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50 Shades of Yellow

Peter Morgan recalls some of the lesser-known Watford games during his first 50 years following the Hornets


Let’s start at the very beginning.

A very good place to start. Before any of you burst into song, I am referring to the first game I ever attended. It was 12 days after my brother’s 10th birthday, on 28 November 1970 to be precise. As something of a treat, our Dad took us the five miles from Northwood Hills, past HMS Warrior, which, we were told was, at the time, technically a ship, albeit one based at least 60 miles from any sea. Hard to understand now, but impossible when you are eight years old. We then headed along Eastbury Road, past the paper shop that, in years to come, was where we cycled to buy the Monday Evening Echo, to enable us to read about our team’s exploits the previous Saturday. And, yes, for you young ‘uns out there, weekend games were ALWAYS on a Saturday at 3 o’clock and if you got more than a square inch of coverage in the Sunday papers, you were lucky.

We tended to park in Cardiff Road, so our first view of the ground was most probably through the allotments. At the bottom of Occupation Road was a Corona distribution unit. This had nothing to do with any virus that you may have heard of, but a soft drinks company which gave you money back when you took back the bottles. Greta Thunberg, please note we were already recycling and trying to save the planet in 1970!

So why did we go to Watford and not one of the more glamourous London clubs? My grandfather was a big Spurs fan, but he died before I was born and my father was not ‘sporty’, but he had two football-obsessed boys. I am guessing it was primarily proximity, but perhaps the fact that Watford had reached the heady heights of the Second Division and only a few months before had reached the FA Cup semi-final were factors. Added to this, we had just watched our first World Cup on TV. This was in colour, although most of the country, like us, still only had a black and white television, so that passed us by. However, our appetite for live football was clearly whetted.

Bolton came to Watford with a World Cup winner in their ranks. Who could that possibly be, I hear you ask? Possibly a Brazilian from the World Cup of 1970? Since the first Brazilian import, Mirandinha, did not leave the Amazon for the Tyne for another 17 years, clearly not. The player in question was actually born only a few miles from Bolton and went on to become Liverpool’s all-time League top scorer.

He is possibly, along with the full-backs, the member of England’s World Cup-winning side of 1966 that most people struggle to name. He is also the player who, had he simply headed in Geoff Hurst’s second ‘goal’ after it came off the crossbar, rather than simply putting his hand in the air, would have saved 54 years of debate. How many TV minutes have been devoted to Martin Peters’ goal? All because of bloody Roger Hunt, who was now before me!

Also in the Bolton team that day was the highest-paid union boss in history, Gordon Taylor, not to be mistaken with Mr G Taylor, late of this parish, otherwise known as ‘God’.

As for Watford, the side was full of legends, if you happen to be a Watford fan of a certain age, but otherwise just one who went on to become a top manager and three who ended up at Sheffield United (in addition to the manager), all of whom subsequently played in the same team as the only three-time World Cup winner in history.

Answers on a postcard, please, to the usual address, as they used to say on the BBC, before the Internet intervened.

Okay, alright then. Future Norwich and Everton manager, Mike Walker was in goal; Keith Eddy, Terry Garbett and Stewart Scullion all played for Sheffield United and in the USA with Pele, at various times.

I cannot definitely say where we stood that day, but our usual position at that time was along the railings in front of the Shrodells Stand, along with just about every other pre-pubescent boy. I did not write ‘child’, as in those days it was very rare to see a junior female of the species at games. Look at the old pictures and don’t ‘spot the ball’, as we used to, but ‘spot the girl’. I now go to games with my niece and my sister-in-law, surrounded by diversity aplenty.

However hard it is to admit, I never stood on the cinder bend, as seemingly everyone else did, based on reminiscences that I have read. I am not doubting that Elton stood there, but the rest of you? If these stories are to be believed, 10,000 stood on the cinder bend at each game, with half of those hanging off the floodlights. I was quite happy with my little piece of concrete, as near to the halfway line as I could achieve, for a few years at least.

As for the actual game, it finished 1-1 and that is really all I can say about it, as I was only eight at the time and most probably spent the whole game eating sweets and arguing with my brother. I can’t even find who scored, but I am sure someone has a record of this in their scrapbook. (Note for those born since 1990 – a scrapbook was similar in purpose to a computer file, but made out of strange-coloured reconstituted paper. Greta Thunberg – ditto).