Should Watford cap their return to the top flight of English football by finishing mid-table in May it would surpass the achievement by the side who finished second in the old First Division more than 30 years ago.
That is the verdict of Graham Taylor – and he should know as it was under his management that Watford finished the 1982/83 season with only Liverpool, that great Liverpool side of Rush, Dalglish, Hansen and Souness, above them.
“Things have changed in football,” said Taylor in a nod to how the shift in the financial landscape means newly-promoted teams, more often than not, finish second from bottom, not second from top. “Everything moves on. But if they [Quique Sanchez Flores’s side] do stay up and they are a mid-table side that will be as good as what we achieved.”
Luther Blissett was Taylor’s Troy Deeney, finishing that heady season with 27 goals. Even putting his loyalties to one side, he is confident Watford will not be in the bottom three.
“They look stone bankers to stay up,” Blissett also told BT Sport. “To be in mid-table would be a great achievement. They’ve brought in 15 or more players and for us to be in the position we are now is astonishing.”
Much of that is down to the initial investment by the Pozzo family to stabilise the club and then the shrewd recruitment of players. Taylor knows all about the value of a smart, committed owner having operated for most of his time at Vicarage Road under Sir Elton John.
“He was very knowledgeable,” said Taylor. “He knows his football but about other sports as well, tennis and cricket. He knows what is going on in the sporting world. What I liked about him is he let the manager manage. He wasn’t a chairman who interfered. He never once questioned team selection. The only thing that disappointed him was if we had lost and the performance hadn’t been there. He knows everything about performance as when you go round the world [performing sell-out concerts] you have to perform. No matter how you feel you have to deliver the goods. He knew what performance was about. If we had lost but played well, he never came back to me. That’s what I appreciated. He was the best chairman I worked under. He was excellent.”
Blissett wasn’t even sure, when he rocked up as an apprentice in 1974, who the rockstar was.
“We were running around the pitch the first time I saw him,” said Blissett. “He was talking to someone, the chairman at the time, I think. ‘There’s Elton John,’ someone said. ‘Who, I said?’ I had no idea who he was. I got to know him well and the biggest thing I found was that he loves his football. He used to turn up for training every day.”
Taylor has experienced the full range of the ownership spectrum, working under Elton John and Jack Petchey. He was kept informed of how Graham Simpson and Mark Ashton were running things, he worked with the Russo brothers and quit as non-executive chairman when Laurence Bassini had his hands on the tiller.
“It all depends on the leadership, who owns the club,” he said. “In my [first] time Elton John was a tremendous leader so we had good leadership and a supply of money. That played a very big part [in our success].”
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