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Watford History – All about the Club

We will provide you with a comprehensive account of Watford history, narrating the path it has taken since it was established back in the 18th century.

Watford Football Club, located in Watford, Hertfordshire, is an English professional football team that competes in the EFL Championship, England’s second-highest football division.

Tracing its origins to Watford Rovers in 1881, it was formally established as Watford Football Club in 1898.

Under Harry Kent’s leadership, they clinched the title of Southern League champions for the 1914–15 season, a fact regarding Watford trophies history.

They joined the Football League in 1920.

Though they’ve played at multiple venues, they settled at Vicarage Road in 1922.

They have a noted rivalry with Luton Town.

Between 1977 and 1987, under Graham Taylor’s management, the club saw a meteoric rise from the fourth to the first tier of English football, one of Watford honors.

Highlights include finishing as runners-up in the First Division during the 1982–83 season, participating in the UEFA Cup in the subsequent season, and making it to the 1984 FA Cup Final.

A decline followed between 1987 and 1997, but Taylor’s return as manager witnessed the club climbing from the Second Division to the Premier League for a season in 1999–2000.

Under Aidy Boothroyd, they played top-tier football in the 2006–07 season and from 2015 to 2020.

The latter period saw them reach the 2019 FA Cup Final, where they faced a significant 6–0 loss.

After a brief stint in the Championship during 2020-21, they were promoted to the Premier League in April 2021, only to be relegated again in May 2022.

Watford History and Origins

Watford History and Origins
credit: theenergyst.com
  • Full Name: Watford Football Club
  • Nicknames: The Hornets, Yellow Army, The ‘Orns
  • Year of Formation: 1881
  • Place of Origin: Watford, Hertfordshire, England
  • Home Stadium: Vicarage Road
  • Owners: Gino Pozzo
  • Chairman: Scott Duxbury
  • Manager: Valerien Ismael
  • League: EFL Championship
  • Market Value: €67.40m

Starting Small and Local

Starting Small and Local
credit: watfordfc.com

In 1881, Watford Rovers was established when George Devereux de Vere Capell, the Earl of Essex and Cassiobury Park’s proprietor, allowed a group of youngsters to use his estate for soccer.

This arrangement prohibited the team from playing any formal competitive games on the property.

This assembly comprised Henry Grover, who later became known as the club’s pioneer, and Charlie Peacock.

Peacock, a player for Hertfordshire, also engaged in the club’s administrative discussions and later owned the local newspaper, Watford Observer.

For the subsequent five years, the team only engaged in friendly games with local clubs and schools.

Notably, their first game against their soon-to-be adversaries, Luton Town, occurred on December 5, 1885, ending in a 1-0 victory for Watford.

By the 1886–87 season, Watford Rovers marked their debut in the FA Cup, though they were knocked out in the first match.

Since then, they have taken part in a competition every season.

Starting from 1886, they competed in the Herts Senior Cup, designed for Hertfordshire clubs, clinching the title four times.

They also took part in the Hennessey Cup, available to clubs within 10 miles of Uxbridge, from 1888 to 1891.

The initial game between Rovers and Watford St Mary’s was on January 17, 1891, concluding in a 7-4 victory for Rovers.

In Watford history, before their merger in 1898, the two teams clashed eleven times.

Cumulatively, Rovers and their subsequent team, West Hertfordshire, secured six victories, while St Mary’s achieved four, and two games concluded as ties.

In 1896, West Hertfordshire entered the Southern Football League and began their journey towards professionalism by the subsequent year.

In 1898, the club united with Watford St Mary’s, taking on the name Watford Football Club.

They also transitioned to a Cassio Road ground that year.

Founding the Third Division of English Football

Watford history - Founding the Third Division of English Football
credit: watfordobserver.com

Yet, due to the insistence of the property’s owner, Harry Kent, the manager, initiated a search for another permanent location.

In 1914, he identified Vicarage Road, which remains the club’s residence.

However, they continued to play at Cassio Road for another eight years.

