19 October ~ Watford and Bournemouth are now improbable members of the self-appointed All-Time Best League In The Universe. Forty-one years ago they met in the old Division Three and preferred to stake other inflated claims to greatness. The programme notes describe the South East Counties League as the most successful youth league "anywhere in the United Kingdom, if not the world". The evidence? Jimmy Greaves, Martin Peters, Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking all once played in it. And so did Watford's rising talent Keith Mercer.
Mercer, however, didn't go on to play for England, although he enjoyed a steady club career with Watford and Southend before retiring at 28 with a knee injury. His team-mate Ross Jenkins, who eventually scored 118 goals in 339 league appearances for the club, is the only other name that stands out in the two team line-ups. Bournemouth had suffered a talent drain to Norwich, of all places – Ted McDougall, Phil Boyer and Mel Machin had all been lured to Norfolk in the previous year. Meanwhile, their new signings from Plymouth, Neil Hague and Derek Rickard, "looked quite useful... for the first few weeks of the season", according to the visiting team's sober notes, but then both got sent off against Preston. So, quite useless too.
This limited talent maybe explain why both teams ended up relegated. Watford went down by a point, and Bournemouth on goal difference. The south coast side were probably exhausted after needing seven games just to get knocked out of the League Cup at the second round stage – they edged past Gillingham in the first round in a second replay, but it took four games for them to finally fall to fourth division Hartlepool. In the same competition, McDougall, Boyer and Machin all played at Wembley in the final for runners-up Norwich.
Drinking with the pros “Information Desk” includes an invite to ex-QPR and current Watford player Ian Morgan's "stag night in connection with his testimonial fund" the following month. Three quid got you in, including food at the White Lion Hotel, for what was doubtless an educative night out. You don't get that kind of invite from today's Premier League so-called stars, eh?
Best name for a lower division footballer Bournemouth’s Steve Buttle. It’s a cross between battle and scuttle, which was probably perfect when they went down to the fourth.
Result Watford 1 Bournemouth 0
Watford Rankin, Craker, Williams, Keen, Goodeve, Lees, Mercer, Bond, Jenkins, McGettigan, Downes. Sub: Morrissey
Bournemouth Baker Payne, Parodi, Goddard, Merrick, Miller, Parsons (sub: Nightingale), Talkes, Wingate, Howard, Buttle