THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Watford striker was jalied for affray

icon striker7 November ~ During the recent school half-term Watford held an open day at Vicarage Road. Local children were able to watch the team train, meet some players and take part in penalty shootouts. One of those involved was Hornets striker Troy Deeney, last season's top scorer and a star performer in recent weeks. But Deeney's prominent role at such a family oriented event was out of the question only a few months ago. In June 2012, Deeney was sentenced to ten months in jail after pleading guilty to the charge of affray following a night out in Birmingham.

He was involved in a brawl outside a nightclub that left four victims injured. CCTV footage showed Deeney striking one of the victims and continuing to attack him as he lay defenceless on the floor.

The news shocked many Watford fans; Deeney had seemed like one of the good guys with an endearing background. Released by Aston Villa as a youth he became a bricklayer and worked his way back into professional football from non-League. As news of Deeney's trial emerged, many fans called for the club to terminate his contract. It seemed like the easy option for Watford, given the seemingly infinite pool of multi-national talent now available under Giampaolo Pozzo's ownership, but they chose to wait.

Rehabilitation of offenders has always been a difficult sell in football. Any professional footballer is seen to lead a privileged lifestyle that means forgiveness is often in short supply. The victims of crime might carry the emotional trauma with them for the rest of their lives, while the footballer returns to being cheered for kicking a ball around. Acknowledging responsibility and expressing genuine remorse is therefore a bare minimum before a player can achieve some sort of redemption.

Deeney apologised to the club and the fans but, more importantly, he apologised to the victim. He was released after serving three months of his sentence. It would be inappropriately presumptive to assume that Deeney has made amends based on this gesture but it has made it harder to feel that Watford made the wrong move in giving him a second chance. Right now, what else should he be doing other than pursuing his career in football.

In recent seasons there have been too many examples of unquestioning support for footballers who have shown no remorse for their actions. If a player can accept they've done wrong and that they are fortunate to be given another opportunity, then it's up to individual fans to decide if they accept that and are willing to support the team with this player in it. Most of us would rather not be burdened with the knowledge that our team's players are flawed but we have only ourselves to blame for creating idealised characters based on the little we know about the footballers we watch.

To accept Deeney's return doesn't mean Watford fans have to sing his name from the rafters but if recent matches are a barometer, his excellent performances are not going unnoticed. In a season of transition it's not inconceivable that Deeney will emerge as one of the club's most important players. Michael Moruzzi @regista_blog

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