Glenn first joined the club in 1989 and became club captain. He made 78 appearances over a three year period. He then rejoined the club as manager in 1993 replacing Steve Perryman. He was sacked in February 1996.
Glenn spoke to Watford Legends while working with Gerard Houllier at Aston Villa in 2011. He sadly passed away following a long battle with illness in February 2021.
I’d had a fantastic six years in Newcastle and I had genuinely loved it and felt really settled there and I still do have a love for the north east, however I was 33 and I felt it was time for me to head back down to the London area, or Essex to be more precise, to spend some more time with my family. I spoke with Steve Harrison and also had a good chat with Tom Walley who is very well known to Watford people of course and they took up the option of signing me on a free transfer.
This was at the very beginning of the Bosman thing happening which at the time the criteria was you had to be 33 and have given a club five years’ service and by then I had already given Newcastle six years’ service.
Newcastle fans are renowned for their passion of the game, was it a bit of a culture shock coming to Watford where it was maybe a bit more sedate?
Each club has a hard-core of supporters that is as devoted to their club as the hard-core support of other clubs are. Newcastle are famous and rightly so for their supporters. It’s more to do with the support and the size of the crowds they get that make them such a well-known club probably more than they are known for their football. They haven’t won a domestic trophy since the year I was born which was 1955. They won an Intercity Fairs cup in the late sixties though! We also won the Intertoto Cup when I was manager there but I don’t think anyone takes much notice of that one!
We did ok after we won that and got through to the group stages of the UEFA cup after winning our group, and we only went out when we lost to Louis Van Gaal’s AZ Alkmaar. Going back to your question, Watford may not get the same numbers that Newcastle get but the hard-core of supporters are no less passionate that their counterparts. Every club has a hard-core it’s just in varying degrees of numbers. You mustn’t dismiss Watford fans as not having desire or passion or wanting to see their club achieve. I was there for the Preston game recently and the Watford fans certainly let it be known they weren’t happy when they were two down but then equally they were giving great support as the players looked to try and get that winner in the last ten minutes.
Newcastle fans have sometimes been accused of being impatient in waiting for success; did you feel you were given more breathing space at Watford to settle in?
I got on very well with everyone straight away I was made to feel welcome by everyone from the manager, the coaching staff and all the other people at the club and of course the players. The fans were somewhat still living off what Graham Taylor had achieved. What Graham achieved was and still is one of the phenomenon’s of British football. There hasn’t been too many managers that have had success to the extent of taking a club from the fourth division right the way through to the Premiership and then not just that but nearly winning it with players that were in the main home-grown and had a real affinity with the club.
That was a special time for Watford supporters and it has taken many, many years and several managerial appointments for any manager to try and emulate that. I did feel very privileged when I got a phone call recently from Oli Phillips and he told me that the second season under my management was the closest he had come to enjoying a season as much as he had during that special time under Graham. That was high praise from Oli which was nice to be given as during that second season we did play some good football on a limited budget.
When I first turned up as a player the club was trying to get back into the Premiership but that was hard to do as the best players had left. The likes of John Barnes don’t come through every couple of years; they are once in a lifetime players. John Barnes actually went to QPR in that close season and was told to come back when the season started as he had shown promise but in the meantime Watford picked him up. QPR’s massive loss was Watford’s massive gain as we all know now. John was obviously a world class footballer, absolutely brilliant.
When you were playing for Watford who was your regular centre half partner?
I certainly played with David Holdsworth and Barry Ashby, I played a bit with Keith Dublin. Jamo was in goal, Gibbsy was at right back and Gary Porter was in midfield – you’re testing my memory now boys!
What was in like playing in front of the young David James?
With the way he played he was often in front of me! All jokes aside though he was outstanding, absolutely outstanding. The first thing you noticed was that he absolutely had the physical presence. At 17 or 18 he had the body of a man who was in his late twenties. He had all the attributes he needed to go on and be a top class goalkeeper.
No surprise to you then to see he has gone on to have a decent career mainly in the top flight?
No definitely not. I don’t like to use the term ‘great’ as it is used too easily now but he has certainly been one of the top keepers in the game and has earned the right to be considered one of the greats. Because of how he is he is always striving for perfection so when you speak to him he will probably tell you he could have done even better.
