Category: Enjoy The Game

Tony Coton: Enjoy the Game Interview

For the second interview, I had a trip to Manchester to cover some cycling. Someone I knew at Manchester United had put me in touch with Tony Coton and he agreed to meet me one February afternoon in 2009.

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Nigel Gibbs: Enjoy the Game Interview

Nigel Gibbs was the third person interviewed for Enjoy the Game. At the time he was on the coaching staff at Reading and so I made the short trip to Berkshire and met him in the canteen at the club’s training ground.

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Richard Hill: Enjoy the Game Interview

Richard Hill was Graham Taylor’s last signing for the club before leaving for Aston Villa. His Watford career was brief. As the fourth interview for Enjoy The Game, it is often the bit-part players who have the clearest view of the drama taking place centre stage.

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Luther Blissett: Enjoy the Game Interview

The fifth interviewee Luther Blissett already knew what I was going to ask, Nigel Gibbs had tipped him off. Luther had three spells at Watford as a player and served as a coach, so there was a lot of ground to cover.

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John McClelland: Enjoy the Game Interview

In early March 2009, I headed to Wakefield to meet John McClelland, who had been one of my favourite players, arguably the finest defenders to ever play for Watford. McClelland was interview number six.

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Steve Sims: Enjoy the Game Interview

Steve Sims was the archetypal strong, strapping centre half who joined Watford amid some fanfare because he’d been an England under-21 and B international while at Leicester City. His adjustment to the Third Division took time but he established himself in the side.

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Jimmy Gilligan: Enjoy the Game Interview

In March 2009, I headed to Barking to meet a man who scored Watford’s first goal in Europe. Having coached at a professional level, I wondered whether Tom Walley’s methods would be accepted today.

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Neil Price: Enjoy the Game Interview

The next interview was another young player who came through Tom Walley’s system. Neil Price was a local lad who played barely a dozen games for Watford but packed a lot in and I found him to be a man with opinions as strong as his tackles.

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Nigel Callaghan: Enjoy the Game Interview

When I first watched Watford, the next interviewee, Nigel Callaghan was one of my favourite players. Callaghan retired from football too early for a man of his talent – and switched to his other passion, DJing.

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Steve Terry: Enjoy the Game Interview

The next interviewee, Steve Terry was another strong centre half who was not afraid to put his body on the line both in attack and defence, recognisable by the strip of bandage to protect the scar tissue on his forehead. A member of the FA Cup final team, he shared the number five shirt with Steve Sims for much of his time at the club.

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George Reilly: Enjoy the Game Interview

For nine months or so, the next interviewee George Reilly’s partnership with Maurice Johnston was one of the most feared in the First Division. It was the classic combination between a big man and a quick striker with an eye for goal and the pair were just as lively off the pitch as on it.

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John Ward: Enjoy the Game Interview

One of the longest interviews was that of John Ward. Ward’s playing days at Watford were relatively brief, but the success in the 1980s was significant because he returned as a coach and was later Graham Taylor’s assistant manager.

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Charlie Palmer: Enjoy the Game Interview

The first interview conducted by phone was with defender Charlie Palmer who broke into the team at the start of the 1983-84 season but then lost his place to David Bardsley. I had thought that Palmer would be a peripheral figure in the story but it was an honest, frank and insightful interview.

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Glyn Hodges: Enjoy the Game Interview

Another trip to the north-west meant I could schedule a couple of interviews back-to-back. First up I travelled to Manchester City’s training ground to speak to Glyn Hodges. He was fun to listen to the first person I spoke to who had not signed for Taylor and so his perspective on Bassett’s takeover was interesting.

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Steve Harrison: Enjoy the Game Interview

For the next interview it was off to Alderley Edge, to meet Steve Harrison at a little tea shop. Steve joined Watford in 1978 as a player and then later Graham Taylor offered him a role working with the club’s juniors. When Taylor left to join Aston Villa, ‘Harry’ went with him, returning to replace Dave Bassett as manager six months later. Steve was great company and spoke at length with the humour and enthusiasm I’d hoped for.

