Meeting Graham Taylor
By Dave Messenger
The first time was as an impressionable youngster way back when. Having been invited to become a Watford ballboy for the 1983/84 season, I was looking forward to my first match, an old First Division game against Coventry City. The great man came into our pokey little room under the Main Stand and shook us all warmly by the hand. So in awe of the illustrious one were we, the most any of us could manage was a gormless chuckle. I was reminded of that first nervous meeting when GT came back as manager for the second time. Now grown up and sponsoring part of Steve Palmer's kit, I attended the annual sponsors' night. I'm not one for nerves but, when GT offered that same warm handshake, I wanted to say "you are the man to guide us back to the heights of the top flight". What GT got was exactly the same nervous stumbling as in the tunnel all those years ago. I have managed more than one conversation with him at various events since but such is his aura, the nervousness remains.
"Why share this tiresome tale with us?" I hear you all cry. Well, the reason is simple. I saw Graham Taylor again in the Harlequin last week as he (and I, though quite separately) wrestled with the annual dilemma of what to buy our loved ones for Christmas. Though we did no more than exchange knowing glances, when you see such a genial man looking depressed at this time of year, you can tell certain things. For the first time that I can remember, he looks like he's got the cares of the world on his shoulders and we are all only too acutely aware of the reasons why.
Fifteen games into the season, a struggling Sheffield Wednesday side came down and torpedoed our unbeaten start to the league campaign. Since that evening little has gone right, culminating in the proper spanking which we received at Craven Cottage. So where has it all gone wrong? The players are certainly letting themselves down. Too many of them are reeling from the run of defeats and have been thrown back into the same bad habits that got them relegated last season. Add this to certain players giving the impression of having chucked in the towel and you've got yourself a beaten team. The defence is nothing short of a shambles, the midfield provides no effective protection for them and the forwards are so isolated it's little wonder they are starved of the confidence the early season glut of goals and points gave them.
Singling out individuals is not the answer. The team and squad are in this together and the only way out of the rut is to work as a team. We all have our ideas of the team changes we would like to see. There is one thing you can be sure of and it leads me back to the start of this article. If anybody can turn things back in our favour, it's Graham Taylor, the man who took our little club from Second Division mid-table obscurity to the Premiership in two seasons. The team has reached the point where a massive overhaul is required. Chop the dead wood from the squad, there are too many players who will never be first team regulars about the place. If the price to pay for being a successful side is an extra season in the First Division, then so be it. In all our history we have rarely been a top half of the table First Division side. Now is the time for the fans to show some patience and remember who we are.
Despite all the current negativity, there are still some plus points to take from the couple of months since my last BSaD column. Tommy Smith continues to impress and is surely due a run in his favoured position, through the middle. Tommy Mooney has come out of a quiet spell of form to lead the scoring charts. With the sending off at Stockport now consigned to history, he will become all the more important as Watford try to recover from this appalling run. Peter Kennedy is also nearing full fitness again and how we need the crosses that his sweet left foot can produce. If we can just get some of the players back to some of their early season showings then a play-off place is still not beyond us. I just hope I'm not the only one who's thinking that the rest of this season is an opportunity to build for a more credible bid for promotion next season.