You moved whilst still in your playing days from Watford to Leyton Orient – what made you leave the club?
Well at the time I was thinking ahead and knew that I wanted to be a manager in the game. I had the opportunity to go to Italy with Paul Gascoigne when he went to Lazio. Paul was single and didn’t have kids so the plan was that he was going to live with me and my family and that was a great opportunity for me to experience a different culture and get a huge education of Italian football. That was all agreed but certain events happened that we don’t need to go into and I changed my mind about going.
That meant that at the beginning of the season I wasn’t in Rome as I expected – though I had spent a very enjoyable ten days there with Paul – and I was in a position where I needed to look for a club. I went back to Orient and played a few games there whilst I looked for an opportunity to become a player manager in the third or fourth division and that opportunity came for me at Gillingham.
When you became manager of Watford there was some talk that Watford had tapped you up whilst you were still at Gillingham.
Watford were found guilty of tapping me up and it cost the club £40,000. However my reputation in football and as a person I think is very good and I want to keep it that way so I will tell you now completely and utterly truthfully – Watford never tapped me up. They never made any contact with me. It’s that far in the past now it is not worth getting political with but I was involved all the way through and I can tell you now hand on heart – Watford never tapped me up.
What made you make the move from Gillingham to Watford?
It was a step up two divisions. I was as ambitious then as I am now. Nobody would turn down the opportunity to manage at two levels higher. I had done the job I was asked to do at Gillingham. I had taken over in early November and they were cut adrift at the bottom of the league and staring the conference full in the face. My remit was simply to do everything I could to keep them a football league club and that was my target.
I achieved my target and because of that the supporters were very pleased with the job I did. I suppose it’s a back handed compliment that they were upset with me leaving after doing a good job for them. It doesn’t matter what job you do, 99% of people would move if they were given the opportunity to do their job at a much higher level – that is natural ambition.
After Graham Taylor there were a few wilderness years at Watford with various different managers coming and going before you got to the club. How did you find it when you arrived?
When Sir Alex finally leaves Manchester United or when Arsene Wenger leaves Arsenal, whoever takes over from them will have a job three times harder than that job would normally be. It was the same for the managers that followed on from Graham Taylor because he had done so brilliantly well. It makes me laugh when a manager leaves a club and claims to have left a legacy after only two or three years at the club – you cannot leave a legacy at a club after two or three years. Graham Taylor spent nine or ten years at Watford and he left a legacy, no doubt about it.
Graham Taylor was so synonymous with Watford that you may as well have said Graham Taylor rather than Watford back then! Nobody is ever bigger than a club though at any level. When we all go home at the end of the day the club is still there and going strong but sometimes you do have instances where the club and a manager just go hand in hand with each other and that is how it was with Watford and Graham. I think it is harsh to criticise any manager that followed Graham as they had a nigh on impossible job.
Did you find that was the case for you as well?
I feel that I was probably the first manager to come in that was long enough after the Graham Taylor era that I was starting afresh. My first season was really a continuation of what Steve Perryman had endured as it was a bit of a struggle at first to stay up. The second season was great though. At that time Graham was manager of Wolves and I think he had spent £5 million on his two strikers which was a hell of a lot of money. I had spent £15,000 on our two strikers; £5,000 on Peter Beadle and £10,000 on Kevin Phillips. We beat Wolves at home on the Tuesday night in a game that was delayed as their fans had been held up. We won 2-1 under the lights and that was a great win for us.
Unfortunately we didn’t have the depth to really build on that the following season and the inevitable happened. Your best players get injured, your worst players and the ones you don’t want to put in the team are never injured. Andy Hessenthaler was out for half the season with a calf injury picked up in training, Gibbsy was never fit and Kevin Phillips was often injured. Our starting eleven was good as we proved the previous season but we just didn’t have the depth to handle the level of injuries we were getting.
Out of your three years at Watford who would you say was the best player you had under your command?
I think it would have to be Kevin Phillips because I will never spend £10,000 so wisely again – no manager will.
Was Kevin Phillips just a punt that came off?
With all respect to Baldock Town, I was never going to go and watch them play on the off chance. I had scouts who would be looking about but it was actually a famous player from the Graham Taylor era who brought him to my attention – Nigel Callaghan.