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Lee Sinnott: Enjoy the Game Interview

I met Lee Sinnott at Wooley Edge Services near Wakefield as he headed to an evening training session with his players at Bradford Park Avenue. He is one of only 12 men to have played in an FA Cup final for Watford and at 18 he was the youngest. Sinnott was quick, athletic and versatile, and many supporters will remember his prodigious long throw-in.

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Colin West: Enjoy the Game Interview

Following in the footsteps of Ross Jenkins and George Reilly must have been a daunting prospect but Colin West made an immediate impact after joining from Sunderland on transfer deadline day in March 1985. We talked about the circumstances that led to his transfer to Watford.

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Kevin Richardson: Enjoy the Game Interview

The second stop on my trip to the North East was to Hartlepool, where I met Kevin Richardson. He played just under a season for the Hornets but had played for Everton in the 1984 FA Cup final. He was also sold with indecent haste by Dave Bassett after Taylor left in 1987.

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Wilf Rostron: Enjoy the Game Interview

I wondered how the interview would go with Wilf Rostron. He wasn’t one to keep in touch with his former team-mates, it seemed. He struck me as extremely modest and not one to live in the past. He’d participated in some of the club’s most remarkable days and yet his memory of them was understated.

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Dave Bassett: Enjoy the Game Interview

Many supporters blame Dave Bassett for dismantling Graham Taylor’s team almost overnight and setting the course for relegation and ten years in the doldrums, and with good reason. But there are two sides to every story and I was keen to hear Bassett’s. He admitted his mistakes and, like anyone, tried to mitigate where he could and I found his account of his biggest mistake fascinating.

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Kenny Jackett: Enjoy the Game Interview

Kenny Jackett was the manager of Millwall and when I first contacted him in April 2009, he was in the middle of trying to steer the Lions out of League One. Because of that, he asked if we could speak on the phone and so one afternoon in early May we talked about the 1980s at Watford.

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Eric Steele: Enjoy the Game Interview

I spoke to Eric Steele at Manchester United’s training ground one afternoon in May. Steele was one of a batch of signings Graham Taylor made shortly after he’d reached the Second Division in 1979 and although he lost his place, he was there as the club rose through the divisions and had some interesting things to say.

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Ian Bolton: Enjoy the Game Interview

Graham Taylor’s second signing, Ian Bolton was one of four players (the others being Ross Jenkins, Luther Blissett and Steve Sherwood) to play for Watford in all four divisions as they rose up through the Football League. A ball-playing central defender and a key figure throughout the era, he gave one of the most vivid descriptions of what it was like to be a player in a Graham Taylor side.

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Tom Walley: Enjoy the Game Interview

The players who made a career after graduating from Tom Walley’s school of hard work cannot speak highly enough of him. As we sat and talked about football, I could see that he could be terrifying and inspiring in equal measure. It was a scattergun conversation, his north Wales accent has barely faded, and I opted to let him just talk so I could see what gems he came out with.

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Paul Franklin: Enjoy the Game Interview

FA Youth Cup winner Paul Franklin made his Football League debut in the 2-1 win against league champions Liverpool on the final day of the 1982-83 season, and had began to establish himself in the first team, only to suffer a knee injury that led to three operations in quick succession and which curtailed a very promising career.

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Gary Plumley: Enjoy the Game Interview

The story of how Gary Plumley, the son of Watford’s chief executive ended up playing in the 1987 FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham was one the most intriguing of the entire Graham Taylor era. It’s certain that playing an unknown goalkeeper did Watford no favours that day, but I headed down to his estate agency office in Newport to meet him.

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Trevor Senior: Enjoy the Game Interview

In the summer of 1987, Dave Bassett replaced Mark Falco with Trevor Senior, on paper a good signing given his goalscoring record with Reading. Senior’s goals dried up at Watford so
I was not surprised when he did not have a great deal of appetite to recall his time at Vicarage Road but I was very grateful that he spared some time to speak to me on the phone.

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Brian Talbot: Enjoy the Game Interview

An FA Cup winner with both Ipswich and Arsenal, and with England caps, Brian Talbot was clearly a midfielder with an impressive pedigree. He signed at the age of 32 on a generous contract and it was a curious decision by Graham Taylor. I met Talbot at a branch of Starbucks on a bright June day and was interested to hear what he thought about his season and a bit at Watford.