In the 1914–15 season, Watford clinched the Southern League championship and narrowly lost it in the 1919–20 season due to goal average.

In 1920, they, along with other teams in the division, left the Southern League to become founding members of the Football League Third Division.

Ralph Thorpe, the chairperson of Wells Brewery, sponsored the club during its formative years.

Benskins Brewery also backed the acquisition of Vicarage Road, leading to the team being called “The Brewers.”

We can read in Watford history that another early moniker was “the Wasps,” inspired by their hoop-patterned shirts.

From the 1921–22 season, the Football League’s third tier had two concurrent divisions of 22 teams each.

These clubs vied for promotion to the Second Division and worked to maintain their league position.

The bottom two teams from each section faced the possibility of re-election, threatened by the champions of the Northern and Southern Leagues.

In 1922, Watford relocated to the Vicarage Road stadium.

They stayed in the Third Division South for 36 more years.

When the league underwent a revamp into four national divisions in 1958–59, Watford found themselves in the new Fourth Division.

Until 1960, the team was dubbed “The Blues”.

Later, after transitioning to gold jerseys and black shorts, a majority vote by the fans rebranded the team as “The Hornets.”

Trying to Find Their Footing

Trying to Find Their Footing
credit: ourwatfordhistory.org

In the 1959-60 season, Watford ascended from the Fourth to the Third Division under the guidance of ex-Tottenham Hotspur player and manager Ron Burgess.

This feat was primarily due to the 48 goals netted by Cliff Holton.

However, after contributing another 34 goals, Holton was transferred to Northampton Town the following year, stirring significant discontent among fans.

Burgess proceeded to offload more players, such as Dave Underwood, to Fulham, to ensure the club’s financial stability.

Burgess’ successor, Bill McGarry, introduced new talents like Charlie Livesey, who scored 25 goals in a single season, Ron Saunders, who would later helm various top-tier teams, and Irish young talent Pat Jennings from Newry Town.

Yet, Jennings’ time at Watford was brief; he was sent to Spurs within a season to bolster the club’s finances.

Ken Furphy, coming from Workington Town in 1964, took over as the player-manager after McGarry’s departure to Ipswich Town.

With young talents like Dennis Bond and Keith Eddy, the team showed promise, even drawing with Liverpool in the FA Cup.

Despite narrowly missing promotion in 1966-67, Furphy’s recruitment efforts bore fruit in 1969 with the inclusion of Barry Endean from Pelton Fell F.C., propelling Watford to secure the league title after an impressive run.

The subsequent year in Watford history shows them making it to the FA Cup semi-final for the first time, defeating top-tier teams Stoke City and Liverpool.

There were rising hopes of them joining the First Division.

But the challenges of the higher tier and the departure of Furphy to Blackburn Rovers saw them falter.

With constraints like limited funds and the sale of key players, Watford was demoted to the Third Division by 1972.

Elton John & Graham Taylor

Elton John & Graham Taylor
credit: watfordfc.com

Their performance in the Third Division wasn’t particularly noteworthy, leading to a further relegation to the Fourth Division in 1975.

However, a silver lining appeared in Watford history in 1973 when international music sensation Elton John became affiliated with the club, initially as its president and later, from 1976, as its chairman.

He envisioned elevating Watford to the First Division and injected hope into the club’s future.

In 1977, when the club was acquired by global superstar and devoted fan of the club Elton John, he hired Graham Taylor, at the age of 32, as Watford’s manager, an important event in Watford managers history.

At the time, Watford was a nondescript team in the Fourth Division.

A notable change that year was the removal of the greyhound track encircling the pitch, a decision driven by Taylor to bolster the club’s professional image.

Under the combined efforts of the chairman, manager, and players, Watford began a rapid ascent through the ranks.

The club’s upward trajectory started in 1978 when they clinched the Fourth Division title, leading by an impressive 11-point gap over the second-placed Southend United.

Swansea City, another team promoted that year, underwent a similar rise in the league system, though they didn’t sustain the momentum as Watford did.

The achievement of an 11-point lead was especially commendable, considering wins were awarded only 2 points back then.

