Fifty years and still counting
By Colin Lewington
In 1947 my family moved from Surrey to the new South Oxhey council estate.
When I was old enough to just see over the metal fence surrounding the
greyhound track at Vicarage Road, my father took me to my first Watford
football match. I can't remember too much about those early days other than
my father and I used to see every home game and the occasional reserve game.
But the years from 1953 to 1962 are indelibly imprinted in my mind.
Like today, Watford's fortunes were up and down. The turf at Vicarage road was
graced by such stars as Frank Mitchell, Jimmy Bowie, Jimmy Kelly, Maurice
Cook, Cliff Holton, Dennis Uphill and Tommy Harmer to name just a few.
These were also the early days of floodlit matches and I remember vividly
the Watford vs The All Stars match which Watford won 7-3. The All Stars had
Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortenson, Len Shackleton and Tom Finney in their
forward line. It was a sight to behold to see Sir Stanley weaving his magic
down the right wing towards the Rookery end of the ground.
Jimmy Bowie was a great entertainer. He only knew one direction to go and
that was into the penalty box to take a dive. Jimmy Kelly was one of the
best half backs in the game and was very quickly taken by first division
Blackpool. Maurice Cook was a big old fashioned centre forward and scored
some great goals.
When I read the match reports from the BSaD team each week it always
reminds me of the 1959/60 season when Watford enjoyed that magnificent FA
Cup run through to the Fifth Round whilst they were still in the Fourth
The group of lads I used to hang out with were all football mad. We had our
own team in the old Watford & Districts Sunday League. We always lost but
we used to have a great time playing our hearts out and retiring to the old
"Kings Head" near Watford High Street station for a few beers afterwards.
Anyway Watford received a dream draw for the Third Round at home to First
Division Birmingham City. Vicarage Road was packed with about 31,000 fans.
In fact the Arsenal crowd packers were hired to get everyone into the ground.
The first half started at a frantic pace with both sides going close to
scoring. But after about twenty minutes a good cross came in from the right
wing, Cliff Holton headed down to the far post and little Dennis Uphill
smashed the ball home from close range. Unfortunately Birmingham City
equalised just before half time with a simple goal. The second half started
with Cliff Holton taking charge of the game and in about the seventieth minute he
received a ball about waist high just inside the box and in one flowing
movement of shielding the ball and pivoting he hit a magnificent drive into
the far corner of the net. The crowd went wild even though it was starting
to snow quite heavily.
Round Four was off to Southampton who were then the
leaders of the Third Division. Watford played like they did against
Birmingham and within fifteen minutes Holton had put Watford into the lead.
Southampton equalised about twenty minutes later and the teams went to half
time on level terms. During the half time break one of my mates was showing
of his skills with his rattle when the top flew off and hit some poor
Southampton supporter on the head. The ground was so full he didn't
discover where it had come from. The second half started and almost
immediately Cliff Holton whacked in Watford's second goal. We all thought
we were going through to the Fifth Round when Southampton again equalised.
So it ended up 2-2 and a replay at the Vic.
The replay was played in pouring rain and the Southampton winger (I think
it was Mike Summerbee before he moved to Manchester City) really gave us
the run around but Watford survived and late in the second half someone (I
can't remember who) scored the winner.
The Fifth Round sent us to Brammall Lane to face the Second Division
leaders Sheffield United. Watford dominated the first half and Cliff Holton
put us 2-1 up by half time. In the middle of the second half Sammy Chung
was crippled and Watford were left with ten men.
Holton moved back to centre half and Watford tried to survive but
unfortunately in the last fifteen minutes Sheffield scored twice to knock
During this memorable season we were able to con my mate's Dad (he had a
Bedford van) to take us to the away matches. Remember this was before the
days of the motorways and it took us six hours to get to Sheffield but just
like the BSaD guys we had some great fun on the trips.
Unfortunately, I was not able to experience the heady days of the first
Graham Taylor era as in 1962 I emigrated to Australia. Even though, I have
spent the last thirty-five years keenly watching for every Watford result in the
newspapers or on BBC World Service radio.
And now we are even more blessed with the BSaD team on the Internet. This
is a great media for exiled Watford supporters like me.
I am now an expatriate living in Singapore and I log into BSaD every night
(when I'm not travelling). My father, who now lives in Australia and is 82, is also
still keenly interested in how the Hornets are going -
I print out the BSaD match reports and send them to him every month.