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Eddie Plumley: Enjoy the Game Interview

Part of the story I wanted to tell was how Elton John, Graham Taylor, the board of directors and staff built a club, not just a team. The ramshackle old stadium needed a lot of work and I knew that Eddie Plumley would be able to talk about what it was like building up the club and he gave me a lot of very interesting background detail that I would call on when writing the book.

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Ian Richardson: Enjoy the Game Interview

Ian Richardson may only have played a handful of games for Watford but his place in the club’s history books is assured. Richardson made his debut in the second leg of the UEFA Cup tie against Kaiserslautern in September 1983 and scored twice as the Hornets overturned the 3-1 first leg deficit.

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Gerry Armstrong: Enjoy the Game Interview

I met Gerry Armstrong at a hotel near Heathrow Airport. He had travelled over from Spain to commentate for Sky on their Spanish football. Armstrong was a great storyteller and I could see why Graham Taylor had spoken so highly of him, saying that he was the ideal squad player because even when he was not in the starting eleven he remained positive and enthusiastic.

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Pat Rice: Enjoy the Game Interview

I met Pat Rice in the café area Arsenal’s training ground in London Colney; he was still Arsene Wenger’s assistant manager at the time. A one-club man until he joined Watford, Rice was a bona fide Arsenal legend, racking up more than 400 first team appearances before joining Watford. He captained Watford to promotion and during their first season in the top flight.

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Jan Lohman: Enjoy the Game Interview

Dutch midfielder Jan Lohman joined Watford in late 1981. and played an important role in winning promotion. I called him one afternoon and learned that he ran a bar in Roosendaal and still had very fond memories of his time in Hertfordshire which was later hampered by injuries.

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Keith Pritchett: Enjoy the Game Interview

Keith Pritchett was the team’s left-back when Graham Taylor arrived in 1977 and he played all but one game in the Fourth Division title-winning season. Then he was locked in a battle with Steve Harrison, and an injury midway through the 1981-82 promotion season cost him his place to Wilf Rostron. Pritchett was working in football in New Zealand and so I planned to get up very early one morning to catch him on the phone.

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Muir Stratford: Enjoy the Game Interview

Muir Stratford was one of the directors who saw it all. He had been on the board under Jim Bonser, he saw Elton John arrive, he went on the incredible journey from the Fourth Division to the top, and then he witnessed the ill-fated recruitment of Graham Taylor’s replacement.

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John Barnes: Enjoy the Game Interview

If you saw John Barnes play you’ll be hard pushed to think of a more naturally gifted individual to wear a Watford shirt. Barnes was the one who got the crowd on the edge of their seat, or on tiptoes, whenever he got the ball. We met one Tuesday afternoon and it was an interesting chat but I felt like I was not really getting much beneath the surface.

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Paul Atkinson: Enjoy the Game Interview

Paul Atkinson came on as a second half substitute in the FA Cup Final, but never played for the first team again. A mixed Vicarage Road career that started with a transfer tribunal asking Watford to pay a higher-than-anticipated fee and a broken ankle in his first friendly game for the club. I was interested to hear the point of view of a player who had not fitted into Graham Taylor’s side.

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David Bardsley: Enjoy the Game Interview

David Bardsley played as a full-back and later a flying winger but left the club shortly after Dave Bassett took over as manager in 1987. I didn’t expect him to be enthusiastic about Bassett’s appointment but it was interesting to hear that he wasn’t keen playing on the wing either.

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Richard Jobson: Enjoy the Game Interview

Richard Jobson was the only signing Watford made the season after winning promotion to the First Division in 1982. He joined from non-league Burton Albion in the October, and went on to enjoy a long career in the game.

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Gary Porter: Enjoy the Game Interview

Only three players have made more appearances for the Hornets than Gary Porter, who first came down to Watford from the north east during the school holidays. He was one of the ones who made it and made his first team debut in late 1983.

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Ross Jenkins: Enjoy the Game Interview

Ross Jenkins is one of the four players who symbolises Watford’s rise through the divisions. He was the only one who had played for the first team when they were 92nd (bottom of the Fourth Division) under Mike Keen, and 1st (top of the First Division) six years later. He was the final Watford player I interviewed for Enjoy the Game.

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