The upward journey continued as Watford secured the second spot in the Third Division the following year, trailing Shrewsbury Town and followed closely by Swansea.

The initial stint in the Second Division proved challenging; Watford narrowly dodged relegation, ending the season in 18th place.

However, they bounced back and climbed to the ninth position in 1981.

First Division Contenders in The Golden Era

First Division Contenders in The Golden Era
credit: watfordfc.com

By 1982, they broke into the First Division for the first time, finishing as runners-up in the Second Division.

This successful squad featured players like Wilf Rostron, Roger Joslyn, Les Taylor, and their first international recruit, Jan Lohman.

Key figures like John Barnes, Ross Jenkins, and Luther Blissett emerged as some of the most esteemed players in English football during that decade.

Upon Watford’s ascent to the First Division, skeptics were soon proven wrong by Graham Taylor’s team.

Their prowess was evident as they registered triumphant victories over powerhouses like Everton, West Bromwich Albion, and Southampton in the early stages of the season, capping off September with an 8–0 thrashing of Sunderland.

A momentary occupation of the league’s pinnacle position after beating Albion was a significant achievement, although they soon conceded it.

Nevertheless, by the start of 1983, they were giving table leaders Liverpool a run for their money.

Watford history informs us that they concluded their debut top-tier season as runners-up to Liverpool and even managed to overcome the champions 2–1 on the season’s last day.

The 1983-84 season didn’t witness a title push from Watford, but it was significant as the club marked its European football debut in the UEFA Cup.

They advanced to the third round, getting past teams like Kaiserslautern and Levski Sofia, only to be ousted by Czechoslovakia’s Sparta Prague.

Watford’s league campaign was tumultuous, with them battling relegation initially.

However, a mid-season resurgence, primarily due to the acquisition of Scottish striker Mo Johnston, who netted 20 goals in 29 games, saw them finish in a respectable 11th position.

This season was also special for Watford as they reached the FA Cup final for the first time, facing Everton, which they unfortunately lost 2–0.

The End of Taylor Era

Watford history - The End of Taylor Era
credit: watfordfc.com

The subsequent 1984-85 season was a mixed bag for Watford.

They showcased their might by winning against prominent clubs such as Manchester United, Nottingham Forest, and Tottenham Hotspur and drawing with Liverpool.

Yet, setbacks in critical matches restricted them from finishing 11th again.

The 1985-86 season kicked off with a setback, a 4–0 defeat to Tottenham.

However, they bounced back with notable wins against Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.

Watford maintained consistency throughout the season.

Despite not being contenders in the title race, they were safe from the relegation scare.

The season also saw English clubs getting banned from European tournaments due to the Heysel disaster, dampening the lure of a top-five finish.

Watford’s brightest chance of silverware was in the FA Cup.

They made it to the quarter-finals, drawing with Liverpool at Anfield, only to be edged out in the replay.

The season wrapped up on a positive note, with Watford thrashing Chelsea 5-1.

Watford history tells us that the 1986-87 season marked the end of Graham Taylor’s managerial reign at Watford, as he transitioned to Aston Villa after the season.

They finished ninth in the league that season.

Their FA Cup journey was particularly notable, progressing to the semi-finals before being overpowered 4-1 by Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park.

In a twist of fate, Watford concluded the season with a 1-0 victory over Tottenham at Vicarage Road.

Dave Bassett, renowned for catapulting Wimbledon from the Fourth to the First Division in an even shorter timeframe than Watford, was chosen as Taylor’s successor.

His mandate at Watford was made challenging by the departure of star player John Barnes to Liverpool for a then-record Watford sale price of £900,000 in June 1987.

Out of the Top Tier

Out of the Top Tier
credit: watfordfc.com

Bassett’s tenure didn’t begin well.

The 1987-88 season saw Watford struggle to find their footing, leading to Bassett’s dismissal after merely eight months at the helm.

The season concluded with the club’s relegation from the First Division.

