Clearing out a cupboard recently, I found a box containing what appears to be my entire collection of Watford programmes from the 1990s. Following my ruthless rule, I’m going to chuck most of them out (if you’d like them, by all means get in touch, though I suspect the 90s aren’t long enough ago for programmes from this misfit decade in Watford’s history to be collectable), keeping just one from each season as a representative example.
I do like leafing through old programmes, though, so I plan to share highlights from the ‘keepers’ over the coming weeks. We start with Tuesday’s opponents, Brentford, and a programme from August 23rd, 1997. It’s a colourful publication with a computer desktop theme; titles in tabs at the top of the page and other design details I vaguely remember from the PCs of the period.
Among the standard fare, one unusual feature is ‘Herts of sport’, a page devoted to sporting news from around the county. The headline story is the performance of Danielle Sanderson in the marathon at the World Athletics Championship, where she finished 35th, and there’s also news from the worlds of swimming, bowls, cricket, umm, karting, and a story simply headed ‘Watford Royals’, who I think must have been a basketball team, given the reference to the signing of a 6ft 8in forward.
The Watford manager is a certain Mr Taylor, freshly reinstalled in the hot seat after Kenny Jackett’s unsuccessful attempt to get the Hornets out of Division Two at the first attempt, and he’s not happy about fans chanting “Taylor, Taylor, give us a wave.” As he complains in his notes, “I thought we were on first-name terms!”
In the news section, GT is pictured shaking hands with new signing Ronnie Rosenthal, and the Brentford game saw his first start in yellow, after coming on as a sub in the previous two games. It’s a curious line-up, comprising a mixture of bona fide club legends – Alec Chamberlain, Richard Johnson, Tommy Mooney, Steve Palmer – and bit-part players such as Dai Thomas and Lars Melvang. More remarkably still, the Danish full-back was one of the scorers in a 3-1 win, along with Jonno and Keith Millen, netting against his former team.
The other picture that caught my eye was on the ‘21 and under’ page, where an almost unrecognisable Tommy Smith, with a truly awful hairstyle, is praised for his ‘silky skills’ in a youth team game against Millwall. Funny to think that, 17 years later, he could potentially play against us on Tuesday night.
The Brentford line-up for the game is unremarkable, with only Marcus Bent ringing any bells; a former Bees trainee, he would go on to play for another 13 clubs. And that result is also unremarkable. As my long-suffering best friend Stuart, a Bees fan, ruefully reminded me recently, Brentford haven’t beaten Watford in a competitive fixture since 1977. Here’s hoping the run continues on Tuesday.