Striker Ronny signed on a free transfer from Tottenham Hotspur early in the 1997-8 season and played an important role in winning the Division Two championship including winning the Goal of the Season accolade. His second season saw less involvement due to injury as the team gained another promotion to the Premier League.
Now working as a football consultant, Ronny spoke to Watford Legends in 2012.
Thanks for talking to us Ronny. How did your move from Spurs to Watford come about?
How it happened was that my contract had finished at Tottenham and I got a phone call one day from a friend of mine. He was an Israeli guy who lived in London and he was friends with one of the people who was heading the consortium who had bought Watford, the consortium was headed by an Indian guy but I can’t remember his name.
Anyway, Brian Anderson was the man that my friend was friends with and then they employed Graham Taylor as manager. My friend knew that I wanted to stay in London and so put my name forward to Brian Anderson. Brian then spoke with Graham about the possibility of signing me and then things went very fast! I arrived at the stadium to meet up with Graham to discuss the move. Once I got there Graham suggested we go and have a stroll on the pitch and talk there. We went down to the pitch and Graham said to me “In 1990 when you came to England and signed for Liverpool, I was the manager of Aston Villa and we were going to win the league but you killed me off!”. It was said in a nice way just looking back, but basically he told me I had ruined his plans for that season! He also said it was the reason he wanted me at Watford so I could play for him and not against him!
We then got down to business and he told me that he thought I could do well at Watford and explained they had a very young squad at the time and players that would run all day long, but he needed a bit of experience in the team. That is how it all came about.
Were there any other clubs that tried to sign you before you signed on the dotted line?
Yes I had a few offers from abroad as well as a couple of clubs in England but they were up north. Derby were one club that tried to get me and they were in the Premier League at the time. In some ways it was difficult for me because signing for Watford meant dropping two divisions and playing in the equivalent of League One today. Any player ideally wants to play at the highest level possible so dropping two levels isn’t easy. But everything else fitted as I didn’t have to move home and Watford gave me the same deal that I was on at Spurs. If you put those two things together alongside the project of Watford it made sense.
The problem for me was more of a mental issue, certainly for the first two or three weeks. When you have been playing at the top level and you drop two levels and are playing with very young players, as well as coming up against players who just aren’t as good as what you are playing against it can be frustrating. But in saying that I also knew that these players weren’t doing it on purpose. They are good, honest boys who want to work. But I got used to it and after that it was all perfect. I missed parts of the season through injury but I like to think my contribution was still helpful as when I was playing I was almost like Graham Taylors assistant on the pitch.
Just to clarify, Ronny, did you say Watford gave you exactly the same contract as you were on whilst at Tottenham?
Yes. It was a new consortium remember and Graham had said to the board that he wanted one player who had played at the top level. He wanted a big signing and was happy to do that instead of signing maybe another three players who were at that level already. The new consortium was keen to back Graham and there was money to spend. Even when I got injured later in the season I was able to talk with the players and help the players and try to help them improve.
You had been used to playing at the very top level both here and abroad as well as European football. Did coming to Watford therefore feel like more of a fun project as opposed to serious business?
I was nearly 34 when I signed for Watford at the end of August, or maybe it was the beginning of September. I signed for three years and they were happy to give me that length as I had been fine with injuries up until then. The only problem was at that age if you have something like keyhole surgery then it will take longer to recover and then also longer to regain fitness.
In the first season I played quite a few games but in the second season I didn’t play as much as I done the same knee again but I still helped out with coaching and training, so in answer it was a fun project but it was one we took seriously and helped out any way I could.
How did you find playing at Luton when we won 4-0?
I got used to playing against players of that level, it was ok. The physique of the players was the same; it was more to do with the technical understanding of the game. It’s not easy mentally but you get used to it. I know it was an important game for Watford but I just took it as another game to go out and win. We were focused on winning promotion and to do that we had to win games – whoever we were playing.
When I signed I said that I wanted a bonus built into my contract for if we got promoted. Graham said that was absolutely fine and it was agreed without any issue. I then told him I wanted a bonus built in for when got promoted to the Premier League and he looked at me very surprised to say the least! We were in Division One and two below the Premiership so I don’t think he was expecting to hear that from me as the top level seemed a long way off. He said that he agreed to it; we had discussed one promotion but I don’t think the club was planning on the second at that point! It showed I was serious and so when I played for Watford I gave everything to win. I knew what the Premiership was like so I wanted to get back there.
We must ask you about your wonder goal against Blackpool. Would you consider that one of the best you have scored?
Yes, it is certainly one of the best – but not the best! I enjoyed that game and it was a good goal to score.
The editor of the Watford fanzine told me recently that you had been seen in an Italian restaurant in London at 3am on the morning of that game enjoying a brandy and a cigar. If you can do that and still score a goal like that then it is quite impressive! Is that story true?
Erm…I don’t remember this!
Good answer! When the time came to move on from Watford, what was it that provoked that decision?
I had initially signed for three seasons but I was injured for a lot of the second season and to be honest when you are a player, you cannot think about the moment when you stop playing football. I was beginning to come round to that way of thinking though. On the Friday before the play off final game against Bolton we had a training session. I can’t remember where it was but I remember it wasn’t at the training ground. I was back training and my knee was feeling good, I was with the squad but I knew I wasn’t going to be involved in the game. I did hope to be on the bench but it was never really going to happen as I had been out for most of the season. Anyway, we were at training and at the time Tommy Smith was just a very young pro who was starting to come through. He was a quick player so I decided to challenge him to a race in training! I was a quick player and I decided to test myself. Tommy agreed and so we had a race over about 80 metres or so. By the finish line he was about two or three yards ahead of me. That was the time I decided to pack it in! My pace was my best quality and that was beginning to go which was no surprise as I was nearly 36 by that point.
I still had a year left on my contract and most players wouldn’t think of quitting when they still had a year left but I was beginning to wonder what I would do next in my career, whether it was management, coaching or something else. What really triggered my decision though was that my injury was beginning to affect my concentration, it was beginning to show and so Graham pulled me to one side and we had a chat. He suggested it was best if we go our separate ways. Graham helped me make the decision and his assurances about what I thought made me realise that he was absolutely right. I didn’t want to play on at a lower level so I knew it was my time to stop. I agreed a deal with Watford and finished there.
And what is your day job now?
I am a football consultant. I advise a lot of clubs on different transfers of players. I’m not an agent though! An agent is someone that does management for players on an individual basis and people that do that don’t necessarily need to have an understanding of the game.
Your son is in the Watford academy, is he as good as his old man?
Ha! He is enjoying himself. He’s been there since the age of ten and he’s doing fine. He is a midfielder and I get to watch nearly every game he plays and I think he has a good chance of making it. He is 6’1” already at 15 years of age so he’s a big lad!
Has he got your pace?
No, not yet! He had serious problems in that he grew a lot in quite a short space of time. Two years ago he was the same of the rest of the lads he plays with but then he had a growth spurt and when you grow quite quickly like that then you can lose some agility. The body is growing but the muscles aren’t always following but now he seems to be growing into himself and he does seem to be gaining some speed. I think he will be a quick player.
Well let’s hope we see the Rosenthal name on the back of a Watford shirt again soon.
I hope so, thanks guys.
Quick Fire Round
|Favourite Ground (apart from the Vic)|
|White Hart Lane|
|Best Ever Player|
|Team you supported as a boy|
|Favourite Holiday Destination|
|Favourite TV Show|
|Anything football related|
|I don't watch films|
|Never happier than when|
|I'm having dinner with my wife on holiday|
|Desert Island Woman|
|It has to be my wife...sorry!|