Cally had retired but he trained with us once or twice a week for fitness. His fitness had gone but he could still deliver a ball and he was a good bloke to have around the place as well so we were happy for him to come in with us. After one training session just after Christmas Cally pulled me to one side and explained that he also trained at Baldock Town a few times a week and that there was this fantastic lad called Kevin Phillips who played for them and that I should have a look.
I went the following week. I was stood at Baldock Town behind the goal, on my own, absolutely freezing and there was no team sheet or programmes or anything so I didn’t know who he was. I was watching two or three players warming the keeper up and I just knew that he was one of them in particular. You could tell his quality by how he struck a ball so cleanly and sweetly. Just before the game they announced the teams on the tannoy and he was the one I thought he was.
It was so cold I went home at half time but I had seen enough. I knew I needed to get on the phone the next day and get him into the club for a two week trial. Obviously Baldock agreed as they wanted to help the lad and also make a few quid for themselves. Kevin came in and the two reserve games we had he was playing with Paul Furlong who was coming back from injury. He didn’t score in either game but from training with the first team and what the other first team players thought of him you knew he had a very good chance of being a very good first team player. You know if the other players like him because they will give him the ball and trust him with it.
Did he maybe have a different type of enthusiasm by taking the route into football he did?
I think he knew deep down he would get another shot at football but he is a wonderful human being. I speak to him probably only twice a year or so but our paths have crossed many times over the years and he is always the same great man with the same amount of humility as he was when he first came through the door for that trial period. That is nice to see as you don’t always get people that stay the same like he has when they become as famous and successful as he did.
Are there any games that stand out in your mind?
Probably the Bolton game where we won 4-3 having been 3-0 down. Gary Porter got a hat-trick finished with a penalty. Gary is a lovely guy and another that has stayed very humble despite having a very good career in football. Myself and Gary were at the Preston game recently and we were discussing that Bolton game as the Preston manager, Phil Brown, was playing for Bolton that day. Vicarage Road isn’t a very lucky ground for him! I also remember Bruce Rioch not shaking hands with me. Nobody is a good loser but win, lose or draw you should remain grounded but the offer of my hand wasn’t taken as I think he was so embarrassed and ashamed at what had happened. I didn’t hold it against him though and I never would do.
You spent three years as a manager at Watford which in today’s terms is a good innings – do you mind us asking how it ended?
We obviously lost one game too many and the straw that broke the camels back was Crystal Palace. I never like to criticise managers because I have been in the arena and had my nose bloodied. Everyone has an opinion sitting up in the stands but they are not the ones that have to make the decisions. I remember Mourinho once saying that there were plenty of managers better than him in the stands but none better than him in the dugout. I think the point he was making is that everyone in the stands will have an opinion but there is no pressure and it doesn’t matter if they are wrong or right but doing it in the dugout is very different as it is your living.
When things aren’t going well managers will normally make decisions that they wouldn’t make if things were going well. Also sometimes managers are forced to bring players to clubs that they normally wouldn’t bring in if they had money to spend so the opinion that it is better to have somebody than nobody even if you wouldn’t sign them normally and those signings never work out. I have a few examples of those that I won’t name as that is unfair on individuals and I don’t want or need to do that.
Are you referring to Kerry Dixon and Mickey Quinn?
I’m not referring to anyone; you’ll have to make your own minds up on that. We were bringing players in that were costing us nothing just to get bodies in the door. I will always remember that game against Wolves with their frontline costing £5 million and ours costing £15,000 and we won so you don’t always need to spend big money to get results, but you do need the right players.
I remember Graeme Souness had it before me at Newcastle. I have a great deal of time for Graeme and he is a good man. When he talks about football on the television you should listen to him because he is always right. He was in the same situation that I have been in and hundreds of other managers have been in.
To use an analogy, you have a hook in your back. No matter how much you wriggle you simply cannot get off the hook and nothing goes right for you. The more you fight, battle and struggle to turn thing around for your football club it just doesn’t happen. When that happens it becomes difficult for the fans to stick with you and stay on your side and then when that happens it becomes very easy for the chairman of the club to let you go. When that happens you just have to take it on the chin. I don’t believe in failure but I believe in not getting the right results. In boxing terms you may get knocked to the canvas but that isn’t failure; failure is when you know you can get back to your feet but you choose to lay there and take the count out – that is when you have failed. You must always keep getting back up and swinging punches and hope that you land a good one and knock your opponent clean out like Rocky did.
