Troy Deeney's unconfined joy at semi-final victory is a lesson to us all
Football is about moving on. That is what you do.
Whether it is pushing forward from soul-sapping defeat, or coming down from jubilant victory, one thing you must never ever do is wallow in any way. It is seen as indulgent and counter-productive, and thoroughly unbecoming. Important fixtures come thick and fast; future challenges never cease. To ruminate on the last result for any amount of time is pure folly and wasted preparation. Modern football, as with modern life, is a competition that doesn't allow for reflection.
It makes every kind of sense. Read any self-help manual or management memoir and it will tell you that perfection always demands more. A singular win or loss is a momentary blip you either learn from or don't. Settling into any level of contentment is a mortal sin and the very antithesis of greatness. Making 'every second count' is not about being happy, it's about being fundamentally unhappy. Only then can you have the necessary impetus to achieve perfection.
On Sunday, Troy Deeney thought fuck that. In what some would dismiss as a weak-willed and premature surrender to the moment, Watford's talisman and captain wholeheartedly revelled in the golden ticket before the silverware. None of his talk was about the challenge that lies ahead in the FA Cup final against Manchester City. It was all about what he and Watford had achieved on that day, in that moment. He was fully consumed in the glory of a heart-swelling semi-final victory.
"I was holding back the tears. 12 years ago I was paying £10 a week to play football and now I'm in the final!"
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) April 7, 2019
Many would scoff at the way in which Deeney expressed elation. He spoke in clipped and captivating terms about the result feeling like the culmination of so many things. He was at pains to pause any thought of the next episode just to fully absorb the enormity of the day. To some it may have felt like the final speech of a sprawling screen epic told a scene too soon, or the conclusion of a novel coming in the penultimate chapter. Others would suggest it points to fatalism for the actual final.
Deeney's rousing retrospective on what led up to such a moment of achievement - when the achievement of actually winning something tangible is still to come - may feel somewhat unripe. But that doesn't negate the very real sense of vindication he alludes to. A difficult journey led him to his stage in his life and career, and his basking in the moment was a beautiful denouement regardless of what happens next. He didn't want to think about City because that simply doesn't matter until it does.
Deeney knows exactly what Sunday will have meant to everyone around him - everyone who loves him - as well as what it meant to him. He is acutely aware that long-suffering Watford fans will go into work still beaming from the afterglow of what he helped to achieve. He knows that they'll break into giddy involuntary smiles at the photocopier and the canteen queue as they float through the week in a haze of recollection. He absolutely knows what it'll mean to his mum and his family.
Deeney also knows, perhaps more than most of his fellow pros, that life isn't easy - for anyone. His seemingly incongruous reference to Instagram is testament to that. He wasn't condemning the conceited look-at-me culture of the social media age, but rather pointing to the fact that no-one is ever really that happy. Life is fucking hard; it's a struggle from start to finish. That doesn't mean you stop trying, but any glimpse of happiness you can snatch from it should be clasped as tight as possible.
The sensible thing for Deeney to do would have been to downplay the emotion of the day and put the semi-final win in the proper context of Watford's season, but the fact that he didn't made for a glorious departure from the norm. It was a reminder to us all that any joy should be completely unashamed and unabashed. To hell with the life-coach convention and celebration police. Watford can win the FA Cup and they should be massively excited about that, but they should enjoy every fucking drop of just getting there.