During a football player’s career they experience many pivotal moments that help fulfil their destiny and mould the type of person they are.
At the age of twenty-five Sutton United winger Roarie Deacon has experienced enough of these to last a lifetime.
Just over a month ago Deacon produced a goal that placed him permanently in Sutton United’s history books – his latest pivotal moment.
The Vanarama National League club were heading deep into injury time in their FA Cup Second Round tie against SkyBet League Two club Cheltenham Town.
The game seemed destined for a replay, with U’s striker Matt Tubbs putting his side back on level terms just after half time, ten minutes after Robins forward Danny Wright had given the visitors a lead going into the interval.
The nerves from both sides were clear to see but then, with ninety-six minutes on the clock, Deacon’s moment arrived.
Sensing a cup shock the hosts pressed forward.
A ball into the Robins’ box was headed clear and fell to U’s midfielder Nicky Bailey. The former Middlesbrough midfielder played the ball first-time to Deacon, who by this time was headed towards the area.
His first touch on his thigh killed the ball, allowing him to move swiftly towards the edge of the visitor’s area.
Three defenders approached him, but not one of them attempted to take the ball.
Their hesitancy cost them.
Deacon got the ball out from under his feet and as he sneaked inside the Robins’ area he struck a right foot shot across keeper Russell Griffiths and into the far corner of the net.
Pandemonium ensued, passion released, euphoria reached.
The stuff of dreams says the goalscorer ahead of their Emirates FA Cup Third Round tie against AFC Wimbledon.
Deacon explained: “Everyone dreams of scoring winners in the FA Cup when they are a kid and I was the same.
“You try to imagine what it will be like, but when it happens you just go hyper.
“I remember Nicky Bailey somehow getting the ball to me because it was an awkward pass. I controlled it on my thigh and thought just get something on target.
“Even if the keeper saves it, just get it on target.
“Thankfully it went in and my first thought was to just run, I didn’t know what to do, so I just ran.
“Nicky was the first to me and he took me down to the ground, then everyone followed, even the bench.
“It was 100% the best moment of my career, putting Sutton into the Third Round of the FA Cup, it was the stuff dreams are made of for anyone.”
Deacon’s career began at the top end of the game, with Premier League giants Arsenal.
The Wandsworth-born player was an academy team mate of England star Jack Wilshere, although the midfielder was the only player from that crop of Gunners hopefuls to make it into Arsene Wenger’s first team.
Deacon’s progress caught the eye of the England U19s, receiving a call-up alongside the likes of Spurs midfielder Ryan Mason and current England right back Nathanial Clyne.
He went on to gain four caps, scoring one goal for the Three Lions youngsters.
He had become a regular feature of Arsenal’s U21s, but failed to make the breakthrough to the first team and in June 2011 he was released by the club that handed him his first chance in football.
Far from showing any malice towards the Gunners, Deacon believes that they have given him a good grounding to forge a successful career as he revealed the role his parents and their faith had to play in helping him cope with his release.
“The way Arsenal’s academy coach their players is special, it helped us all.
“You learn about how to play on the ball, pass and move, with pace. But it’s not just about that.
“They teach you to work hard, to do the other side of the game, to win the ball back for your team mates, to be part of the team.
“I still take that with me now, I like to work hard on the defensive side of the game.
“It was tough leaving but only Jack [Wilshere] made it into the first team and he did that at sixteen. Nobody else made it through.
“Being released hurt, but I sat down with my parents and they said it just wasn’t meant to be and that God had a plan for me.
“They always believed that more doors would open for me in the future and that is what happened.”
The move to release 18 year old Deacon in 2011 had come as a surprise to many that had witnessed his growing talent at Arsenal.
There was keen interest in his signature and then-Sunderland manager Steve Bruce offered him the chance to have a trial with the North East club.
Deacon accepted and just two weeks after his release from Arsenal he signed an eighteen month deal with the Black Cats.
His time with Sunderland saw him make twenty-eight appearances for the club’s Under 21s, scoring three goals.
But the first team proved a step too far once again and in January 2013 the club announced that Deacon was to be released at the end of his contract.
The move to the North East is one that holds no regrets for Deacon, as he stated his belief that the club helped him grow as a person and as a footballer.
