I’m probably late to the party with this one, but it was only on reading the latest issue of Mojo that I discovered that Johnny Keating has died. No, not a long-lost Watford midfielder from the 1970s, but a significant figure in Hornets history nevertheless; Keating was the man who composed the Z-Cars theme which the players run out to before games at Vicarage Road.
Although the club dates back to – what was the year again? Oh yes, 1881 – it was in the late 1950s and early 1960s that the modern Watford FC as we know and love it really took shape. That was when the club colours changed to yellow and black, when the ‘Hornets’ nickname was adopted, and when the Z-Cars theme was first played over the tannoy. The story goes that it was manager Bill McGarry’s favourite TV show, and from the day in 1963 the players first ran out it to it, they didn’t lose another home game all season. The tune was seen as lucky and has welcomed the Hornets onto the pitch ever since.
Well, almost. Over the years, a series of club employees who understand a bit about marketing and very little about football have looked down their nose at Z-Cars and replaced it with something more modern, in imitation of other clubs.
As a result, I’ve come to view the running-out music as a barometer for the spiritual health of the club: as long as Z-Cars is being played, we’re in good hands. In this regard (as in so many others), the Pozzo regime has shown itself to be trustworthy – though I didn’t like the way the music was quickly turned down last season once the players were on the pitch, depriving us of the glorious jazzy solo in the middle of the tune.
So RIP Johnny Keating, unwitting contributor of an essential component of the Watford Way. Oh, and if anyone can tell me what instrument it is that the jazzy solo is played on, I’d be very grateful. Is it an oboe? A treble saxophone? It’s been bothering me for years.