Once inside the ground, we headed for our usual spot in the Rookery (if not our usual seats). The first notable difference was the big screens which have been added to the Vicarage Road and Rookery Stands. They look very good and should be visible from all areas of the ground. Hopes that Z-cars would be reinstated were cruelly dashed as the players took the field to “I’m Still Standing” and, as has happened at all games since the change, the pulse failed to quicken. I remain baffled at this decision which has no apparent benefit but has been a detriment to the matchday experience for many. Before the game, Rita Taylor and her grandson, Jake, were on the pitch for the minute’s applause for GT. They were then introduced to the players as GT’s favourite song, Buddy Holly’s Raining in my Heart, was played over the tannoy. I must admit to having tears in my eyes at this point.
Tag: RIP Graham Taylor
Both teams had chances to score and the home side could have taken the lead as early as the second minute but Heaton denied Gerard Deulofeu with his right foot after the forward went through on goal. Heaton was called into action once more on the stroke of half-time when he dived to his right to parry Troy Deeney’s crisp side-footed effort to safety.
Sean Dyche, back on his old stamping ground where he spent three seasons as a player before cutting his teeth in management on the day home supporters honoured the memory of Graham Taylor, could afford a smile at the final whistle despite seeing Chris Wood’s goal ruled out for offside in added time.
The highlight of the day was the GT stuff, quite obviously. Two years on the club provides all attendees with a drinks voucher, then orchestrates another tremendous scarf display as the players enter the arena. This might have been more effective still but for the unwanted, unneeded and sadly non-negotiable twaddle that is the Premier League anthem as the players solemnly shake hands. It could have been so much more than a stunning visual spectacle. But it is a stunning visual spectacle. There are scarves aloft in the away end too – Claret and Blue stands out a little less than Southampton’s red and white of a year ago, but it’s still a fine thing.
As the teams took the field, the crowd (including a number of Burnley fans) raised their scarves in honour of GT (the fellow next to me was given my spare so he could join in). It really was quite a sight. That was followed by a minute’s applause for both GT and Duncan Welbourne who passed away this week. Chopper’s family were guests of honour of the club for the afternoon.
At half time, the family of Thomas Sawyer, a young soldier who was killed in Afghanistan 10 years ago, were on the pitch and Thomas’s father paid heartfelt tribute to his son. Then, as the players came out for the second half, the 1881 lads unfurled the Legends banner which we held over our heads in the Rookery in the knowledge that it features both GT and Duncan Welbourne. Both events were touching tributes and a clear sign that the club has not lost its community focus.
In GT’s final programme notes as Watford manager he listed the 120 games which were special to him. Read through the list and smile at the memories and as he says if you can’t remember them then talk to someone who can.
Taken from the programme on 28th April 2001- New Division One, Watford 1 Tranmere Rovers 1
Back for the final podcast in preseason, Jon and Colin were at Vicarage Road to see the unveiling of the Graham Taylor Statue. You’ll hear some moments of the ceremony, the reaction of Lionel Birnie, author of Graham’s autobiography, and we hear your memories of meeting Graham.