He said: “Steve Bruce spoke to me about going up there and it was a good move for me. The people at Sunderland and in the North East were good people.
“They looked after me and it was a big move for me.
“I was still young, I was still learning about the game and about life.
“But moving away from London helped me mature, it helped me grow as a person, it helped me mature earlier than some people do.
“It was a good life experience and I have no regrets about moving up to Sunderland.”
Again there was interest from clubs throughout the league pyramid when Deacon’s release was announced.
League One club Stevenage won the race for his signature in March 2013, with the youngster making his professional debut just weeks later in a 1-0 home win over Hartlepool United.
His introduction to senior football was a brutal one, as a familiar face gave him an early lesson as to what life in the Football League is all about.
“I had a lot of good memories of my time at Stevenage, it was special to be playing senior football in the Football League.
“My debut, against Hartlepool United, is something that will live with me and it was a shock.
“I came off the bench and I think we had a throw in at the time. I showed for the ball, controlled it and dallied on the ball.
“You get away with it in academy football but this was the senior game.
“Peter Hartley, who was a former Sunderland player, came straight through me and I hit the floor.
“It was a memorable moment and it showed me that I had to adjust to cope in that division.”
Deacon’s form with Stevenage earned him a one-year contract extension.
His time with the club came to an end in July 2015 when he joined League Two side Crawley.
He spent one season with the Reds before moving into the non-league game for the first time with his current club Sutton United.
Deacon shunned interest from Football League clubs; something he admits was a risk.
But it was a calculated one, with the winger deciding that he wanted to play regular first team football.
“I had interest from League Two clubs when I left Crawley,” he explained.
“I spoke to my agent and said I wanted to play football, I didn’t want to waste time, I knew a key part of my career was approaching.
“I didn’t want to be in and out of a team, I wanted to be out on the pitch.
“Sutton United offered me the chance to do that and it was one I was happy to take.”
The Gander Green Lane club are on the up.
Last season, under manager Paul Doswell, they secured promotion from Vanarama National League South into non-league’s top tier.
A 2-0 win over Chelmsford City secured the league title with a game to spare, preparations for life at a higher level were well underway.
So far they are coping well with the club currently sitting comfortably mid-table in the National League, seven places and eleven points above the relegation zone.
Joining Sutton United has proved to be a wise choice for Deacon, as he explained the role played by Doswell in attracting him to the club.
“The manager explained that they could give me a chance to get back to the Football League.
“He would ring me constantly, he would talk highly of me when we were chatting.
“He made me feel wanted and appreciated, which was great to hear.
“Now, every time I go out on to the pitch I want to repay his faith in me.”
Part of repaying that faith, or indeed repaying another part following his Emirates FA Cup Second Round winner, could come on Saturday afternoon when the U’s face AFC Wimbledon for a place in the Fourth Round.
The tie sees The Dons return to the place where their rise up the league pyramid began.
On 10th July 2002, just six weeks after Wimbledon were allowed to relocate to Milton Keynes, the two clubs [AFC Wimbeldon & Sutton United] met in a historic friendly at Gander Green Lane, with Sutton coming out on top with a 4-0 win.
The game ended with emotional scenes, as Dons fans took the pitch to celebrate having a club to support once again.
However, things have changed at Sutton’s home, with the pitch that the Dons fans celebrated on now replaced with a 4G turf.
That move, along with the passionate home support, is one that Deacon hopes will see his side into the Fourth Round come Saturday night.
“They are a big team to draw. Maybe it was disappointing not to get a Premier League club because that’s what any non-league club that gets into the Third Round wants.
“But AFC Wimbledon are a great club, with a great story. It will be tough for us.
“We know we have quality in the squad, we know we will have our supporters right behind us and we know that we enjoy playing on our pitch.
“They might not like playing on it but we are used to it, we like getting the ball down and playing it around. It allows us to do that.
“We love our pitch, we love our ground and we hope that will help us get a good result.”
A final word from Deacon, when asked if a Fourth Round return to Arsenal would be high on his list should Sutton find themselves in the draw on Monday night.
He laughs at the question then replies: “No, I’d like a home game against Manchester United, I grew up supporting them.”
Either way, another pivotal moment could be on its way for Sutton United’s Roarie Deacon.
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Reuters Media (Action Images)