsenal a kick up the backside in the unlikely event their manager or players have the self-awareness to recognise his descriptions of them.
And Wenger will doubtless regard the Watford striker as a dinosaur, the sort of traditional British footballer he had done more than anyone to make extinct.
But at least Deeney is authentic. At least the paying public feels a connection with him, at a time when such feelings are increasingly rare.
A few days earlier, Australia’s Tim Cahill had been marking a crucial winner in a World Cup qualifier with what was apparently a sponsored goal celebration.
The former Everton man made a gesture to advertise a travel company, which he was soon plugging on his Instagram account.
We had been waiting for the apparently trivial moment which would prove to be the tipping point.
When football would finally come to be viewed, first and foremost, as a business rather than a sport. And by reacting with cynicism at what ought to have been a moment of significant national joy, Cahill seemed to deliver it.
Now, Deeney is no paragon of virtue, but at least he’s the polar opposite of all that.
He has come up the hard way, through childhood poverty, rejection by Aston Villa, non-leagues and lower leagues.
He says the jail sentence he served for affray in 2012 was the best thing that ever happened to him.
And now Deeney is captain and goalscoring legend at a club punching way above its weight in the top four of the Premier League, yet he’s still talking and acting like a regular bloke.
It would be easy to patronise Deeney, to laugh at his gobbery and regard him as the sort of footballer whose time has passed.
But Deeney is far more than that.
Later in his BT Sport interview, he claimed he re-watched every Watford game 20 times because he is determined to work at becoming a coach.
Should he head into management, he would surely be a very different sort to Wenger.
But there must still be room for men like Deeney in the Premier League’s future.
There has to be really, if it’s going to mean very much at all.
CHRIS EUBANK JR versus George Groves is a mouth-watering prospect for the new year.
It’s a Battle of Britain which is capable of attracting attention like Froch-Groves — or even Eubank Sr against Nigel Benn.
And so fight fans should thank organisers of the World Boxing Super Series, an eight-man knockout tournament which gives the sport the context it too often lacks.
THERE won’t be much sympathy about Craig Shakespeare’s sacking, given suspicions over his part in the demise of Claudio Ranieri eight months earlier.
But Leicester were always likely to suffer a comedown after the greatest miracle in the history of sport — and the subsequent Champions League adventure.
The club owners must now rediscover the virtues of patience and realism.
HEREFORD’S reborn club, which started out in the bottom tier of non-league three years ago, have made the first round proper of the FA Cup.
Sentimentalists will hope John Motson — who launched his career by commentating on the Ronnie Radford match against Newcastle in 1972 — returns to Edgar Street to cover next month’s tie with AFC Telford in his final season before retiring.
IF SPURS chief Mauricio Pochettino wants to be England’s manager, as he suggested in a new book, the FA should ask him when he wants to start and how much he wants to earn. They’ll probably find out he didn’t actually mean it.
WHEN England secured qualification for the World Cup, it was mentioned that Andy Carroll could be useful in Russia, because the big Geordie offers ‘something different’.
And after the West Ham beefcake got two yellow cards in 99 seconds for similar elbowing offences at Burnley, he proved that he truly is different.
Because all of England’s other strikers possess a brain.
IT WAS never likely Warren Gatland would embark on a third tour as head coach of the British & Irish Lions in South Africa in 2021.
But it’s sad that, after such a successful tenure, he should bow out amid acrimony.
Gatland says he was wounded by the words of Lions’ Irish back-row Sean O’Brien who claimed that, had they been properly coached, the tourists would have whitewashed New Zealand this summer.
Gatland’s own view — that a drawn series against the back-to-back world champions represented a mighty achievement — is the version that history will uphold.