David Harrison gives us a brief history of Watford

1885 “Nearly 200” turn up for Watford Rovers’ first game, a 1-0 home win over Luton. Ha!

1909 A goat wanders on during a game at Cassio Road and, we are told, “in certain of its actions, spoke eloquently of its disgust for the whole dull and uneventful proceedings”.

1922 The club move to Vicarage Road. The main stand cost a staggering £7,000 and still stands, an island of stanchions and corrugated iron in a sea of red and yellow plastic.

1958 At last, out of the Third Division (South) after 36 years. A bottom-half finish makes us proud founder members of the Fourth.

1961 Drama as Grimsby full-back Brian Keeble puts his foot in a hole and collapses. Within seconds the hole has grown to two feet wide and two feet deep. Old buggers in the crowd point to a similar occurrence in the Thirties, when a hole “large enough for a horse and cart” appeared.

Stewart Scullion runs riot as the Hornets beat Grimsby 7-1. The young Mariners full back, Graham Taylor, manages to avoid falling down any holes, but probably wishes one would open up to end the agony.

1973 The youth policy begins to pay dividends, as a future England captain turns out for the juniors. Unfortunately, it is Mike Gatting. Soon afterwards, one Reg Dwight joins the board, but things have to get worse before they get better.

1975 Watford lose 1-0 at Darlington to go bottom of the Fourth Division. Seven years later the club had risen 91 places.

Graham Taylor turns up to begin a love-love relationship. His earliest impressions of the set-up, however, are less than favourable, as he finds the groundsman training greyhounds on the pitch and allowing them to sleep in the  plunge-baths.

1979 Ground improvements do not meet with universal approval, particularly among those who like to follow the action while picking blackberries on the cinder bend between the Rookery and Shrodells stands. A church pew also mysteriously appears in the same area.

1982 Now in the top flight, Watford beat Sunderland 8-0. Visiting boss Alan Durban requests a copy of the video, though he’s probably taped over it by now.

1987 It all comes to a shuddering halt as GT bales out and Dave Bassett moves in. 

1994 The embodiment of modern-day Hornism, Tommy Mooney, joins from Southend – the latest in a long line of stunningly ungainly yet immensely popular strikers.

1996 At last, the Finest Living Englishman goes against conventional wisdom and decides that you can go back.

1999 An afternoon under the Twin Towers that defies logical interpretation sees the club promoted to the Prem after beating a Bolton side who looked as if they didn’t know what hit them. But we did – and his name was Tommy Mooney.

From WSC 149 July 1999. What was happening this month

Related articles

There To Be Shot At by Tony Coton
De Coubertin Books, £20Reviewed by Chris Stride From WSC 377, July/August 2018Buy the book...
Graham Taylor: In his own words
Peloton Publishing, £18.99Reviewed by David HarrisonFrom WSC 375, April 2018Buy the book...

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday