The Joys of Interviewing Troy Deeney
Corporate gigs aren't usually the Home of in depth autobiographical interviews but I happened to fall into my favourite and most inspiring interview ever when speaking with Watford FC Captain Troy Deeney.
The room was filled with young, successful sports businessmen and women who form part of the Sport Industry's Next Generation. They were being celebrated for their talent and hand picked for a bright future. Troy was our headline spokesperson and he specifically came to talk about leadership.
Troy's journey has been far from easy. Upon noticing his openness on stage and willingness to be truthful about his journey I decided it was worth looking at his life from the beginning and spoke to him about his childhood. Troy was self admittedly lazy. He wouldn't have gone to his trail for Aston Villa if it wasn't for his manager at the time literally dragging him out of bed.
He spoke passionately about his life and had the room glued to every word and as we approached a turning point... Jail time.
Usually before interviews I get a long email of what not to ask and a great deal of opinions from agents about what they would like me to ask.
Troy's agent however simply requested I mention his charity. Easy.
When I met Troy in the green room I asked if he had seen the drafted questions and he said no. He prefers not to see them and give a more natural interview. His response filled me with excitement and dread. Excitement that finally I have in front of me an interviewee who understands the big difference made by rehearsing answers that end up sounding media trained and unnatural. But I dreaded that post interview I'd get lynched by an agent unhappy with my choice or worse still, I'd offend Troy.
Troy was warm and willing and mid interview I felt he gave me all the non vocal signs that he was ready to talk about his jail time. So I tried it. Slightly frightened for my job's future and of a physically rather large Troy Deeney I said...
"Troy you then came to a stage in your life that was probably your lowest, you made a series of bad decisions which left you in a bad situation..."
I opened this chapter of his story hoping he'd not hate me and he understood entirely where I wanted him to go. I didn't want to say it myself. I respected him too much.
Troy took a moment then looked up at the crowd and said, "If you don't know what we're talking about I was sent to prison. I hurt someone, infact what I did hurt a lot of people and I was wrong"
He was apologetic, regretful and open. Infact you could see he wanted so desperately to teach those around him not to make the same mistakes. He made no excuses and told his story. He was completely unguarded on that stage and connected with everyone in the room.
It's so refreshing and rare to speak to an athlete who doesn't give the standard politically correct set of answers. Troy had personality and attitude to boot. There's nothing boring about Troy.
Footballers in particular can come across meak in interviews, rarely breaking into a smile and answering every question so cautiously you can physically see the struggle they have trying to keep endorsement deals, press officers and managers happy. Yet all these dry sounding footballers hold an enthralling history behind them and are within an incredibly enviable world we so want to hear more about. Honestly.
I wish more sports men could have the confidence to be more honest, they just might inspire a whole host of people to learn from their mistakes.