STEVE EVANS believes that Leeds United will be lining up against a strong candidate for inclusion in England’s Euro 2016 finals party in Watford’s Troy Deeney at Vicarage Road this afternoon.
Among the Hornets’ considerable threats across the pitch, the prowess and potency of Deeney and strike partner Odion Ighalo, who wreaked havoc on Championship defences last season and have made their mark this term, are chief among them.
Deeney, in particular, needs no introduction to Evans or United fans.
The Brummie powerhouse, who has hit nine goals so far in 2015-16, has netted in his past four matches against the Whites and managed six in his past six outings against them.
It’s a fair bet that if there was a straw poll of Leeds followers last season asking which player they would love to take from a rival Championship side that Deeney’s name would comfortably figure at the top of the list.
Evans is an unabashed fan too and is backing the uncapped 27-year-old for the Three Lions call – although he is understandably hoping not to see too much of his attacking repertoire today as United chase a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time in 13 years.
On Deeney, Evans said: “Deeney is one of the stars in the Premier League now. He’s earned that right.
“He had many knockers, but for me, he was the one player who made the difference every week for Watford in the Championship last season.
“It didn’t matter if they played (Odion) Ighalo with him – who is very special – or the boy (Matej) Vydra, who was also special last season.
“But I think Troy has taken that on this season. I have watched Watford three times live and every time, I have not failed to go away thinking: ‘”Deeney is just getting better and better.’
“I have seen some calls for him to be in the England squad – the boy (Jamie) Vardy is going to be in it, the country will demand that, injury-free – and I think there arguably could be a reason why Troy Deeney makes that plane as well.
“So that’s how tough this game is going to be.”
While Evans is praiseworthy of the progress of Deeney, the Scot is also effusive over the job that Quique Sanchez Flores has done at the Hornets helm, having taken to Premier League surroundings like the proverbial duck to water.
The suave Spaniard had a strong reputation in La Liga where he has managed the likes of Valencia and Atletico Madrid with distinction along with Portuguese giants Benfica and has shown himself to be an equally accomplished operator on his first managerial foray in England.
Evans is a fan – along with several other members of his family – and is looking forward to pitting his wits against one of the top-flights undoubted managers of the year thus far.
Evans added: “He’s got that look about him and he’s been a superb footballer. Although I am not sure about the scarves he wears; I might take him a Leeds scarf! But he has got his team playing some wonderful football.
“I speak to Troy Deeney every now and again and he speaks about the attention to detail and motivation he’s got.
“He also speaks about the fact that when he speaks, you can hear a pin drop.
“I am looking forward to pitting my wits against him. But I am not looking forward to having a beer in the bar afterwards as they will all be looking in his direction, not mine...
“He is one of those that all the females in my house will look at him on the telly and say: ‘Why have we got our dad!’”