Richard Jobson's Big Moment
Geoff Wicken on one player's part in a very special night
I had a chance encounter earlier this year with a man who set up one of the most memorable Watford goals I’ve ever witnessed. I was on Watford Treasury business, in that I’d gone to interview Steve Palmer for a feature that will appear in Volume 6 of the magazine. Steve now works for the Premier League, and had kindly invited me to visit its new offices in Paddington. While waiting in reception, I recognised Richard Jobson among the other visitors. I said hello and we spoke for a while: he works in a senior role for the PFA and was there for a meeting.
The bare facts are that Richard Jobson played 40 matches for Watford. 38 of these were between 1982 and 1984; two more came when he returned briefly on loan 16 years later. His was an unusual playing career. He curtailed the second year of his degree course at Nottingham University in order to sign for Watford in 1982, then played professionally in the Football League for over 20 years, finally retiring in 2003 on his 40th birthday.
I had just graduated myself in 1982, which made me interested in his background. What’s more, someone I knew had played in the university team at Nottingham with him. In parallel he was also playing non-League for Burton Albion – then managed by Neil Warnock, who combined that role with running his practice as a chiropodist (ingrowing toenails a speciality, apparently).
The majority of his appearances for Watford were in midfield, where he always looked promising in an elegant, long-legged way. Graham Taylor then switched him to centre-back, the position in which he would excel for so long. But with so many inexperienced defenders in the side in late 1984, and the team shipping goals, Graham decided to sign John McClelland – not exactly a bad call. Jobson moved on to Hull, Oldham, Leeds and, at 36, played a starring role in Manchester City’s 1999/2000 promotion season. He finished off at Tranmere and Rochdale for an impressive total of over 600 professional games. Fewer than 10% of those were with Watford, but they included the 1983/84 FA Cup semi-final, and in every game in the UEFA Cup run earlier that season. And in one of those he set up a moment for the ages.
There were many wonderful Vicarage Road nights in that first GT era – against Hull, Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Wrexham and others. Each had its own individual flavour, but to my mind the UEFA Cup victory over Kaiserslautern might have been the best of them all. The years since 1977 had been extraordinary, but this was Watford, our wonderful Watford, playing European football at Vicarage Road. European football! The atmosphere crackled all night long. We were forced to field a bunch of kids; they had a guy who’d played in the 1982 World Cup Final. And we put them to the sword.
We’d scored the two early goals to draw level on aggregate, by which point atmosphere was a heady mixture of delirium and disbelief. But we wanted another to tie things up. Mid-way through the second half, the moment came. Jobson picked the ball up in the centre-circle, powered over to the right wing with it, and hooked over a well-placed cross. Ian Richardson, at full stretch, managed to divert the ball over the goalkeeper, who fell to his knees as it dropped under the Rookery end crossbar at the perfect moment.
On that basis alone, Richard Jobson belongs in my personal Hornet Hall of Heroes. I’ve watched the clip of that goal on YouTube several times over in the process of writing this, and I never manage to control my heart rate. I challenge you to try!