Northern Ireland international Peter joined Watford from Notts County in the summer of 1997. Despite playing in a wing-back role, he finished top scorer in 1997-8 as the club gained promotion to Division One. He set up both goals in Watford’s play-off final victory over Bolton to secure a second promotion, and then scored Watford’s first ever goal in the Premier League. He left to join Wigan Athletic after the arrival of Luca Vialli in 2001.
Now retired and living back in Northern Ireland, Peter spoke to Watford Legends in 2008.
Hi Peter, thanks for talking to Watford Legends. How did your move to Watford come about?
I was at Notts County and had been there for less than a season. Sam Allardyce came in as the new manager and it became clear that I was not in his plans.
I went back home for the summer, and thought that as many people wouldn’t have seen me, that I would not get a new club. So I was ready to go back to Northern Ireland, play part-time and get a job.
In the May of 1997 Graham Taylor was at the Irish cup final to look at a left-sided player, and Gerry Armstrong said to him that he should look at me. Graham consulted with Kenny Jackett who recalled the game at Meadow Lane when Watford won 3-2, and I must have had a good game because he remembered me.
So it went from there. It gave me a massive lift at the time.
And you stayed for four years.
Yes, the first two were brilliant and the second two were a little disappointing for me. When I first went there it was fantastic – we had Graham Taylor, a few new faces, and we won the league. The second season was also great – I played every game. It was over the next couple of seasons that the injuries started to kick in, and it all became stop start for me.
When Vialli came in I knew that things had run their course.
And your highlight of your time at Watford?
I have a few highlights personally. Firstly playing in the Premier League with Watford was great. And many of the lads were grateful that he gave the team that got to the Premier League the chance to play there.
Also to have played at Wembley – unbelievable. To win the game and get promoted. Fantastic. It was a very proud day in my life, and I think about it when the kids ask me about that day.
I remember my hat-trick at Southend. That was a great day. I’ve still got the match ball that all the lads at the time signed.
And also beating Luton 4-0 at Kenilworth Road. I scored a couple myself, and I didn’t realise until after the game how much it meant to the Watford public. People still talk about it now ten years on.
It seemed a surreal game to watch. What was it like to play in?
One thing sticks in the mind. We were four nil up at half time, and the locals were getting a bit rowdy. I remember Graham Taylor telling us to go out and score more! But by half time the game was already over, and we just wanted to keep our shape and see it out, and if we scored another, then happy days.
Well in October we had the 10 year anniversary of the game.
Any excuse for a booze up!
What was your favourite goal in the yellow shirt?
There are two that I have as my favourites.
The free kick to complete my hat-trick was great. It couldn’t have been more top corner.
There was also my goal in the FA Cup against Sheffield Wednesday. We’d just gone one nil down and it was a great strike. In fact, last year Kevin Pressman was playing with me at Portadown, and I reminded him of it – he remembered!
Did you enjoy living in Watford?
I really loved it in Watford. We first lived in The Reeds near Watford Junction, and then we moved out towards Rickmansworth. My daughter Annie was born in Watford. But the football life is such that you do end up moving on.
Do you keep in touch with any of the others?
Allan Smart was with me in Portadown last year. And I keep in touch via email with Darren Bazeley and Johnno. And also Dominic Foley, our wives are quite close.
I’ve got that match ball and shirts, programmes and pictures, and most importantly my medals from Watford.
And then on to Wigan.
Yes, I had three years there. The first year was difficult because we were a new team. Then in the second year it went well and we won the league with something like 102 points. It became difficult in the third year as things had run their course.
Then Derby, then Peterborough.
Derby on loan was nice experience.
I was at Peterborough for two years and it was a shambles. I wouldn’t want to go into too much detail. But it was very unprofessional.
Are you referring to the telly programme (Big Ron Manager)?
Yes. But I’m glad that things have turned around there as there are good people in Peterborough. I was glad to see they got promoted.
How did it end for you at Peterborough?
I agreed a financial package with Barry Fry on my last year of my contract at Peterborough. By that time I was 32 and I had three kids, so we decided to come home.
What have you been up to over the last couple of years.
I’ve been playing for Portadown in the Northern Irish league, which is where I started my career. It’s been okay, we’ve been up and down. It’s a semi pro club, but I stayed professional at my time there.
I’m starting a new job in September at a chartered accountants in Belfast, where I will be a trainee accountant. I’m really looking forward to that.
I studied accountancy whilst I was at Peterborough and did an AAT certificate, so it’s a follow on from that.
I may have to give up football altogether now, as I may have to do my studying on a Saturday. I might have to hang up my boots.
Will it be a shock going to the ‘working world’?
It will be a bit of a shock to the system but I worked in a factory for six years before football, so I have that experience in my locker. I have been doing some work since January in Belfast for a few days a week.
Well good luck with that.
Thanks very much. I’d like to get back to the Vic soon though – I haven’t been back since I last played there.
You should be ashamed of yourself!
I know, it’s shocking. I’ll have to see if I can come over for a weekend. I had a fantastic time at Watford. I hope they’ll do better this year than last year.
Well thanks for talking to us. And thanks for playing for Watford.
No problem. All the best.