The Day I Met: JAWS
Olly Wicken on his anxiety-inducing encounter with Roger Joslyn
It’s May 1979, and it’s the endof-season awards night for Gadeside Rangers Under-16s in a small sweaty clubhouse. A big name has arrived to present the medals – the man who, almost single-handedly, has just dragged an exhausted Watford team over the finishing line to promotion from Division Three. Ladies and Gentlemen, Roger ‘Jaws’ Joslyn is in the house.
My daft team-mate, Hodge, and I have been excited for days that we’re due to receive medals from the actual, fearsome, Jaws Joslyn. Tonight, though, Hodge – typically – is late. I’ve no idea where he is. I’ve come close to meeting Jaws before – when I was a ball boy at Vicarage Road in 1974/75. At close quarters, against Crystal Palace, I saw him call Peter Taylor a four-letter name and spit in his hair. I’m expecting Jaws to be on better behaviour tonight, as a Watford Football Club ambassador, but I’m still a bit scared of him. I’ve seen how he operates.
As the presentation begins, I realise there’s no safety in numbers because my mate Hodge still hasn’t arrived. My name is called out. Nervously, I go up to the front of the room where Jaws is distributing the medals. He extends a hand towards me, clearly expecting me to put mine in his. I’m reluctant. I’ve seen the things he does to opponents’ legs. In the end I pluck up courage and discover that he doesn’t bite. Not in this situation, anyway. I walk away with my limbs intact.
A few moments later, I’m called back to receive Hodge’s medal in his absence. For a second time, I escape uninjured. There isn’t even spit in my hair. Maybe I’ve misjudged the true character of Watford’s renowned hatchet man.
A while later, Hodge finally shows up. I’m now feeling bold, having survived my two earlier encounters with Jaws (I might also have had some cider), and I suggest we ask Jaws to present the medal again – to Hodge in person, this time. Hodge and I go up to Jaws. I hand the Hornets hard man the medal and nervously (and perhaps tipsily) stammer out our request. Jaws looks as if he hasn’t quite heard or understood.
Undeterred, I step back, and raise my hands in readiness to applaud the presentation with high-spirited exaggeration. I must look like a slip fielder, or something, because Jaws growls “What do you want me to do, throw it to you?” Hodge manages to explain what we want – much better than I can. Jaws nods and smiles. The medal is represented. I clap and hoot like a deranged sea lion.
It’s now 2020. In the intervening fortyone years, not much has changed. Roger Joslyn, by all accounts, continues to be a perfectly reasonable man – and I still get so unreasonably excited and nervous when I meet my heroes that I expect their character off the field to be the same as it is on the pitch. I’m not sure I’ll ever grow up.