Striker Alan signed for the Hornets from Queens Park Rangers, making his debut in the old Fourth Division in 1974. He made over 130 appearances and scored more than 30 goals in his five year spell with the club.
He spoke to Watford Legends in 2010 while living in High Wycombe.
Hi Alan. Thanks for talking to Watford Legends. How did your move to Watford from QPR come about?
I had spent more or less five years at QPR, and had come through the ranks from being a schoolboy.
I was very close to being in the first team but ahead of me I had Terry Venables and Rodney Marsh. QPR had a very good side and there were a lot of us on the fringes who weren’t really getting a chance.
Mike Keen saw me in a reserve game when I was 20 and brought me over to Watford. So I was a bit of a late starter in terms of first team games.
And how did you settle in?
Very well initially. I scored on my debut against Port Vale and I think you quickly realise the difference between top flight football and Division Three, as it was then. There was a different mentality towards it all.
I was in and out a little bit or a couple of years but eventually I did establish myself as a regular. I had a good season alongside Keith Mercer where I scored 15 goals – so I would say it was up and down.
I guess the biggest change was when Mike Keen was replaced by Graham Taylor.
How did you find the arrival of GT?
Graham was a lot more of an authoritarian and everything was a lot more organised. We immediately felt the benefits of this and we all flourished as a team. We won the league at a canter and enjoyed a cup run.
You say it was a big change to have Graham Taylor as your manager, but how did you enjoy it.
It was enjoyable but there was always the air that he was very hardnosed. He kept you on the toes all the time but I think that was good management.
Do you have any games as a Watford player that stand out for you?
I remember scoring two goals against Crystal Palace when we were in the fourth division and they were top of the league. I remember early on under Graham Taylor we had a really good run around the Christmas time, and nowadays I can’t remember the scores, but I remember we walloped Brentford and Southend in that period. I remember that we had a crowd of about eighteen thousand for the Southend game which was a huge amount for a bottom division game.
My choice for my most special game was when we played West Ham in the FA Cup. I had my wife there who had made it to the game shortly before she had our daughter, and I just felt on a different plain that day. That was the first game where I felt convinced I was good enough to play at the higher level.
Would you regard Keith Mercer as a favourite strike partner?
Yes I think he and I were quite a formidable partnership and we both knew how to play for the club in what is known as the Watford Way.
Keith was a brave lad and got himself injured a bit, and who knows, he could maybe have gone a bit higher himself if he hadn’t been affected by injuries.
How did you get on with the Watford supporters?
I got on very well with them. I had a loan at Northampton which didn’t go down well I think, but overall it was a very good relationship.
And we understand that the loan was close to becoming a permanent deal?
Yes it was. I think Mike Keen felt that I was ‘a little bit for now and a lot for later’. So I was close to a permanent deal and to be honest, thank god it didn’t go through as my career may not have been the same.
And when the time came to leave you went to Swindon.
Graham Taylor had told me that he wanted me to stay but made it clear that I would be expected to play out wide and not up front. Luther had just come on the scene and he was seen as the answer. In fact Watford were absolutely right to make that decision as we all know what Luther has done.
So I went to Swindon where I had another good spell and scored on my debut. I would say that although I played a similar number of games for each club I was more successful for Swindon as I achieved a better goals per game ratio.
I recall when I left Watford to go to Swindon I made a twenty quid bet with Graham Taylor that I would score twenty goals in the season, and in fact I achieved that by about Christmas. So in the New Year I received a tub full of pennies from him in the post, totalling twenty pounds!
I had a good few years at Swindon before I went to Chelsea. At Chelsea I did ok, and was bought by Geoff Hurst, so it’s nice to know I was brought in by a World Cup winner. Unfortunately, at Chelsea I damaged my hip, and that was the start of the injury that would eventually finish me.
I went back to Swindon after a period with Chelsea, and scored about 20 goals in the season which was ok.
Then I went to Carlisle and then off to Blackpool with Sam Ellis before my hip finally packed up when I was 33.
You finished with football in 1987, so from then until now, what have you been up to?
I spent a bit of time at Wycombe where I did my badges, but didn’t end up with the job so I went in to a job at a company that gets involved with hosting corporate hospitality at sporting events. I have only had a couple of jobs in this industry but I am still doing it now for a company based out of Rickmansworth.
The job has taken me all over the world for such things as the Olympics and Commonwealth games. So I’ve been fortunate to work in an industry after football that is still linked to sport.
But I do still try to get down to Watford every now and then to see how they are getting on!
Good stuff. Thanks for your time Alan.
My pleasure chaps.
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