For me, a great autobiography gives a reader a really authentic, honest insight into the individual and helps them understand that person more. When the subject of the autobiography is particularly complex and nuanced and someone you haven’t necessarily been able to connect with or relate to before, yet you come away from the book with recognition and perspective, that’s all the more telling of a successful autobiography, and in that respect Troy Deeney’s Redemption excels. Deeney is one of those players that is perhaps largely misunderstood, divisive and dismissed for those without a Watford affiliation and, certainly, I would be guilty of being drawn into this narrative, so I was really intrigued to read this book and came away from it with genuine renewed understanding for Deeney.
Across his career, the Birmingham-born striker has developed, or perhaps rather been tagged with, a persona as something of a rogue, a bit of a pest on the pitch and potentially disruptive off it, but as with any antihero story, there is a backdrop to it all, and Deeney’s is more telling than most in helping readers understand the people, places and events that shaped him, not least a tough upbringing after his biological father abandoned him and his mother and a stepfather not without serious flaws entered his life. The circumstances of Deeney’s younger years are truly eye-opening and, I think, do a lot to unravel Deeney’s character and personality, his bravado, his resilience and his tenacity. He speaks without censor about the challenges and adversity of his upbringing but conversely also with love and appreciation and it’s clear that his early years were both troubling and seminal in shaping, and continuing to shape, him.
Indeed, a large proportion of the book is given over to his life pre-football and even when football becomes a greater part of his story, it almost feels secondary in many ways to everything else that has happened. Football autobiographies can sometimes get bogged down in the minutiae of training, matches, dressing-room tales, but having come from where he’s come from, having been through what he’s been through, Deeney’s story is as much as, if not more so, about the journey, rather than the destination. That’s not to say, football is not central to his life, his passion, but it is part of a much bigger and more significant narrative. In many ways, this only makes Deeney’s rise to the footballing heights all the more miraculous and impressive.
He is the first to admit that he wasn’t necessarily the fastest, most skilful, most talented of footballers, but what he lacked in these areas, he made up for in graft, determination and drive. His is very much a success story for the hard-working, the underdog, the strong-willed. There is obviously talent there too, though perhaps underappreciated, but Deeney’s is above all a journey that underpins the argument that hard work pays off, that good things don’t come easy, that you have to make your own luck. This commitment to hard work, to fight against the odds, to battle his way to the top are attributes that have come to define Deeney the footballer as a tenacious, tough, tireless competitor. Qualities that have perhaps often been used against him, especially by opposition fans, yet qualities nonetheless that should be valued, and qualities that clearly stem from a tough start.
Deeney may be a menace on the pitch, he may antagonise and rile up defenders and fans alike, but being on the pitch, working hard to get there, to prove himself, to improve himself, to rise up from the challenges of his birthplace, of his upbringing, is a success story that shouldn’t be underestimated. He has his flaws, don’t we all, but what is so impressive is that he hasn’t allowed them to hold him back. If anything, he has channelled them, made the most of his attributes and compensated through hard work and determination. He refused to be defined by disadvantage, he refused to take the easy route, and that takes incredible conviction and dedication. It is easy to see that Deeney’s story could have been a very different one, if not for football and if not for his dedication to the game, and whether you love him or loathe him, reading his story, knowing his journey, you can’t take away how far he’s come and how much work that’s taken.
(Publisher: Cassell. September 2021. Hardcover: 304 pages)
Buy the book here: Troy Deeney