"Goodbye, Elton, and thank you"
By Frances Lynn
So, Elton has resigned as Watford's Chairman. "So what", or even "About time", has been the reaction of certain sections of the Watford support. During his second stint in the Chairman's seat at Watford, Elton has been largely a figurehead. And on the WML, there were the regular messages criticising Elton for his scarce attendance at Watford games.
But I, for one, am sad to see Elton go.
A little history, if you will indulge me. I reached my teens living less than ten miles from Watford without even knowing there was a professional football club there. Then, in the late seventies, I started a paper round delivering the Evening Echo in Apsley. While ambling along the London Road, I would read of the exploits at Vicarage Road and was intrigued. A schoolfriend that I'd known for years revealed one day that her dad was a season ticket holder and that they were going to an open day at the club. Hence, in the Autumn of 1978, I entered the hallowed ground. There, sitting in the Main Stand, was Elton John signing autographs.
Over the next ten years, I was part of the rollercoaster ride.
In 1979, I saw the defeat of Hull City and experienced my first promotion.
In 1980, I saw Watford beat a Southampton team, who were riding high in the First Division, by seven goals to one, with the winner coming from a kid called Nigel Callaghan. This was followed by a 4-1 win against Notts Forest that was equally impressive as a result, but has been almost forgotten.
In 1982, I told my tutor at university that I had to take a long weekend due to family problems so that I could miss a tutorial to be at the Wrexham game that I was sure would either see or be a celebration of our first promotion to the First Division. I traveled back to Nottingham elated, with mud from the Vicarage Road pitch caked on my only pair of jeans.
In the Winter of 1982, I went to Anfield and was part of the crowd who proudly sang "Elton John's Taylor-Made Army" for most of the second half as we were defeated. In the Spring of 1983, I was at Vicarage Road to see us exact our revenge on Liverpool as Martin Patching shot us to second place in the highest league in the land.
The next season, I saw Watford's youth team beating the some of the best teams in Europe. And in May 1984, when I really should have been concentrating on revising for my finals, I was at Wembley with Elton cheering my beloved Horns in the Cup Final.
We had another three respectable seasons in the First Division when, sadly, Watford fans started becoming complacent. Then it all went horribly wrong. Elton's interest waned, GT left for Villa, and we were plunged into the horror of the years between the EJ & GT eras. The football was so awful that I had to leave the country in 1993.
In 1996, GT came back and then Elton was encouraged to return as the leader of a consortium that ousted the evil P*tch*y. Suddenly, the world was a happier place again. And Watford fans, who had become accustomed to mediocrity, suddenly had to deal with a championship. Unfortunately I was not actually in the country for this or for the 4-0 win at Kenilworth Road, but even from my remote spot across the Atlantic I shared the joy. I was, however, at Wembley for the play-off win. Winning at Wembley must count as a highlight in any football fan's life. And, for those who criticized Elton for not being there, you've probably never had a job that took you outside the UK. And, if you heard him at half-time, you can have no doubt of his passion for the club.
I have heard people say that Elton lost his passion for Watford long ago. As a US resident, I can say I have recently seen Elton on talkshows over here talking about his involvement with Watford. In a wider context, I also read on a QPR messageboard of a QPR fan that met him backstage in NYC and was surprised when, having revealed his allegiance, Elton commented on their result that day. A couple of years ago, I got into a taxi in Washington DC and the driver started talking about football and recognised Watford as being Elton's club. So, while Elton, like myself, may not have spent much time at Vicarage Road in the past few years, his involvement has ensured that Watford are talked of outside South-West Hertfordshire.
When Elton became Chairman of Watford, he wasn't a businessman hoping to make a quick profit or some wannabe self-publicist, it was a schoolboy's dream. Who, but a fan, would tell a young inexperienced interviewee for the manager's position that he wanted him to get a club that had only spent three seasons of its history outside the lower two divisions into Europe. Somehow Elton had the vision and the passion to realise that impossible dream. If it wasn't for Elton, we would not have had the amazing experiences that we have had over the past twenty-five years.
Football has changed a lot in the past few years. The decline started for me when the home team was allowed to keep all of the gate receipts. Whatever the reason, football seems much more of a business these days and a lot of fans require instant gratification and have very short memories. With the fall-out from the collapse of ITV Digital and the move of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes, I hope that we don't lose the special feeling that we have as Watford fans. That innocence and joy that we all felt as we sobbed along with our pop star chairman at Wembley.
So, I have no time for those that seek to denigrate or who simply fail to recognise Elton's vital contribution to the success that we have had over the past twenty-five years. All I want to say is "Thank-you, Elton. You have given me some of the happiest days of my life."