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Players: Tributes:
Kenny Jackett
"Thoughtful and cultured"
By Colin Wiggins

Kenny Jackett was, quite simply, one of the highest achievers in the club's history. An absolute certainty for inclusion in the BSaD Best Ever team, he was a player who had a deep and instinctive understanding of the game. He performed to a consistent standard of excellence, at the highest level. Never was anyone heard to say that "Kenny Jackett was off his game today". And I can't think of another player, either at Watford or elsewhere, who you could say that of.

Kenny Jackett never let himself be hurried. He always had the time and space to look up, to assess the options, to pick the right one and execute it perfectly. And how did he get this time and space? Answer: he made it himself. And that, of course, is a mark of true class in a creative midfielder.

In the "Watford Football Club Illustrated Who's Who", Kenny is described as "thoughtful and cultured", which is just about spot on. And he was thoughtful and cultured when it mattered, in the side that took Watford to the runners-up spot in the old First Division, that reached Wembley, played in Europe and did all kinds of things that only the most lunatic fantasist could ever have imagined Watford FC doing. Those were the days when the Golden Boys were laughably accused of not showing the traditional big clubs "enough respect", which means that they kept beating them by, so we were told, simply hoofing the ball into the air and by-passing the midfield. Of course, they most certainly did not by-pass the midfield because it was exactly there that we had Les Taylor and Kenny Jackett, two players who did the work of four. Kenny's intelligent and perceptive approach was the perfect foil to the all-action aggression of Les Taylor. There are times when you need to put a foot on the ball, slow things down and gain a second or two of breathing space before suddenly and unexpectedly switching play and opening up another avenue of attack. That was the manner of Kenny's game and it brought him thirty-one full caps for Wales as he became an automatic first choice at international level.

Kenny broke into the first team at the end of the 1979-80 season, alongside fellow juniors Steve Terry and Nigel Callaghan, making this a period of unprecedented richness in the production of home grown talent. He quickly established himself to become part of that unique band of Watford players who gained promotion to the First Division, for the very first time in the club's history. For a player of such undoubted pedigree, it would have been pretty straightforward to get himself a move to a big glamour club. But he didn't, because he possessed another precious quality: loyalty. The club that gave him his opportunity was rewarded with years of dedicated service, both on the field and off, culminating in his time as manager in 1996-7, the season following relegation to the Second Division. This was a thankless task, because it coincided with the grim-faced lack of support from the cadaverous Jack Petchey. Nonetheless, in that year Watford FC set up a club record of twenty-two league games without defeat, as Kenny stewarded the club through a time of unsettling rumours and protracted negotiations that ended when we finally waved a fond 'sod-off' to Petchey. Kenny then took a back seat to his mentor Graham Taylor, having constructed a solid platform ready for The Second Coming.

Kenny is the only Watford manager born in Watford and the only Golden Boy whose father was also a player at Vicarage Road, making his loyalty to "the family club" even more appropriate. The method and timing of his departure could not have been handled any worse. Maybe the Board of Watford FC, so business-like in their sharp suits, had just for a moment forgotten what the club owes him. Let those of us who remember how the club behaved and what it did to itself the last time GT left us all hope that they have not just shot themselves in that very same foot as before, just when the wound had healed.