Dyche remembers key moment in Watford striker’s rise

Troy Deeney
Troy Deeney

While the return of Andre Gray to Turf Moor is one plot point on Saturday, he faces a fight to start for Watford with Hornets talisman Troy Deeney.

And the Watford skipper is another player very familiar to Sean Dyche, having sprung to prominence in his first season as a manager, with the Vicarage Road club.

Deeney scores three goals in 40 appearances before Dyche took over from Malky Mackay, and netted 12 in 46 as Watford claimed a highest league finish in four years.

Dyche left the club after the Pozzo family takeover, before getting the Burnley job, but Deeney went on to become the first Watford player to score at least 20 goals in three-successive seasons.

The talisman returned to Watford's starting line-up last Saturday for the 1-1 draw with Tottenham after scoring from the bench at Manchester United in his first match back following a three-game suspension.

And Dyche smiled: “Troy used to say I was the most important manager in his career, then the next manager was, and the next one! When you’ve had five or six, they’ve all been important!

“He won’t mind me saying that!

“He did really well, I was very pleased for him how he broke through.

“I remember being at a fans’ forum with him and someone said, ‘If you don’t mind me asking Sean, who’s going to get the goals?’

“He was sitting next to me, and butted in and went ‘me’.

“This sounds strange, but at that moment, I thought ‘you will’.

“There was a different kind of conviction in his voice, it’s hard to explain, there was a determination.

“It’s not literally that moment, you can’t define that, but people change, he had a manner about him.

“We’d sold Marvin Sordell, and he jumped in in a way I thought, there’s fire in his stomach and he never really looked back.

“Obviously, I don’t think that was the moment his career clicked, but it was the moment his mentality really began to really firm up.

“He got 12 goals that year, and before that hadn’t scored anywhere near that.

“His mentality, his performances, confidence started growing and building.

“He had a longer adaptation to the realities of the game, kept learning and adjusting and turned out to be a very good player, particularly for that club, back to back 20 goals over three seasons.

“A really good player and a good bloke.”

Dyche also thinks the world of Gray, who hit 23 goals as Burnley were Championship winners in 2016, and grabbed 10 last season before an £18m switch to Watford in the summer.

He was replaced by a different type of striker in Chris Wood, and Dyche said: “My preferred style of management is to work with what you’ve got, and to give them the best chance of being productive, or in his case, scoring goals, and we felt the team played a way that would be effective for him.

“It’s fair to say most of the time it was.

“He’s a terrific lad, loved having him round, the work that he did.

“We looked at how he would fit into what we needed for the team to be effective, but equally what can we give him to be productive, and it was a good link overall.

“They kind of play 3-4-3 but have been 4-3-2-1, but players do adapt, and they flex accordingly.

“We changed ourselves and morphed it slightly, so he’d have to come back and try it!”

The Gray sale followed the record deal that took Michael Keane to Everton.

Those deals led many pundits to predict a struggle against the drop for Burnley, who have come back stronger, with Wood and James Tarkowski more than taking their chance, with the side seventh in the Premier League.

Dyche has often had to reshape his team due to key players moving on, such as Kieran Trippier, Danny Ings and Jason Shackell in 2015, but he accepts: “It’s not the first time we’ve had that happen down the years, it’s often been the case.

“The history of Burnley, as deep and rich as it is, there’s always been players having to be sold to move forwards, it’s part of the reality of the club.

“And equally, looking at players and thinking, ‘well you’re ready’, 100% with Tarky, Popey certainly 80%, the reason being he hasn’t played as much football, not that we doubted him.

“There’s measuring all those things.

“Charlie Taylor is still waiting for his chance, I think he looks like he’ll be a real player and I’m really enjoying what he’s doing.

“Kevin Long has been an understudy for a long time, but played some massive games for his country.

“I think there’s a group and a mentality even when they’re not involved, to be ready to perform, that’s something we take great pride in.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great thing to do, and it’s tough when you lose these players, it’s not just their skill set, it’s their personalities as well, how they fit into the group.

“There’s that real teamship here though, that culture and mentality, and it’s not easy to build.

“If people leave that, it can affect it. It’s how quickly it can remould, and there’s that connection again from this slightly newer group."