Watford FC: the 1990s

Geoff Wicken

For the larger part of the 1990s Watford’s fortunes were in decline.  Jack Petchey, who had acquired the club from Elton John, was an unpopular chairman, but invested in seated stands at both ends of the stadium.  After close calls in 1991 and 1994, relegation to the third tier came in 1996.

Then a consortium led by Elton John bought back Petchey’s shareholding.  Graham Taylor returned to the club, initially as General Manager and then from 1997 as Team Manager.  1998 saw Watford promoted as champions, and 1999 brought a second successive promotion as Watford overcame Bolton Wanderers at Wembley in the Play-off Final.  Watford were back in the top tier of English football.

 

The Golden Games:

4th May 1991: Football League Division 2

Oxford United 0 Watford 1

In late March 1991, Watford were way adrift at the foot of the second division table and relegation looked certain.  Out of nowhere the team produced a 10-game run that included seven wins and two draws.  This was the last of those 10 games.  Paul Wilkinson’s goal gave Watford a 1-0 win and confirmed a remarkable survival with a game to spare.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.

 

5th April 1994: Football League Division 1 (second tier)

Peterborough United 3 Watford 4

Three years after a relegation escape, Watford were in trouble again for much of 1993-94.  So were Peterborough, and this was a vital game for both sides.  The quality wasn’t high, but the tension level was, as the sides traded errors and goals.  With Watford inspired by the on-loan Tommy Mooney, goals from Furlong, Dublin and Lavin made the score 3-3 close to full-time.  Then another loanee, Dennis Bailey, scuffed the ball home for a memorable win.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.

 

4th October 1997: Football League Division 2 (third tier)

Luton Town 0 Watford 4

This was the day on which ghosts were exorcised.  The rivalry between Luton and Watford dated back to the 1890s, and seemed to exacerbate in the 1980s when the two clubs were promoted to division one together, then the 1990s when they slid down the leagues and were both relegated to the third tier in 1996.  Yet Luton always seemed to get the better of the games – Watford hadn’t beaten them for 10 years.  By October 1997, Graham Taylor was back in charge of the team and Watford were going well.  They travelled to Kenilworth Road and put Luton to the sword.  Four goals in the first 29 minutes (Richard Johnson, Dai Thomas and two from Peter Kennedy) meant the game was won.  There was no coming back from that for Luton.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.

 

2nd May 1998: Football League Division 2 (third tier)

Fulham 1 Watford 2

Watford were relegated to the third tier of English football (by then called division 2) in 1996, but Graham Taylor had returned to the club.  He took over as team manager for 1997-98 and Watford dominated the division all season, although Bristol City stayed in touch.  On a sunny afternoon by the Thames, goals from Gifton Noel-Williams and Jason Lee gave Watford a 2-1 win over Fulham, and Watford were champions.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.

 

20th May 1999: Football League Division 1 play-off first round, second leg

Birmingham City 1 Watford 0 (Watford win penalty shoot-out by 7-6)

Inspired by Tommy Mooney, Watford closed the regular season with seven wins and a draw from the last eight games and reached the play-offs.  The home leg against Birmingham produced a narrow 1-0 win, and when the Blues scored very early in the second leg the odds looked long.  But Watford held out for the 90 minutes, and then extra time too, and the tie went to penalties.  With the shoot-out score at 7-6 Alec Chamberlain saved from Holland, and Watford were through to the play-off final at Wembley.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.

 

31st May 1999: Football League Division 1 play-off final

Watford 2 Bolton Wanderers 0

On a glorious afternoon at Wembley, Watford put Bolton Wanderers away with two memorable goals.  In the first half, Nick Wright returned a half-cleared corner with an overhead kick that flew into the net.  Late in the game, with time running out, Peter Kennedy broke clear on the left and crossed for Allan Smart to put the result beyond doubt and Watford into the Premier League.  Graham Taylor had taken Watford up again.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.

 

14th August 1999: The Premiership

Liverpool 0 Watford 1

After being promoted to the Premiership in 1999, Watford weren’t strong enough.  They suffered from bad luck, not least injuries to key players, but 1999-2000 proved a season of struggle which ended with relegation.  There were one or two highlights however – a victory over Chelsea, and above all this magnificent win against Liverpool at Anfield early in the season.  No-one gave Watford a chance, but Tommy Mooney grabbed a scrappy early goal and Watford hung on courageously for the rest of the game.  This remains Watford’s only victory at Anfield to date.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.

 

Click on a link below to read about another era in Watford FC’s history:

Pre-1960

The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

The 2000s

The 2010s

Watford FC: Our Watford History

This page was added on 24/05/2018.

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