The ensuing 1988-89 season brought more disappointment as Watford’s bid to return to the First Division through the Second Division playoffs was unsuccessful.

In the subsequent years, promotion eluded the club, with their best performance being a seventh-place finish in Division One in the 1994-95 season, courtesy of Craig Ramage’s efforts.

This fleeting success was followed by another relegation the next season.

Despite these challenges in the senior ranks, Watford’s youth team showcased promise.

They clinched the FA Youth Cup in the 1988-89 season, edging out Man City 2-1 in extra time.

Notably, future England international goalkeeper David James played a crucial role for Watford during this victory.

In 1996, Graham Taylor made a return to Watford, this time in the role of Director of Football.

Kenny Jackett, a former player, partnered with him, serving as the head coach.

However, Watford history shows that this collaboration couldn’t prevent the club from descending into Division Two.

By the end of the 1996–97 season, with Watford settling for a mid-table finish in Division Two, roles shifted.

Jackett was repositioned as assistant manager, and Taylor resumed his more familiar role as the club’s manager.

This reshuffle yielded positive results.

During the 1997–98 season, Watford emerged as Division Two champions, edging out Bristol City after a season of intense competition.

Their ascent continued the following year as they clinched a spot in the Premiership, thanks to a triumphant playoff final against Bolton.

Gianluca Vialli Replacing Graham

Gianluca Vialli Replacing Graham
credit: watfordfc.com

The initial phase in the Premiership seemed promising, with an unexpected win over Liverpool.

However, the momentum couldn’t be sustained, and Watford concluded the season at the bottom of the table, facing relegation.

The 2000–01 season marked the end of Taylor’s tenure at Watford as he announced his retirement.

Interestingly, he soon made a comeback to football management, this time with Aston Villa.

Watford’s next managerial appointment was a surprising one.

Gianluca Vialli, formerly with Chelsea F.C., took over the reins.

After Taylor, Gianluca Vialli took the helm at Watford.

He introduced several prominent players to the squad, causing the club’s wage expenditures to skyrocket.

Vialli’s own salary was close to a staggering million pounds annually.

Despite these investments, the club’s performance underwhelmed, culminating in a 14th-place finish in the league.

Vialli’s tenure was brief as he was dismissed after a single season, declining to step down voluntarily.

The responsibility of managing Watford then fell upon Ray Lewington, who had joined the previous year as Vialli’s reserve team manager.

As Lewington geared up for the 2002-03 season, the club experienced a significant overhaul with several of Vialli’s acquisitions departing.

Financial constraints limited Lewington’s ability to infuse fresh talent into the team.

To further complicate matters, the financial instability of many League clubs became evident after the ITV Digital collapse.

Looking at Watford history, we realize that the club was on the brink of administrative turmoil when the team and staff consented to a 12% salary deferral.

Further strains on the club’s finances included hefty compensation payouts to Vialli and several players upon contract terminations and a lawsuit filed by Vialli against the club in early 2003.

Surprisingly, amidst these challenges, the team showcased resilience on the pitch.

Ray Lewington Helping the Squad

Ray Lewington Helping the Squad
credit: watfordfc.com

Even with players agreeing to a salary reduction in October, the team managed a respectable mid-table finish.

A silver lining that season was Watford’s unexpected progress to the FA Cup semi-finals.

Although they lost to Premier League side Southampton, the deep run in the competition was a financial boon for the club.

Watford’s financial strain resulted in a significant reshuffling of the team during the subsequent off-season.

Key players such as Allan Nielsen, Tommy Smith, and Gifton Noel-Williams were let go.

Tragedy struck in Watford history on the first day of the new season when Manchester United loaned player Davis met with a fatal car accident.

The impact of this tragic event reverberated throughout the squad, notably affecting his close friend, Danny Webber.

Nonetheless, the team rallied and finished the season in a respectable mid-table position.

The momentum carried into the 2004–05 season, with Watford displaying commendable performances, placing them in the top half of the Championship by the end of September.

Yet, a prolonged slump saw them descending perilously close to the relegation spots.