So to go back to your question, after a terrific second year we should have then been adding to what we had and aiming for promotion but we stayed with what we had. That was fine to a point but you know you will not get through 46 games without any injuries. I can still clearly remember Andy Hessenthaler getting injured now. We were doing a warm up in training and he was off balance and his calf muscle tore. Andy was inspirational at that level both on the pitch and in the changing rooms. We could also never get Nigel Gibbs fit. He was a marvellous right back, in fact a marvellous player and human being so I am delighted he is doing so well at Reading now.
I need to be careful though as I don’t want this to start sounding like I am moaning or making excuses. I haven’t spent my life worrying about it! What I am saying is that I accepted what had happened to me and accepted the situation, but it wasn’t through a lack of fighting and trying as hard as I could to turn it around in very difficult circumstances.
We mentioned Kerry Dixon before – did you realise at the time the reaction it would cause due to his connections with them lot?
Lads at the beginning of this you said it was a light-hearted look back and nothing political but that is touching on being political. If you answer your question then you will probably have the right answer.
The reason we ask is that a few players have said to us that they didn’t realise just how fierce the rivalry was between us and L*t*n and so wondered if that was considered at all.
If he had come in and scored a couple of hat-tricks it would have been fine. If a player goes from say Sunderland to Newcastle and does well then it is not controversial, but if he doesn’t do well then it is a bloody disaster. When Mo Johnston had been a Celtic player and then became a Rangers player it caused uproar but it was then ok because he scored loads of goals for Rangers. If Luka Modric signed for Arsenal tomorrow from Spurs what do you think the reaction would be?
There would certainly be controversy the same as there was with the Sol Campbell transfer.
Yes but the Arsenal fans would also very quickly forget his background and just realise what a very good player he is. It is terribly small minded for some people to decide that if a certain player has played for a particular club then he isn’t very good. That would be incredibly small minded and blinkered. People need to be bigger than that but we all choose to live our lives how we want to live them. Like I said a minute ago, I did things I wouldn’t normally do but you can’t start a game with only ten men.
You are currently working for Aston Villa – what is your role?
I work with Gerard Houllier and my two areas are recruitment and assessment of teams. I enjoy it. I’ve seen all but two of the Premiership teams this season, I went to Holland last week to see them play Austria and I have two Premiership games most weekends. I love football. That answers it for me – I love football. From the time of retiring from management I think I have done every job there is to do in the background. I have always been involved in behind the scenes stuff anyway because as a manager I made sure I would never ask anyone to do something that I had never done myself including cleaning balls ready for training. I know the roles and I know the pecking order, I am still ambitious and want to better myself even now.
If we were to call you in a couple of year’s time what would you like to say you were doing?
I’m not bothered about being the manager but I would like to have a full time role in the Premiership as that is the place to work.
Do you prefer the type of role you’ve got now or would you rather be involved with the coaching?
I don’t mind – I love all of it to be honest. The whole industry is consuming. I feel like a young 55 year old because I love what I do so much. There are only four English managers who have coached two separate Premiership clubs and lead them to seventh or better – can you name them? I did it at West Ham and Newcastle.
Is Redknapp one?
Yes Harry is one. Gerry Francis is another, and I am told Roy Hodgson has done it but I need to check that one. That is quite a good bracket to be in but not many people seem to acknowledge my achievements as a manager.
Without wishing to pry too much as it is a personal issue, would you mind us asking how your health is?
I still have to have a scan every year which is just good housekeeping really. I had my last one a few weeks ago and everything is in order so I won’t be back for a year now all being well, but thank you for asking – I appreciate it.
Thanks for your time Glenn, good luck for the future.
Thanks lads, I enjoyed that.
Quick Fire Round
|Favourite Ground (apart from the Vic)|
|St James Park|
|Dalglish and Rush as a pair|
|Best Ever Player|
|Team supported as a boy|
|I didn't have one team as I loved playing the game too much. West Ham were my local team though.
|70s and 80s|
|Favourite Holiday Destination|
|Favourite TV Show|
|Match of the Day|
|Any that are low fat!|
|Desert Island Woman|
|My daughter Holly - she is great company|