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David Harrison delves back through some handbooks, and offers some guidance for returning fans.


One evening during lockdown, eagerly awaiting the return of live action, I was doing what you’d expect of any self-respecting Treasury man. Flicking through a frail copy of the 1909/10 season Watford and West Herts Post Football Manual. It was an illuminating read.

The 1908/09 Southern League season had been a dismal affair. Winless on the road until April, it was only excellent Cassio Road form that kept John Goodall’s men safe from relegation.

There was a grim familiarity about the club’s record that season. Having finally recorded an away victory, 1-0 at Leyton on 3 April, Goodall’s men responded in traditional Watford fashion. They proceeded to lose at home, for the only time all season. 3-0. Luton Town. They even survived ‘an audacious attempt to oust Watford from first-class football altogether’. Clubs were looking to integrate the Southern League into the Football League. But to make the numbers work they needed to lose four existing teams and Watford, despite finishing 14th, were seen as potential victims. Unsurprisingly, the League threw out the proposal, leaving ‘the wire pullers hoist with their own petard’, as the outcome of the uprising was graphically described.

But the handbook was full of positivity for the forthcoming season. The Watford Association Football Club Limited had been formed, with a capital of £2,500. Shares were issued and fully subscribed, with ‘a strong body of directors elected’ and a capable secretary in Mr W Swain appointed. ‘Mr John Goodall, who knows as much about football as any man living, has this year been appointed trainer-manager, and the team completely reorganised’. The Cassio Road playing surface was ‘as level as a billiard table,’ while the club’s colours had been changed to black knickers and white shirts from the previous red, yellow and green hoops. Everything pointed to a fresh start, leading to a successful season. They finished 19th of 22 and Goodall left the club at the end of the season.

But that’s jumping ahead. The handbook ran through the playing staff and the configuration of the Southern League, alongside a range of invaluable advertisements. ‘Artificial Teeth’ were available from Mr Quantrell of 47 Market Street, while the One Crown in the High Street offered a venue ‘where you will meet those you desire to meet’.

The section that took my eye, however, included firm guidance on how supporters should conduct themselves, ‘All Watfordians should make a point of supporting and if possible being present at every Home Match. Many are precluded from doing anything in this way when the team plays away.’ ‘Pedestrians of any age and both sexes have an absolute and unfettered right to the use of the public thoroughfares when en route to the Watford Football Club. Some motorists and cyclists should specially note this.’ ‘It is so silly to struggle furiously at the entrance gates and turnstiles. People can get in so much easier and far more comfortably by waiting their turn. To date there has always been room for all and to spare.’ ‘Bad language is as much out of place on a football ground as it is in any other public assemblage. It is positively repugnant to many respectable, clean-minded persons who are fond of the game and loyal supporters of the club.’

So when we do eventually get back to the Vic………just behave yourselves!