Wat­ford’s Sec­ond Di­vi­sion cham­pi­ons of 1997-98

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Neil Fissler

IN Gra­ham Tay­lor’s first spell in charge of Wat­ford he presided over the club’s me­te­oric rise from the Fourth to the First Di­vi­sion be­tween 1978 and 1982.

Once in the First Di­vi­sion Tay­lor took the Hor­nets to a run­ners up spot, the UEFA Cup and an FA Cup fi­nal prior to leav­ing for As­ton Villa and then Eng­land.

So it was only nat­u­ral that chair­man El­ton John turned to Tay­lor af­ter they dropped into the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion in a bid to bring back the glory days. In his first sea­son back at Vicarage Road in 1997-98 Tay­lor guided Wat­ford to pro­mo­tion to the First Di­vi­sion and then in his sec­ond into the Pre­mier League.

In­deed for long pe­ri­ods of his first sea­son back in the hot seat it looked as if Wat­ford were go­ing to romp away with the ti­tle.

They went top in Au­gust af­ter win­ning their open­ing three games and stayed there un­til the end of March, ex­cept for a short spell in the mid­dle of Jan­uary.

But two wins in 12 games al­lowed the chas­ing pack to close the game and it ap­peared that they were about to miss out on top spot.

It all boiled down to need­ing a win in their fi­nal game at Ful­ham and then hop­ing that other re­sults went their way.

Gifton Noel-Wil­liams gave them the per­fect start in front of nearly 17,000 at Craven Cot­tage with a 31st minute opener only for Peter Beard­s­ley to level af­ter an hour.

Ten min­utes later how­ever Ja­son Lee net­ted the win­ner while at Pre­ston, Bris­tol City went down 2-1 to hand the Hor­nets the ti­tle.

Steve Palmer re­mem­bers be­ing a bag of nerves af­ter he was forced off with in­jury mid­way through the first half and hav­ing to sit with the fans.

“I was very aware of what was go­ing on as I had to go off af­ter about 20 min­utes. So I sud­denly be­came very ner­vous,” he said.

“I was in the stand amongst ev­ery­one with their ra­dios. It was a a lot less nerve wrack­ing on the pitch!

“The cel­e­bra­tions with the Wat­ford fans were great, es­pe­cially as there was a lot of hype over Ful­ham that sea­son af­ter they had spent a lot of money, so it was nice for us to get a bit of at­ten­tion.”

1. Kirk Wheeler: Since 2004 he has been the com­mu­nity man­ager of Alder­shot.

2. Daniel Grieves: He lives in St Al­bans and runs an ex­ec­u­tive car ser­vice from Rick­mansworth.

3. Nathan Lowndes: Is now liv­ing in Scot­land and has been a po­lice­man with Tay­side Po­lice since re­tir­ing.

4. Robert Page: Af­ter a long ca­reer he joined Port Vale as youth team coach and is now first team coach and also part of the Wales un­der-21’s set-up.

5. Keith Millen: Served Bris­tol City as un­der-17’s man­ager, as­sis­tant man­ager and then boss prior to mov­ing onto Black­pool and now Crys­tal Palace.

6. Ja­son Lee: Was com­mu­nity projects man­ager with Not­ting­ham For­est and is now an equal­i­ties ed­u­ca­tion ex­ec­u­tive at the PFA.

7. Dar­ren Ward: Is still play­ing for Swin­don but has a fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany and a cat­tery.

8. Gifton Noel-Wil­liams: He has set­tled in Austin, Texas and is a free­lance coach and head coach to Hyde Park Bap­tist Schools.

9. Lars Mel­vang: Is liv­ing in Den­mark and is em­ployed in the

fi­nan­cial sec­tor, where he is depart­ment head for Atra­dius.

10. Colin Pluck: Changed his name to Miles in 2004 for fam­ily rea­sons and is now work­ing in the wine and spir­its busi­ness.

