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Famous victories:

Football League Division 1, 31/8/82
Southampton 1
Watford 4
Team: Sherwood, Rice, Rostron, Blissett, Bolton, Jackett, Callaghan, Armstrong, Jenkins, Lohman, Barnes
Subs: Taylor
Scorers: Callaghan 2, Jenkins, Armstrong
And now you're gonna believe us...
Report by Guy Judge

Mention famous Hornets victories against Southampton and most people will remember first that wonderful second leg League Cup comeback in September 1980 (after extra time) to overcome a 4-0 first leg defeat at the Dell (see BSaD report).

Unfortunately for me I wasn't at that game, although I had a great evening listening to Radio Solent which had regular news updates from Vicarage Road, in between records. My recollection is of the DJ getting more and more depressed as the evening went on, with my excited yelps drowning out his comments along the lines "Now we go back to Vicarage Road where I think there is more bad news for Saints fans". "YES!".

But, as Ronnie Corbett would say, I digress. The Southampton game that made a big impact on me was our first away game in the old First Division at the end of August in 1982. We had won our first home game on the Saturday, 2-0 against Everton; a very creditable performance but not enough to convince some people (including a few Watford supporters) that we were not going to struggle.

The following Tuesday we travelled to the Dell to play a team that was far from the relegation fodder that it has now become (Saints finished 12th out of 22 at the end of the season). I was unusually privileged in that, rather than standing on the terraces with my fellow Hornets, I was invited up into the posh seats by a friend of mine who was a season ticket holding Saints fan. In fact he had two season tickets, one for himself and one to use as a business freebee (yuk!). Still, whatever I thought of that, the idea of a free ticket appealed to me and so I took my place, hoping that the Horns would at least put up a decent show.

I was not to be disappointed. Right from the start the Horns attacked. This was going to be no backs to the wall defensive performance. Just look at the team. The two wingers, Digger & Cally (remember it was an era when some teams didn't even have one winger) plus Luther, Ross AND Gerry Armstrong. Ollie Phillips in the Centenary Book described it as 4-2-4 but it seemed more like 3-2-5 to me! Maybe Luther was playing in midfield but it didn't stop him from attacking. We were especially good on the break, exploiting the space that Southampton left when they built their attacks.

Pretty soon there were murmurs of appreciation from the Saints fans around me. They had been fed the popular line that we were "hit and hope" long ball merchants. But Ian Bolton's long balls were well rehearsed long passes, not hit and hope balls. I'll be honest with you. I can't remember much of the detail of the performance (perhaps it had something to do with the "business" hospitality that I was treated to before the game and at half time). But I do remember one key moment just after half time. The locals expected Saints to come back after the interval, stung by Lawrie McMenemy's comments into a better second half performance. What happened? The whistle had hardly gone when Nigel Callaghan surged down the right wing on a counter-attack, a quick accurate centre and Gerry Armstrong puts it into the back of the net. I was up in stands holding my Watford scarf in the air singing "And now you're gonna believe us, the 'Orns'll win the league!"

Well, we didn't, quite. But by GT, we came a bloody good second, with many wonderful moments to savour on the way. 8-0 at home to Sunderland; 1-0 away at Spurs; 4-2 away at Arsenal; 1-0 away at Coventry (I had been a student up in Coventry and they were my "other team" so this was particularly satisfying to me); 5-2 at home to L$*?n. And last, and certainly not least, 2-1 at home to Liverpool on the final day of the season to finish runners up behind them.

So now. Watford are back!! Can they do it again? Well, maybe it's too much to ask. The Premiership is a tougher place than the old Division 1, and the current squad doesn't have the goal scoring machine that was Luther & Ross up front. But we'll surprise a few, I think. Jonno, Micah, Robbo and Nicky Wright-Wright-Wright should not be underestimated. And I think this team is better defensively than the class of '82.

Come on you 'Orns!

Historical footnote: Searching through the archives I found the following facts that might be of interest:

"...price rises have been kept to a minimum and go up by as little as 20p..."

(1) Cost of Daily Admission to the North Terrace (yes, they did call the Vicarage Road end that in 1982): £2.00
(2) Season Ticket North Terrace: £48 (save 15% if renewed before June 13th)
(3) Programme: 40p (up from 30p the year before).
(4) From the Hornet Shop: Shirts (38/40"): £9.65