The GT Years Ranked: 10 - 1985/86
Nick Catley presents his list of GT's greatest seasons at Watford
By their fourth season in the First Division, Watford’s task was perhaps duller, and yet more difficult than in previous years – to carry on overachieving by being an established top-division club, while making an impact in the cup competitions. They succeeded on both counts in 1985/86. The team continued to evolve, and the two main summer acquisitions met with varying success – Brian Talbot was virtually ever-present, while Neil Smillie had only a limited impact. The season was notable, at the start especially, for an imbalance between home and away results – seven consecutive home wins to begin the season, but none away until a 2-1 victory at St Andrews in December, a game famously interrupted by a bomb scare.
The FA Cup games might be the most memorable bits of the season – away wins at clubs in sky blue, first Coventry, then Manchester City (in a second replay – this was the second of five years in which we were involved in a cup tie lasting at least three games, and we won all but the first) before beating Bury in a replay. These matches were just an hors d’oeuvre, however, before the run’s main event – an epic two-game sixth round tie against Liverpool. The highlights of the first match at Anfield give strong ‘staying up past your bedtime and hoping they don’t put the greyhound racing on first’ vibes for those of a certain age. Tony Coton’s performance in a 0-0 draw might have been his best for the club, in the face of very stiff competition – an absolute colossus in tight black shorts. The replay is even more famous – four minutes from a semi-final against Southampton, Roger Milford awarded a hugely contentious penalty for an incident involving Coton and Ian Rush. Watching the footage is painful even now, but I’m not as convinced as I once was that it was a dreadful decision. Either way, Jan MøIby put it away and Rush scored the winner in extra time. A 5-1 win at Chelsea on the final day of the season rounded off a year where finishing mid-table in Division One was routine and expected.