Brightening up their season, though, was an impressive League Cup run where they reached the semi-final.

Along the journey, they notably triumphed over Premier League teams like Portsmouth and Southampton, ultimately falling short against Liverpool.

The season took a challenging turn in March as Watford’s league form deteriorated, leading to the dismissal of manager Ray Lewington on March 22nd.

The decision was polarizing, with many fans lamenting the departure of a leader who had navigated the club through financial challenges and to two cup semi-finals in three years.

A surprising managerial appointment followed.

At just 34, Aidy Boothroyd, formerly a coach at Leeds United, was named Watford’s manager.

Aidy Boothroyd Surprising Everyone

Watford history - Aidy Boothroyd Surprising Everyone
credit: watfordfc.com

Assisting him was the vastly experienced 70-year-old Keith Burkinshaw.

The decision raised eyebrows, with supporters expressing concerns about Boothroyd’s relative inexperience and the team’s Championship prospects.

Contrary to apprehensions, Watford accumulated enough points to ensure their Championship status with two matches to spare that season.

In anticipation of the upcoming season, Boothroyd made several key acquisitions, including strikers Darius Henderson and Marlon King (on a temporary season-long loan).

He also brought in central defenders Clarke Carlisle and Malky Mackay, midfielder Matthew Spring, and goalkeeper Ben Foster (another season-long loan).

Notably, Carlisle, King, and Spring had previously collaborated with Boothroyd during his time at Leeds United.

Under Boothroyd’s leadership, Watford emerged as one of the most captivating narratives in football that season.

Defying expectations, they consistently held the 3rd position, with Marlon King leading the scoring charts in the division.

The season also witnessed the meteoric rise of players like Ashley Young and Ben Foster.

Watford’s commendable performance in the regular season paved the way for a playoff position.

After confidently dispatching Crystal Palace in the semi-finals with an aggregate score of 3-0, they progressed to the play-off final at the iconic Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Here, they triumphed 3-0 over Leeds, earning them a coveted spot in the Premier League and an estimated financial windfall of £41m.

Watford history says that the promotion fervor led to all 13,000 available season tickets being swiftly snapped up by eager fans.

The euphoria, however, was short-lived in the 2006–07 Premier League season.

Watford’s first victory against Middlesbrough came only in November.

Despite Ashley Young’s standout performances, he was transferred to Aston Villa in January for a record-breaking fee of £9.65 million.

The Premier League Proving Challenging

The Premier League Proving Challenging
credit: independent.ie

The season proved challenging for Watford; they languished at the bottom of the Premier League standings with only five wins.

Their silver lining came in the form of a deep run in the FA Cup, reaching the semi-finals before being bested by Manchester United.

Despite the tumultuous season, the club’s faith in Boothroyd remained unshaken, extending his contract until 2010.

Boothroyd set his sights on a swift rebound to the Premier League, bolstering his squad with notable signings like Jobi McAnuff from Crystal Palace for a fee of £1.75 million and Nathan Ellington from West Brom for a club-record fee of £3.25 million, potentially rising to £4.25 million.

With Darius Henderson and Marlon King consistently finding the back of the net, Watford quickly established themselves at the Championship’s summit.

However, a series of setbacks, including Adam Johnson’s return to Middlesbrough and a subsequent downturn in form, allowed West Brom to surpass them by January.

While Watford clinched a play-off spot by season’s end, their fortune didn’t improve.

Hull City dominated them with an aggregate score of 6-1, ensuring Watford would remain in the Championship.

The 2008-09 season’s beginning did not augur well, leading to Boothroyd parting ways with the club on 3 November 2008, with the team precariously positioned 21st in the Championship.

Malky Mackay, a former Watford player and the then-reserve team manager, was handed the interim managerial responsibilities.

In Watford history, the club witnessed significant internal shifts as Sir Elton John, a long-time patron, relinquished his honorary life President role.

A new chapter began on 24 November 2008 when Brendan Rodgers, the former Chelsea Reserve Team Manager, was announced as Watford’s new manager.

