Elton, Graham & Me
Mark Evans tells of mixing with the great and the good the night he became a Watford fan
It’s Wednesday 27 February 1980, and any Watford fans who don’t want to watch the Football Combination game at Vicarage Road that evening can stay in and watch the Rock and Pop Awards on BBC1 to see The Police and Kate Bush pick up the top honours from Dave Lee Travis and Sue Lawley. This Is Your Life, with footballer Emlyn Hughes, is on ITV. A cluster of keen Hornets do turn up on a cold night though. I wonder if any of our readers were there too? I had my blue parka and blue cords, and shamefully my Liverpool belt to hold them up too.
Elton isn’t at the awards, instead he is at Watford being a dutiful chairman and is about to meet the nine-year-old me! I am sure this isn’t the night Elton decided he wanted to be a father, but I am at the Vic, and on my best behaviour, because my mum was chairing a meeting about how the club’s apprentices can combine college courses with their football and the old-style chores they had to perform, like sweeping up and cleaning a senior pro’s boots. I had been allowed to tag along, although my main concern was to actually watch a bit of live football.
I had been delivering the milk to Watford midfielder Ray Train, so I had chatted about football to the poor sod, who probably had better things to do on his rest days from his high-tempo displays running our midfield.
My father is not a football fan, so my long-term devotion to the club probably began that night. Even a reserve game under lights was a treat. Mother had been put off the notion of me travelling to games after seeing some Brentford fans looking troublesome while we were on a trip to Clements. I remember thinking they looked best-avoided too!
While the meeting was on, I was allowed to sit in the boardroom with Elton, Bertie Mee and club secretary Ron Rollitt. I remember drinking a Coke and watching Emlyn Hughes getting his red book from Eamonn Andrews.
I am sure the Watford board would have been interested to know I was trying to break into my school team and had made a few appearances for Highgrove Dolphins. After the meeting we got to watch the game which I think Watford reserves won 6-0 with a John Ward hat-trick. We got to sit in the Directors’ Box, and for a first game it wasn’t a bad introduction to professional football. I remember the Shrodells terrace looked quite a decent spot to watch the game.
Even televised games were a treat with only a select few games being shown, so I will always remember my first live game. It’s a humbling thought to process that there will one day be one final trip to the Vic...
At half-time I was introduced to GT who certainly had a presence about him and was warm and friendly. It was almost as if I signed a contract for a lifetime of being a fan that night with GT inspiring me to join his cult! I came away with both Watford legends’ autographs, and they have been in a frame for decades since.
Having a Watford-mad teacher at my primary school meant I had to tell an underwhelmed assembly about my evening at the Vic. I didn’t quite realise at the time, but the beginning of my devotion to the club had begun. Sadly I was made to move abroad shortly after, but I became a Watford fan that night.