11. David Per­pe­tu­ini: He is now based in Rom­ford, Es­sex and is sales di­rec­tor of his own en­gi­neer­ing com­pany.

12. Do­minic Lud­den: Based in Chelms­ford, Es­sex and is a specialist mar­kets ex­ec­u­tive at AXA In­sur­ance.

13. Roy Clare: Was Wat­ford kit­man at the time of his death in Fe­bru­ary 1998.

14. Jimmy Gil­li­gan: He was the head of Nike’s Foot­ball Academy and is now an academy coach at Not­ting­ham For­est.

15. Gary John­son: He once ran a foot­ball hol­i­day busi­ness in Swe­den but is now in his sec­ond spell in charge of Yeovil Town.

16. Vince Cave: Af­ter work­ing in sales, pub­lish­ing and fi­nance he works on the pro­cure­ment team at Skan­ska UK.

17. Steve Tal­boys: Af­ter go­ing into the in­sur­ance in­dus­try he is now a di­rec­tor of Aon Sports, Re­cre­ation and En­ter­tain­ment.

18. Dai Thomas: His pro­fes­sional ca­reer was ended by a con­vic­tion for foot­ball hooli­gan­ism. He now runs a scrap iron busi­ness in Caer­philly, Wales.

19. Tommy Mooney: Af­ter end­ing his ca­reer in Spain he lived in Mar­bella be­fore re­turn­ing home and coach­ing at As­ton Villa.

20. Alec Cham­ber­lain: He re­mained with the Hor­nets af­ter his ca­reer ended and is the goal­keep­ing coach at Vicarage Road.

21. Chris Day: He is still play­ing for Steve­nage.

22. Steve Palmer: Has worked as a per­for­mance coach and is cur­rently head of per­for­mance sys­tems for the Pre­mier League.

23. Peter Kennedy: He is now liv­ing in Lis­burn, North­ern Ire­land and is work­ing as an ac­coun­tant. 24. Micah Hyde: Lives in Brent­wood, Es­sex and is head of the academy af­ter pre­vi­ously be­ing lead youth de­vel­op­ment coach at Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge. 25. Mark Rooney: Liv­ing in the New Bar­net area and works as a ticket bro­ker. 26. Tom Wal­ley: Is now re­tired liv­ing in Nas­cot, Wat­ford. 27. Phil Ed­wards: Run­ning his own sports in­juries re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre in Wat­ford. 28. Chris John­son: Liv­ing in Sus­sex and works as a post­man in Lewes. 29. Richard John­son: Af­ter work­ing as coach in a Syd­ney Gram­mar School he now coaches at Chelms­ford City and Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge. 30. Wayne An­drews: Af­ter his ca­reer was ended by in­jury he be­came a per­sonal trainer. 31. Paul Robin­son: Is still play­ing for Birm­ing­ham City. 32. Clint Easton: Is now a pro­fes­sional will writer and life cover con­sul­tant and also coaches at Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge. 33. Kenny Jack­ett: Has just won pro­mo­tion to the Cham­pi­onship as Wolves man­ager. 34. Gra­ham Tay­lor: Wat­ford’s hon­orary life pres­i­dent is a BBC ra­dio pun­dit. 35. Luther Blis­sett: Founded Team48 Mo­tor­sport with John Barnes and Les Fer­di­nand, worked as a TV pun­dit. 36. Stu­art Slater: He be­came a PE teacher at Kings Lan­g­ley School and is now run­ning Chelms­ford City’s academy. 37. Nigel Gibbs: Af­ter coach­ing at Wat­ford he has been as­sis­tant man­ager of Read­ing and Leeds. 38. Richard Flash: He is liv­ing in the Mid­lands and is a Lec­turer in Foot­ball Busi­ness. 39. Dar­ren Baze­ley: Now coach­ing for Foot­ball New Zealand. 40. Andy John­son: Twin brother of Chris is now liv­ing and work­ing in Sus­sex.

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