EXCLUSIVE: Troy Deeney speaks to GMS about women's football, England, and his future

Troy Deeney has never shied away from speaking his opinions. 

In a three-part interview with GIVEMESPORT, the Watford striker had already spoken about VAR, racism in football, and his unlikely personal journey to the Premier League. 

In many ways, Deeney’s is the story of an underdog who has had to fight hard to reach where he is now. 

It made sense then, to ask him about his views on women’s football and in particular, whether he believes female players deserve equal pay.  

“I don’t mind women’s football. I am of the business understanding though, when people say: ‘it should be equal pay’,” he said. 

Exclusive interview with Troy Deeney: Part 1
Exclusive interview with Troy Deeney: Part 2
The longest serving player at every PL club

“If the business makes sense, it does. So you look at KSI and Logan [Paul], should they be making the same money as Anthony Joshua for a boxing match? No, but the business side of it says they do. 

“How many women’s football matches are selling out week in, week out, 20,000 plus? They’re not. So you can’t have equal pay if there’s not equal money. So that’s just logical business. 

“But in terms of, do I sit and watch women’s football? Yeah. Should they be getting paid the same as Neymar? No, because business-wise, you’re not selling shirts like him and you’re not packing out stadiums like him.

“As footballers that’s what we do when it comes to bonuses. we don’t sit there and go ‘yeah can I get £20million as a bonus. You have to sit down, ‘how much money does the club make, what’s their reported loss. You have to sit and go through it all and go OK, this is what you take, we feel that we should get that if we do this.

One way to build that profile is to go down the avenue of clubs like Manchester City, where the women’s teams are marketed alongside the men’s.  

Deeney believes the players themselves have to keep striving, though, and speaking to their teams if they’re going to see meaningful change. 

“Again, keep speaking about it, it’s the only way you’re going to get change. You can’t sit back and expect change without talking about it.

“Say if we were talking about racism, it’s in the same bubble. If you’re the owner of the club making millions of pounds, you’re not going t turn around go, ‘here you go, here’s some money for nothing’. You have to drive it and understand it’s a business entity. 

“So if you’re Watford Ladies, what do you bring to the team at the moment? Whether that’s the first team, or Watford the community, what do you bring? 

“OK, we probably bring 10% of your income so can we then ask for 5% of that? Because it doesn’t actually touch your £200million that you get from the Premier League.”

Throughout the game, there are ongoing battles to be had, whether that concerns women striving for equal pay or players battling racism. 

That’s not just racism from the stands, either. 

Deeney also reflected on the seeming lack of opportunities higher up the chain. 

Taking opportunities 

“If you look at all the Premier League teams, in terms of players – take it bigger than Premier League – we’re probably getting to where the NFL is now in that we’re predominantly of mixed origins,” he added. 

“Yet you go to manager’s level, is it three, four of 72 clubs? Go boardroom level. One? I know Les Ferdinand. That’s it, off the top of my head. 

“Go to owners. None. We have to start influencing it, it’s on players and people who work in football. How do we go from being players to coaches, from coaches to managers, from managers to directors of football. You have to build up the rung.”

Back on the topic of women’s football, one manager who has worked his way to the very top is Phil Neville. 

The England Women’s boss remains under huge pressure after an awful run of form since the World Cup and Deeney admitted that if Gareth Southgate were in that position, he would face calls to be sacked. 

“100% but it depends on what’s building in the background,” he said.

“He might be doing stuff away from there that’s really changing women’s football and the people above are going ‘I can see the vision’. You might not see the on-field results but can see the vision. It happened with Wenger. 

“Wenger didn’t come in and straight away go, ‘we’re the Invincibles’. He changed everything and everyone went, ‘I can see the vision’. Alex Ferguson, Mourinho, Pep you can always see the vision. 

“I do agree that if it was Gareth [Southgate] for example, he’d probably be gone. But again, all the off-field stuff has been made easier for the international team. We’ve got St George’s Park, we’ve got the best players, all these different things factoring into it.”

England Women have been able to benefit from the facilities given to them by the FA – but that hasn’t necessarily raised the profile of the individual players. Asked to name five Lionesses, Deeney admits: 

“Nope, and wouldn’t even try. Do you think equal pay would make that happen? And do you think they should be entitled to equal pay when I don’t even know who they are.

“With the business structure that I’ve just said, if I said to you name me five Barcelona players. Name me five Tottenham players. Name me five Leicester players. Because you visually know them, you see them week in, week out. Their Instagram profiles are through the roof. 

“I know Eni [Anluko], I know Alex Scott. I know them because visually, I see them. 

“We went to Antigua in the summer and people knew who I was but they didn’t know who Watford was. And I go well how do you do that because I’ve only got 125,000 followers. There’s people on Love Island with more than that!”

While the 31-year-old is indeed known around the world, unfortunately that isn’t because of an international career. 

“I can’t pick myself! I’d still go, I’m not going to sit here and say I wouldn’t. I’d swim, I’d carry water bottles,” he adds. 

“But it’s not going to define who Troy Deeney is, it’s not going to define what I’ve done in life, let alone football. It’s not going to define what I do after football. 

“Realistically you get a cap. I’ve got loads of them! Realistically that is what it is, and it’s status that other people are going to give you. 

“I play for Watford, it’s not the biggest team in the Premier League, but I go to Antigua, I go to different countries and people go ‘you’re Troy Deeney’. We did a Youtube video of me in Latin America, it got 45 million views. 

“How do they even know me? You’re a hero because of what you represent. Now I understand what I represent, a cap, or what team, can’t define who I am.”

Southgate has been leaning towards younger players, particularly in attack, but Deeney is realistic about England’s chances at Euro 2020. 

“I’d like to say there going to win it, but I’m the same as always. We’re better than we’ve been for a long time, young players that can really go forward at pace and know what they’re doing. 

“Does that separate us from France? No. Does it separate us from Spain? No. Belgium? No. So would I turn around and say we’re going to win it? No. But will we be in the mix? 100%.”

Life after football 

Whether or not that elusive cap ever transpires, there are indeed plenty of other avenues in life for Deeney to go down. 

Retirement isn’t on his radar just yet but is something he has given thought to. 

“My aim is to keep going as long as physically possible. One thing it will not be is for want of hard work. I work harder than 90% of people,” he said. 

“I don’t physically look like it but I work harder than a lot of people. I enjoy my time, I’m very aware of making work-home life balance. Whereas I used to be a bit of a madman it was just work, work, work. It’s not good for the soul, to be honest. 

“But I am very much trying to stay playing football until, I don’t know, 40. 

“My thing is I don’t want to be limited. I’m still doing my coaching badges. I’ve got my charity, I’ve got my businesses. I’m at uni studying a masters in football, I’ve got so many avenues that I want to get to 38 and be like ‘what do I want to do’. I don’t want to be that footballer who’s pigeonholed.”

For now, his focus is simply scoring goals as Watford prepare for yet another new era. 

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