Watford FC: the 1960s

Geoff Wicken

The 1960s saw Watford FC moving up in the world.  The league re-organisation of 1958 placed the club in Division 4, but – after a switch from blue to gold shirts in 1959 and the adoption of ‘the Hornets’ as a new nickname – Watford won promotion to Division 3 in 1960.  For good measure they also reached the fifth round of the FA Cup.  Cliff Holton scored 48 goals, and Dennis Uphill got 36.

Watford established themselves in the third division, and only narrowly failed to win promotion in 1963-64.  Ken Furphy joined as manager in November 1964 and led the club to a series of top-half finishes, including another promotion near-miss in 1966-67.

In 1968-69 everything fell into place.  A fine season, based on a tight defence, the leadership of Keith Eddy and the goals of Barry Endean ended with Watford clinching the third division championship, ahead of Swindon on goal average.

After the best part of 100 years in the lower reaches of English football, Watford had finally reached the promised land of Division 2.


The Golden Games:


16th April 1960: Football League Division 4

Watford 5 Gateshead 0

It was common until the 1980s for teams to play consecutive days at Christmas and Easter.  Watford’s 1959-60 fixture list included Easter home games on Good Friday and Easter Saturday.  These were key games as Watford were challenging for promotion, which was ultimately achieved.  Star player Cliff Holton had grabbed a hat-trick against Chester in a 4-2 win on Good Friday.  On Easter Saturday Gateshead were beaten 5-0 as Holton scored a second hat-trick in two days – one of only two such instances in Football League history.

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


15th April 1969: Football League Division 3

Watford 1 Plymouth 0

For a generation of Watford fans this was the night of which they had dreamed.  After years of lower-league football, Watford’s 1968-69 team stood on the verge of achieving promotion to Division 2.  There were four more games to play after this one, but only one more win was required to secure the necessary number of points.  Early in the second half Roy Sinclair tried his luck from distance.  His luck was in.  The ball struck the Plymouth crossbar and bounced down.  Was it over the line?  Quite possibly not, but the goal was given.  Watford held out for the rest of the game and the celebrations began.

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

This page was added on 24/05/2018.

Comments about this page

  • Special mention about Brian Owen and Rodney Green 1968/69 season.

    Brian would play anywhere he was asked but usually as a winger. He became a coach at Wolves and although retired got a run of 4 games in Div 1 when they had an injury crisis.

    Scored the clubs quicker ever free kick and maybe ever in the FL – 12 secs. A rule change allowed a kick to be taken immediately – so he rifled the ball in from the edge of the area whilst the Barnsley players were busy trying to make sure the Ref was not going to give a pen from bringing down Scullion. GK didn’t see goal coming as he was looking at the players arguing with the Ref.

    Watford 1 Barnsley 2 unfortunately.

    Brian scored the freak goal v Tranmere the game that put Watford top in March to stay there for the rest of the season. The ball was deflected by a defenders boot as Brian made contact – flew high enough to catch the wind over the Rookery stand but stayed in play to thump down near the goal, hitting Jim Coombes the Tranmere GK on the arm – thumped the underside of the bar and rolled to back of the net. Ref waved away protests that he could not award a freak goal. Coombes was collecting the ball thinking we was taking a goal kick unaware of Watford we could see in the Rookery that the ball was about to hit the hard surface just in front of the goal line. Jim’s arm was holding the post which is what took the ball over the line.

    Rodney Green super sub scored late goals to turn draws into wins – one I recall v Mansfield. A hit and hope expecting the Ref to blow the final whistle as soon as he looked at his watch again – 2-1.

    By Kevin Shanahan (27/04/2021)
  • I saw Watford beat Plymouth Argylle in 1969. Standing in the Rookery End we all ran onto the pitch after and celebrated it as promotion. I was so excited that I ran all the way home to the Holywell estate . Pure joy. Since I was young, I’ve followed them!

    By Paul carvajal (31/12/2018)
  • Watford 4 Chester 2 was my first ever football match. Good Friday April 15 1960. I was nine years old. My older brother took me on the 318 bus from the village of Sarratt nearby. I still have the memory of big, muscular Cliff Holton scoring goals. We stood at the Vicarage Road end. I was surprised to see a long column of many fans switching ends to the Shrodells end at half time. I was impressed by the advertisement for the Gaumont cinema where I had occasionally been to watch films. All very grown up. I still have my Hornets old wooden rattle which makes a right din, a mix of ochre [on the end] and black [by the handle, which is white].

    By John Livingstone-Learmonth (05/11/2018)

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