Nigel Pearson says Troy Deeney thrives under pressure and has backed his captain to lead Watford’s fight for Premier League survival.
Just over one month ago Watford appeared doomed to life in the Championship, but since Pearson took charge in December they have taken 10 points from their last four matches.
Indeed, Pearson’s side could move out of the bottom three for the first time this season if they win against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday.
Deeney, who has been at Vicarage Road for a decade, was sidelined for three months with a knee injury earlier this term.
But after he returned to action at the end of November, he has scored three times, including twice from the penalty spot in victories against Manchester United and Aston Villa.
Pearson has long been an admirer of the 31-year-old, and attempted to sign him during his time in charge of Leicester.
“Troy was a bit younger then,” joked Pearson. “He is a player that understands what his strengths are and he is a focal point. He brings something different and that is important. You don’t want everybody to be the same.
“If you spoke to Troy, who has been here for a long period of time, you can see he cares about the football club. I am not a believer in people sucking up to other people.
“There has to be an element of authenticity and we need to recognise collectively what is going to give us the best chance of getting out of the situation we are in.
“On top of that, I look at what Troy gives us in games. He is a difficult player to play against and he likes playing under pressure.
“We have won penalties recently and it is clear that in those pivotal moments I don’t think for one second that he ever doubted himself. You need players who can play under pressure.”
Watford will leapfrog 18th-placed Bournemouth if they secure a third consecutive league victory on Sunday.
The Cherries are on a miserable streak of eight defeats from their previous 10 outings and sit just one point and one place above Pearson’s side in the table.
Pearson added: “I heard somebody the other day talking about Eddie Howe’s job being under threat. I thought to myself: ‘Wow, let’s get some perspective here’.
“He has been at the club across two spells and he has done an incredible job over a period of time. Yes, they have had a difficult spell this season, but I am sure his chance will come somewhere else if he fancies it.”