Watford manager Vladimir Ivic hailed Troy Deeney as a ‘second coach’ after he fired a late penalty winner against boyhood club Birmingham City.
Deeney’s 85th-minute spotkick proved the difference between the teams and was the least Watford deserved after a dominant second-half performance.
“Troy is a very important player for us and we know he is the guy who is a winner,” said Ivic.
“His mentality is very positive for the team and he’s the guy who can be a second coach on the pitch.”
Watford skipper Deeney, making his 500th league appearance, scored his third goal of the season after missing a chunk of the season through injury.
Ivic added: “Troy is an experienced striker. He’s played a lot of games for us. He was ready.
“He’s a player who can score from a half chance. Today he had a few chances, but was there after the fantastic moment involving (Stipe) Perica.
“He was there and did his job.”
The goal came after Kristian Pedersen upended substitute Perica after he raced into the box.
“I thought it was a penalty, as my player got into a good position,” added Ivic.
A second successive win maintained Watford’s early charge and they actually dropped a place to fourth, but are only a point off the automatic promotion places.
Ivic refused to engage in talk about promotion, insisting: “We are in the Championship and have to play in the Championship for the next six months – we can’t talk about the Premier League.
“We must know where we are and work hard to achieve our goal.”
Blues head coach Aitor Karanka did not shy away from his affection for 32-year-old Deeney, hugging the striker who is a Brummie and supported the club as a boy.
“Ever since I’ve been here (in England) I’ve loved him,” said the Spaniard.
“I don’t just see him as a good player because everyone can see how good he is. I like him because I’ve spent a bit of time with him and you can see he’s a proper leader in the changing room.
“I have a very good relationship with him. He’s a top player and I love him.”
Karanka believes Deeney can carry on playing for a long time yet.
“I think he can play another 100, 200 games because it is his club,” he added.
Asked if he would like to sign Deeney, Karanka joked: “If he wants to come! I need to speak to the CEO to see if we can borrow him! One day – hopefully.”
Karanka admitted he opted for a cautious line-up as he tried to manage his players’ workload by making five changes and switching from 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2.
“I had to choose. I think with the team on the pitch we were more powerful,” he said.
“Playing against a team of that quality, power and energy, I thought we were really good.”
Deeney’s penalty came after he missed two second-half chances, lobbing straight at Neil Etheridge when clean through and heading well wide.
Blues hit the post through Mikel San Jose in the first half while Gary Gardner’s free kick was superbly fingertipped away by Ben Foster at the death.
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