By George Matlock
Elton’s Watford Football Club did us proud on May 2, 1998. Having played well enough throughout the season, and technically already qualifying for promotion to Division 1 in April on points, Watford kept us on the edge of our seats, or heaving on the terraces, right to the very last game of the season.
We were desperate not only to gain promotion, but to be the best team going up. Rivals Bristol City were our threat, as they stole a 3-point lead over Watford ahead of the May 2 game against fourth-best team in the division, Fulham. What’s more, Watford were playing away at Fulham!
Meanwhile, Bristol City were playing a much-feared easy match against Preston.
But it all came right for us, and wrong for Bristol City. Who better than Watford manager Graham Taylor to fill us in on the details:
“We did stumble in the second half of the season but I’ve said before that we were so far ahead for so long that the odd bad result didn’t sting us enough,” Taylor said.
“We knew we would get reactions from the crowd. Midway through the second half I was told Bristol were losing 2-1 and that was the half-time score.
We were leading 2-1 (against Fulham) and I then felt the gods would really have to go against us for us not to win the league.
“I think tension crept in a bit recently, as we saw our 19-point lead chipped away. It’ll be interesting to see how far clear of the
third-placed team we’ve finished. But that made us tense up, which is only human nature.
“So in the last three weeks we have made a real effort to try to enjoy what we have achieved.”
Well, we have done our bit to support the team. I went along last November to Watford’s Vicarage Road to cheer the team on against Wigan Athletic. Well, Elton wasn’t there, but Wigan failed to keep their hair on, as Watford BEAT them 2:1.
Then in January 1998, I went along to cheer against Brentford. Watford played away, and I was cheering from the Brentford terraces (!). Guess what, we won that too, 2:1.
The Fulham showdown match saw Watford with a total of 67 goals scored in 1997-98, behind Bristol City’s 69 goals. But points are what matter, and we ended comfortably 3-points in the lead!
Now Watford must battle through Division one, and still it’s not over then. Watford would need to get promotion to the Premiership Division – the ultimate league division – to stand a chance of returning to Wembley to fight for the FA Cup. That process, on the most optimistic basis, would take another two years. Wish them well. United We Stand!