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Players: Tributes:
Cliff Holton
They can't have done THAT!
By Chris Salter and Nicholas Ralph

The writing was now deeply engraved on the wall as Burgess began the 1961 - 2 season by dropping the Big Fella. Unknown to the fans, he had approached the Board to finalise a deal selling our "Jewel in the Crown" to Northampton for 7,000 pounds. The deal was completed with unseemly haste, and before most of Watford were aware that Holton was no longer a Watford player, he had already scored a hat trick for his new club.

Holton always made it clear that the move was not of his own choosing, but he recognised that Harmer's star was in the ascendancy with Burgess, while his own was on the wane. The move unlocked the flood gates of protest, and the fans went wild. We just couldn't believe that our own club could do this to us. After all, the man was not just adored in the town, he was worshipped! For a while a group of ardent Watford supporters boycotted their side and made regular pilgrimages to Northampton to cheer their hero.

It seems that Burgess made the sale of Holton a "him or me" issue, claiming that the big forward unbalanced the line-up. The Board, to their eternal shame, backed him. Crowds at the Vic slumped by thousands, and Watford's football slumped too with them finishing the season in 17th place. Worse, John Fairbrother, the brilliant young centre forward groomed by Burgess to replace the Cliffster broke his leg and was never the same again. Meanwhile, Holton hit a new goal-scoring record for Northampton.