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Watford - The Phantom Menace
By Matt Bunner
Way back in the 70s when George Lucas released his first Star Wars movie, most were baffled by the secondary title "Episode IV - A New Hope". What do you mean, Episode IV? What's happened to I, II and III? Did we miss them? Good Ole George knew what the score was; one day he would come back and make them to complete the story. He'd tell us how the Empire came about, he'd tell us how Annekin was discovered and will eventually tell us how him turned to the Dark Side and how Skywalker and Leia came to be.

This year, "The Phantom Menace" was released, starting the long trail to bridge the three film gap to Star Wars IV, rekindling the Dark Side versus Good Side feeling throughout the land. At the moment, apart from George Lucas, no-one has a clue what will happen in the next two films, even though we can make a pretty good guess.

In the 70s, a young manager was recruited by Watford to lead them to great things. His name was not Luke, but Graham, but this Jedi Manager certainly had an immense presence about him - "the Force is strong with one" to quote Master Yoda, Elton John. He went about his business with precision and minimal fuss, occasionally hurdling the odd obstacle thrown in his way. He learnt the ways of the football Force; he would not succumb to the Dark Side of football - he believed in his principles and stuck to them, no matter what. Within a few years, he took Watford to the summit of football - Div One. A New Hope was complete.

People tried to slay him with their pen sabres, but they could not lay a finger on this fine young Master - accusations of destroying the beautiful game that is football bounced squarely off his broad shoulders. You could almost sense that he was using his Force to convey to the world that he must be judged by results and not how he achieved them. The Dark Side responded that you'll be struck down in world of Division One. Twelve months later, GT had been given an education by the Dark Side - Watford had ONLY finished second to the those God-like figures from Anfield. Still the Dark Side attempted to shoot our brave Jedi down....except that the Empire could not Strike Back as the Jedi were too strong. The team went from strength to strength, appearing in European ties, appearing in FA Cup Finals.....all this from a team that was Div 4 material less than a few years before? Our Jedi took it in his stride and was appearing to hit the summit when the Empire played a master stroke....

Taylor left for Aston Villa, believing that he'd taken Watford as far as he could. He worked a bit of magic there taking Villa back to the summit of England's football league. His effort of succeeded in the top flight wrangled the Empire so they offered him the poisoned chalice, the spiked apple, the Kryptonite of British football - the England manager's job. The Empire had had its revenge.

Despite have a record that was easily as good as most England managers, past and present, he was fatally remembered for three matches: England v Sweden, taking off Gary "Flucking" Lineker with 20 mins to go (even though GL was to retire very soon after with a dodgy toe); England v Norway, where his trust in the Force was not shared by his players resulting in a loss; and the loss in a friendly to the USA (who have beaten most nations, Germany?!?). Our Master Jedi was in turmoil. His home was assaulted by the Press Stormtroopers, his light sabre was replaced by a turnip, his power was diminished. Our Master resigned.

GT turned up later at Wolves were he rediscovered some touch. In his first season at Wolves he took them to a play-off, but three or so months into the new campaign, an arm of the Empire decided that this was not good enough, so Master Taylor jumped into the escape pod and resigned.

.....Meanwhile in a division far, far away from the Premiership, Watford were battling with Ewok managers such as Perryman, Lee, Roeder, Bassett. The locals weren't happy. The Ewoks came and went and then a familiar face returned to the manager chair - Jackett. The locals raised an eyebrow. Could this be the start of something again? Maybe a jump into hyperspace all the way up to the Premier League? No, not really. Even when Master Taylor returned as General Manager, swearing never to don a tracksuit again (hah!), the results were still not happening.

Yoda then announced his presence back on the board. Taylor swiftly announced his return to management with Hans Blissett and Luke Jackett by his side. The Empire bolted upright and took notice. The Press Stormtroopers announced the Golden Ticket was back. The Return of the Jedi was in motion.

A fine title win in Div 2 got the tongues wagging, but all swiftly predicted a return to the division from whence we came because "You 'aven't spent any money". They forgot that this Watford Millennium Falcon was right slap bang in the middle of Hyperspace and no amount of laser pen fire was gonna de-rail it. Just as the Empire thought we'd run out of petrol, a spy for the Dark Side (the Tranmere ref) decided that he would befriend our Master and give him the shot in the arm that we all wanted. We fought like Jedi Knights, slashing our way through B'Ham, Crewe, Port Vale, Grimsby, et al all the way to the Death Star, Wembley. At the home of the Empire we were ridiculed by most penTroopers saying it would be a travesty if Watford to rise to the Premiership....but on the other cheek, they'd say we'd only go straight back down because, wait for it......"You 'aven't spent any money". A couple of deft hits into the port hole of the Death Star from Wright and Smart consigned the Empire's fate for that season.

Master Taylor is now back in his right place at the top of England's football. He's back to ruffling the feathers of the elite. Witness Saturday's destruction of Liverpool.

The Phantom Menace, that is our GT, is now showing at grounds around the country this season. Can't wait to see what completes the story

See Part II.