And now you're gonna believe us...
Report by Guy Judge
Mention famous Hornets victories against Southampton
and most people will remember first that wonderful
second leg League Cup comeback in September 1980
(after extra time) to overcome a 4-0 first leg defeat
at the Dell (see BSaD report).
Unfortunately for me I wasn't at that game, although I
had a great evening listening to Radio Solent which
had regular news updates from Vicarage Road, in
between records. My recollection is of the DJ getting
more and more depressed as the evening went on, with
my excited yelps drowning out his comments along the
lines "Now we go back to Vicarage Road where I think
there is more bad news for Saints fans". "YES!".
But, as Ronnie Corbett would say, I digress. The
Southampton game that made a big impact on me was our
first away game in the old First Division at the end
of August in 1982. We had won our first home game on
the Saturday, 2-0 against Everton; a very creditable
performance but not enough to convince some people
(including a few Watford supporters) that we were not
going to struggle.
The following Tuesday we travelled to the Dell to play
a team that was far from the relegation fodder that it
has now become (Saints finished 12th out of 22 at the
end of the season). I was unusually privileged in
that, rather than standing on the terraces with my
fellow Hornets, I was invited up into the posh seats
by a friend of mine who was a season ticket holding
Saints fan. In fact he had two season tickets, one for
himself and one to use as a business freebee (yuk!).
Still, whatever I thought of that, the idea of a free
ticket appealed to me and so I took my place, hoping
that the Horns would at least put up a decent show.
I was not to be disappointed. Right from the start
the Horns attacked. This was going to be no backs to
the wall defensive performance. Just look at the team.
The two wingers, Digger & Cally (remember it was an
era when some teams didn't even have one winger) plus
Luther, Ross AND Gerry Armstrong. Ollie Phillips in
the Centenary Book described it as 4-2-4 but it seemed
more like 3-2-5 to me! Maybe Luther was playing in
midfield but it didn't stop him from attacking. We
were especially good on the break, exploiting the
space that Southampton left when they built their
Pretty soon there were murmurs of appreciation from
the Saints fans around me. They had been fed the
popular line that we were "hit and hope" long ball
merchants. But Ian Bolton's long balls were well
rehearsed long passes, not hit and hope balls. I'll
be honest with you. I can't remember much of the
detail of the performance (perhaps it had something to
do with the "business" hospitality that I was treated
to before the game and at half time). But I do
remember one key moment just after half time. The
locals expected Saints to come back after the
interval, stung by Lawrie McMenemy's comments into a
better second half performance. What happened? The
whistle had hardly gone when Nigel Callaghan surged
down the right wing on a counter-attack, a quick
accurate centre and Gerry Armstrong puts it into the back of
the net. I was up in stands holding my Watford scarf
in the air singing "And now you're gonna believe us,
the 'Orns'll win the league!"
Well, we didn't, quite. But by GT, we came a bloody
good second, with many wonderful moments to savour on
the way. 8-0 at home to Sunderland; 1-0 away at Spurs;
4-2 away at Arsenal; 1-0 away at Coventry (I had
been a student up in Coventry and they were my "other
team" so this was particularly satisfying to me); 5-2
at home to L$*?n. And last, and certainly not least,
2-1 at home to Liverpool on the final day of the
season to finish runners up behind them.
So now. Watford are back!! Can they do it again?
Well, maybe it's too much to ask. The Premiership is a
tougher place than the old Division 1, and the current
squad doesn't have the goal scoring machine that was
Luther & Ross up front. But we'll surprise a few, I
think. Jonno, Micah, Robbo and Nicky
Wright-Wright-Wright should not be underestimated. And
I think this team is better defensively than the class
Come on you 'Orns!
Historical footnote: Searching through the archives I
found the following facts that might be of interest:
"...price rises have been kept to a minimum and go up
by as little as 20p..."
(1) Cost of Daily Admission to the North Terrace (yes, they
did call the Vicarage Road end that in 1982): £2.00
(2) Season Ticket North Terrace: £48 (save 15% if
renewed before June 13th)
(3) Programme: 40p (up from 30p the year before).
(4) From the Hornet Shop: Shirts (38/40"): £9.65