The Golden Years, 1968-69
By Paul Levene
After nearly 50 years in the League Watford at last gained promotion to the old Second Division in 1968-69 under the guidance of manager Ken Furphy.
The Hornets won 27 of their 46 League games, drawing 10 and losing the remaining nine matches. In the course of lifting the Third Division Championship, Watford scored 74 goals and let it only 34 and the title win in the end was on goal average from runners-up Swindon Town.
Just 19 players were called on in League matches and skipper Keith Eddy, together with Tom Walley and Duncan Welbourne played in all League and Cup matches. Top scorer was Barry Endean, who arrived at the club nearly halfway through the season and netted an incredible 20 goals in 33 matches in all competitions!
Also appearing for Watford for the first time in 1968-69 were goalkeeper Mike Walker, striker Rodney Green, defender Walter Lees, youngster Mike Packer and forward Roy Sinclair (of whom more later). The season also heralded the highest ever attendance for a match at Vicarage Road, 34,099 in a cup replay against Manchester United.
Up For The Cup
The League Cup competition gave Watford a local derby trip to Kenilworth Road in August 1968 and the game ended with a swift exit for the Hornets after a 3-0 defeat.
The FA Cup campaign started with a 4-0 away win against non-league Cheltenham Town and was followed by Terry Garbett scoring the only goal in a home win against Brentford in round two. The Hornets faced one more obstacle before drawing the mighty Manchester United, and in round three a 2-0 win against Port Vale came via goals from Stewart Scullion and Barry Endean.
Then came the daunting trip to Old Trafford to face European Cup winners Manchester United - Denis Law, George Best, et al. The majority of a 63,496 crowd, the highest to watch Watford in a competitive League and Cup fixture, were stunned when Stewart Scullion gave Watford a first-minute lead, but Denis Law eventually earned the Red Devils a replay at Vicarage Road. After an initial postponement United finally when through 2-0 with Law scoring both goals.
Watford conceded only 34 League goals in 1968-69 and the man responsible for the majority of the record was young goalkeeper Mike Walker, signed in September 1968 from York City. The 23 year old from Colwyn Bay made his debut in a goalless draw at home to Swindon Town on September 7th 1968 and went on to record 22 clean sheets in League matches. In both October and January of that season the Hornets failed to let in a single goal in Division Three encounters.
Walker had begun his career as a junior at Reading but didn't make his League debut until moving to Shrewsbury Town in June 1964. After seven League matches for the Gay Meadow club he turned out 60 times for York City before the move to Vicarage Road where he stayed until the end of the 1972-73 season, with the exception of one game on loan to Charlton Athletic. In all he appeared 137 times in League games for Watford and then spent the majority of his playing days with Colchester United where he appeared in 451 League games. A career as a manager followed, starting at Colchester and then after a successful spell at Norwich City he was briefly in charge at Everton.
For The Record
Watford scored five twice during the season, the first in a 5-0 away win at Gillingham in January 1969 (Barry Endean scoring a hat-trick) and then 5-1 at home to Rotherham United a month later. The biggest League gate of the season was for the crucial promotion clash at Swindon in March 1969. A crowd of 28,898 were inside to see the Hornets win 1-0 through a Barry Endean goal. This started a run of seven wins and a draw in the next eight League matches, including a crowd of 22,725 to see Roy Sinclair secure promotion for the club at home to Plymouth Argyle on April 15th 1969.
- taken from Watford v Portsmouth programme (6/4/96)