The GT Years Ranked: 11 - 1984/85
Nick Catley presents his list of GT's greatest seasons at Watford
If 12th place was one of the easiest to choose, this might have been the hardest. Of the 11 remaining seasons, all involved at least one of promotion, comfortable survival in the First Division, incredible cup runs (literally not credible in at least one case), and our highest-ever League finish to that point. 1984/85 wasn’t a bad season, in fact it was a very good one, including some cracking victories (perhaps prime among them consecutive 5-1 wins over Spurs and Manchester United in the space of three days in May), a glorious return from Milan for Luther Blissett, who scored 28 goals in all competitions, and finishing 11th. We also signed, within a few autumn weeks, possibly the only two players regarded in the very top rank of those associated with the first Taylor era to join after we’d reached the First Division – Tony Coton and John McClelland.
However. If there’s one regret from the Taylor years – one tiny piece of unfinished business – it’s that we didn’t win a trophy. We can tell ourselves that finishing as the second-best team in the entire country – better than absolutely everyone except for an all-conquering Liverpool team, whom we beat in the final game for good measure – was a much bigger achievement than winning the League Cup, or even the FA Cup for that matter – and we’d be right – but still, not having that memory of Luther dancing on the Wembley turf, of a Watford captain shaking the hand of a minor royal, or even the Rumbelows Employee of the Year, before lifting that top-level pot, of the open-top bus tour with several players, already clearly the worse for wear, drinking out of one of the famous trophies… It feels ungrateful to ask for more, given the ridiculous amount we were given, but if there is a missing piece, that’s it.
It could have happened in 1984, of course, but we were up against an excellent Everton side whose quality only truly became clear the following season, when they won the League and Cup-Winners Cup. In 1984/85, though, we faced Sunderland, ultimately relegated, at home in a League Cup quarter-final on a Wednesday night in January, and lost to a speculative Clive Walker shot that hit Nick Pickering’s back, diverting it into the opposite corner. We would have faced Chelsea in the semi – not modern, moneybags Chelsea, but the recently promoted underachieving outfit we habitually beat in the 80s. Had we seen them off, we would have faced Norwich in the final – also relegated that year. An opportunity missed.