A game nothing short of a ‘monumental occasion’ was how Troy Deeney billed his Birmingham City homecoming.
This evening, the 33-year-old striker prepares to make his long-awaited Blues bow, as Birmingham host Derby County in the Sky Bet Championship, with Lee Bowyer’s men trailing sixth placed Bournemouth by a single point.
However, for many, the outcome of the second-tier clash pales by comparison to the debut of Troy Deeney, who fulfils a childhood dream of playing for his boyhood team.
“The love I’ve had since I’ve been here has been unmatched,” he told the Official EFL Podcast.
“I went into the club shop the other day to pick up some kits for the kids and the staff members were saying ‘we’re glad you’ve come home’ and ‘the town’s got a buzz’. It’s nice when you hear strangers saying you’ve picked the city up which is important to me. It’s a lot of responsibility but it’s a joyous moment.
“The gaffer has done unbelievably well since he came in. The signings we’ve made has really transformed this team from what it was a year ago to what it is now. Everyone behind the scenes is working really hard to get this Club back where it needs to be. I just hope that I am one cog to that.
“We’re close to the Play-Offs now so let’s get in there and stay there. We might nick the top two but let’s get into the Play-Offs first and start looking forward.”
The prolific forward, who has followed Birmingham City all his life, admitted to having two Aston Villa infiltrators among his family in his late grandad and brother. Nonetheless, he’ll never forget his first trip to St Andrew’s and his pre-match routine, accompanying his father and friends down to the ground.
And Deeney believes that the Blues can become a ‘force to be reckoned with’ this season, with the help of the St Andrew’s faithful.
“We’ve got our third stand being opened which is massive for us. St Andrew’s, when it’s rocking, is a really good place to be. It’s a really intimidating place to be as well. We can get the crowds back. I want to hear it rocking and I want to hear my name being rung out.”
For Birmingham-born Deeney, the realisation that his long-standing affiliation with Watford was coming to an end only set in days before the move to St Andrew’s came about. Although, he always had the Hornets’ needs at the forefront of his mind.
“Up until last Tuesday, I still had a career at Watford. I understood I might get an extension for a year or two and then I was probably going to retire at the end of that and then move into a coaching role at Watford.
“When I wasn’t playing in that Carabao Cup game, I didn’t want to waste my time sitting on the bench or waste Watford’s time by being there and being the highest earner sitting on the bench, taking away opportunities for other people.
“We had a discussion on Tuesday or Wednesday, and I spoke to Blues on Friday afternoon, did the medical over the weekend and signed on Monday. It was that quick.”
And although he felt a pang of sadness when packing up his locker for the final time and cutting ties with the Watford after 12 years, Deeney is looking forward to getting his hometown Club back where he believes they belong.
“It was a sad moment because I hadn’t anticipated it, so it wasn’t a case of being able to build up to something,” he added. “I made a lot of friendships there, not just with the playing staff but with people in the background.
“It’s been a hell of a ride. I wish Watford well, but my sole focus is on Birmingham now. It seems like I was destined to do good things here at Birmingham and I’m really excited for Friday.”