Monday, 28 March 2016

Nineties nostalgia, pt. 5 – End of an era

The programme for the last game of the 1992-93 season, at home to Oxford, is unusual in that it doesn’t show any footballers. Instead, a photo of the Vicarage Road End terraces is juxtaposed with an artist’s impression (it actually looks as if it’s been drawn by a teenager as part of an art project) of the new, all-seater stand that will replace it. So I’m pretty sure that May 8th, 1993 is the last time I stood at a Watford home match.

The season had been the very definition of mediocrity, with Watford sitting 15th in the table at kick-off, one place ahead of their opponents. They’d gone out at the first stage of the Anglo-Italian Cup and the FA Cup, and after beating reigning League champions Leeds 2-1 in the 3rd round of the League Cup (the highlight of the season by some distance), they’d crashed out 6-1 at Blackburn in the following round.

The programme, a flimsy 26 pages, reflects this with a lacklustre tone throughout, as if the club really didn’t feel it was worth looking back on such an average season. Manager Steve Perryman’s notes (uninspiringly headed ‘Some bright spots, but it’s been a season of inconsistencies’) are brief and consist mainly of paying tribute to the scouting and coaching staff. Everything is bitty, with most pages divided into panels of varying sizes, and nothing gets more than two pages. The nearest we get to a player profile is a centre spread featuring Nigel Gibbs – who, in keeping with the downbeat vibe, had actually missed most of his testimonial season with an injury.

It’s hard to find anything at all to inspire, though Kenny Jackett’s notes on the youth team do mention the six young players who’ve been taken on as professionals, who include Bruce Dyer and Robert Page. Dyer has already been featuring regularly in the reserves, captained by Luther Blissett, no less, who could no longer get into the first team – yet another reason to admire the great man, if any were needed. The reserves were looking forward to playing Barnet in the final of the Herts Senior Cup, but they went on to lose 4-2. Of course they did. It was that kind of season.

As for the first team, and the Vicarage Road End’s last hurrah, we lost 1-0 to Oxford, who leapfrogged us in the table and pushed us down to 16th. I can’t tell you if it rained, but if it did, it would have been entirely in keeping with the mood of the programme, and the season.

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