Nothing lasts forever
By Graham Walker
I am not one for hero worship or cultism, but something significant has happened.
GT has retired.
How will I remember him?
Most definitely, 31.5.99 at Wembley, the culmination of the "doing the
impossible" with a squad that was an average-at-best Division One side. GT
being thanked by thirty thousand Watford fans, and thanking us all back in return.
There will never be a better day than that. Ever!
And then those others...Old Trafford in '78, 7-1 against Southampton,
the cup runs, the promotions, 8-0 against Sunderland, Europe, 4-0 at
Luton. So very, very many high times.
And not forgetting...the very first one. Stockport away in August
'77. First game of the season, an away win that did not normally come until
October at best, and achieved in such a manner that I wondered what the
hell was going on. Something was different (hell, Ross Jenkins scored
twice!). Something strange was happening at my club. Little did I know
that this was the start of something wonderful.
So it finishes now in celebration of a life lived, a life given, a life
shared by all of us...some 'downs', many 'ups'. Maybe the greatest
achievement of all, giving us a sense that we mattered, that whatever the
administrative foul-ups and the occasional triumph of the smug
insider-outsider culture from within the Vic, it really was our club. We
I wrote to the mailing list after the Coventry game at the end of last
season, saying that the great achievement of the season was encapsulated in
seeing a young Asian girl looking after her little brother in the Rookery,
her in traditional dress plus Watford shirt, no parents to be seen
anywhere. They were safe, they felt safe. A community club indeed!
That is an achievement we can all share but the original steer was
I wrote to him once when he was at Villa. (I never wrote to him at
Watford because I knew where he was and what he was doing, didn't I?) I
went to see them at Bradford City just down the road from me. They were
simply superb as they tore Bradford apart 4-2. Stunning performance, and in
my early 90's Watford gloom I wrote at the end of the season congratulating
him on promotion and saying how that particular Villa performance had
reminded me of the wonderful times of the Cally-Blissett-Ross-Barnesy
days. A week later he wrote back, sharing those memories with me and
telling me that his Villa team had actually been a crock of sh*t on many
occasions that season but had scraped home. And in referring to the earlier
times, he agreed with me - "great days indeed", he said. Somewhere in a
hidden corner of my house I still have that letter. Maybe I'll go and find it.
Whatever the future holds, I will always remember the GT years. Luca will
have my full support and there will be some high times to come, of that I
am sure. But from supporting the club when (the old) Division Two was
something of a pipe dream, I'll always remember the GT years that...yeah...actually
did change my life, or at least the quality of it.
Thanks Graham, it has been a long and wonderful journey.