By and large I give managers a fairly easy ride. I've stood by Robson, Taylor and Venables through their England careers, often being about the only person I knew who'd stick up for them (especially Taylor). And normally I'd say they've been in the job a while, their decisions may look bizarre, but there must be some twisted logic to them and they deserve at least a full season to be given a chance to get a decent string of results together. But I make an exception for Bassett.
1986/87 was a great season. We finished seventh, beating all the top teams in the league (Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham) and got to the semis of the cup, which we might have won but for injuries to Coton and McClelland. Hopes were high for the following season, but then the inevitable happened - Taylor went, and Bassett took his place.
Things were pretty poor right from the start, despite a home win on the opening day of the season. Blissett, despite scoring the only goal of that game, was substituted the next game, and then started on the bench. For the rest of the season a team that hadn't finished out of the top half of the table for the five years we'd been in the top flight was propping up the division. The football was awful, no-one was playing well, the team was unrecognisable. Bassett sold our quality players, and his replacements almost without exception were disasters. By January, after a home draw with Hull in the cup, he was sacked.
Subsequent events (our relegation, Bassett's success at Sheff Utd) have raised the question of whether we should have got rid of him. After all maybe relegation was inevitable once Barnes left. Sometimes even I've wondered if we should have given him a chance. But then I remember how good we were in '87, even with Barnes off form. I remember Blissett and Falco getting 15 goals apiece and then getting dropped and sold respectively. I remember Bardsley and Richardson being sold, mystifyingly, for nothing, and going on to play for England while we sank like a stone. I remember Gary Chivers, Trevor Senior, Tony Agana, Mark Morris, Glyn Hodges - although those last two did pick up after Bassett left, Hodges proving to be a quality player. I remember countless 0-0 draws and 0-1 defeats. And again I remember Trevor Senior, possibly one of the worst players ever to grace the First Division. Admittedly insisting I was glad we sacked him did sound a bit hollow when we were facing relegation to the second division when Sheff U were in the Premier, and having a good cup run, but finally in 94/95, with us finishing ahead of them, I feel vindicated. We should never have got him in the first place, and he had to go.
No, when you tell people you support Watford and they come back with "You used to be quite good a few years ago, what happened?" there can only be one answer : Dave Bassett. 83-87 was the one time in the club's history we've had genuine glory and it ended in a few months entirely because of him.
Best buy: Glyn Hodges
Worst buy: Everyone else (especially Senior)
Best moments: 2-0 vs Arsenal at home, 0-0 away at QPR (honestly)
Worst moments: 0-3 vs Chelsea at home, 0-0 vs Portsmouth at home (inevitably), countless others to dull to remember