Division 1 Playoff Final, 31/5/99
Team: Chamberlain, Bazeley, Kennedy, Page, Palmer, Robinson, Ngonge, Hyde, Mooney, Johnson, Wright
Subs: Hazan (for Wright), Day, Smart (for Ngonge)
Scorers: Wright (38), Smart (89)
Bolton Wanderers 0(0)
Twenty years, and worth the wait
Report by Matt Bateson
For me the turning point was quite obviously the Bury game...
...at Vicarage Road on the 29th January 1979. This was the day that my childhood dreams, my goal scoring exploits in the garden and my proud devotions at school (in the face of all those Spurs and Arsenal "fans") became entwined with Luther Blissett, Ross Jenkins and a third division club called Watford managed by a young chap called Graham Taylor.
It was only years later that my Dad told me how, having no southern loyalties due to a northern childhood, he made the decision on that fateful Saturday to take me the seven miles north to Watford and not south to the glamour of Loftus Road. Thank you for that.
In a way I feel that the intervening twenty years have led, at least emotionally, to Wembley on 31st May 1999. It's sometimes hard to show one's emotions openly when you are in your formative teenage years. Wembley in 1984 was a great day yet it passed me by in a surreal 'I can't believe it ever happened' sort of a way. I felt more emotion after our fate and relegation was sealed in 1996 against Leicester - maybe this had something to do with the return of GT, Luther and Kenny and the end to my own wilderness years of support where I struggled to find anything or, more importantly, anyone with whom to associate.
I'm sure everyone feels that their club has a unique atmosphere, but from reading the thoughts of others of a similar vintage (!), this club is defined by GT and Elton John and commands a passion in the fans. To see that passion reflected on Wembley's turf, to turn to my Dad twenty years later as Smartie's goal went in, allowed me to show emotions that were missing in '84.
If I'd been told back in 1979 that a young manager was creating a brand of football that would simultaneously bring "better" clubs to their knees and cries of derision from opponents and pundits I would not have cared. I was a six year old and I was hooked. And I still am. Those tears and feelings of pride were of course the reaction to the heroes of '99, but they were also a reflection of a pride in the heritage and the unique atmosphere that Watford has - from the players of '79, the Jenkins, the Boltons and the Trains, to the '99 models of Mooney, Palmer and Johnson. United "fans" can have their Champion's League, as long as we have days like the 31st of May then I feel that we are the richer.
And the result twenty years ago - the perfect introduction to a rollercoaster ride, Watford 3 Bury 3.