Veteran Frank Lampard Snr joined Rodgers in a consulting role.

Malky Mackay Taking the Manager Responsibility

Watford history - Malky Mackay Taking the Manager Responsibility
credit: watfordfc.com

The club’s structural changes continued with Chairman Graham Simpson stepping down from his role at the club’s holding company shortly after Rodgers’ appointment.

Rodgers’ tenure saw steady progress; Watford registered their first victory under him against Norwich City and ultimately finished a respectable 13th in the league.

Amidst these developments, Sir Elton John reclaimed his title as Life President.

However, Rodgers’ stay was brief, as he departed for Reading in June 2009, taking Lampard with him.

Malky Mackay assumed the mantle of Watford’s permanent manager on 15 June 2009.

Mackay’s tenure was marked by his ability to rejuvenate Watford, even as he grappled with selling key players and limited resources for acquisitions.

He cleverly supplemented his squad with talented young loan signings like Tom Cleverley from Manchester United and Henri Lansbury from Arsenal.

Under Mackay’s guidance, Watford ended the 2009-10 season in the 16th position in the Championship.

We see in Watford history that in 2012 the Pozzo family, including Gino Pozzo and his father, acquired Watford from Laurence Bassini.

They appointed the celebrated former Italy player Gianfranco Zola as the new head coach, succeeding Sean Dyche.

Under Zola, Watford had a successful 2012-13 Championship season, finishing third and advancing to the play-off final.

However, a heart-breaking extra-time penalty by Kevin Phillips sealed a 1-0 win for Crystal Palace, denying Watford Premier League promotion.

Giuseppe Sannino succeeded Zola for the next season, guiding Watford to a mid-table finish.

The 2014-15 season saw a managerial carousel at Watford.

After Sannino’s early exit, Oscar Garcia took the reins, only to step down due to health concerns.

Billy McKinlay’s tenure lasted just over a week before Slavisa Jokanovic was appointed.

Under Jokanovic, Watford clinched a second-place finish in the Championship, securing their return to the Premier League.

Shifting Between the First and the Second Division

Shifting Between the First and the Second Division
credit: skysports.com

However, a management reshuffle took place ahead of the 2015-16 Premier League season with Quique Sanchez Flores at the helm.

Watford performed well, finishing 13th and reaching the FA Cup semi-finals.

Walter Mazzarri replaced Flores in the subsequent season but resigned after the team’s 17th-place finish.

Marco Silva was brought in but was shown the door halfway through the season, and Javi Gracia was named his successor.

In a thrilling turn of events in Watford history, Watford staged a dramatic comeback in April 2019’s FA Cup semi-final against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Yet, their FA Cup final clash against Manchester City ended in a crushing 6-0 defeat.

Nevertheless, Watford secured an 11th-place finish in the Premier League, setting a new club record.

The 2019-20 season saw Gracia’s tenure end after only four games.

Quique Sanchez Flores returned but was shown the exit by December.

Nigel Pearson took over, famously ending Liverpool’s 44-game unbeaten run in the top flight in February 2020.

However, Pearson was let go shortly before the season’s conclusion, and Watford suffered relegation.

The subsequent Championship season saw Watford rebound, securing a second-place finish and an immediate return to the Premier League.

Sadly, history repeated itself the following season, with Watford again being relegated after finishing 19th in the league.

Regarding Watford Champions League history, they struggled in the European competitions and never made it to the Champions League.

Read More: Chelsea History- All about the Club

Watford Kit History

Watford Kit History
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Throughout its existence, Watford’s football kits have undergone numerous transformations, showcasing a rich tapestry of design evolution.

Watford jersey history states that the club’s early years were marked by a medley of red, green, and yellow stripes that epitomized the club’s original look.

However, by the 1909–10 season, this was revamped to a sleeker black and white ensemble, which remained dominant until the 1920s.

The 1920s ushered in a significant shift with the introduction of an all-blue kit, symbolizing a fresh chapter for the club.

However, as the 1950s concluded, another pivotal moment in the club’s sartorial history occurred.

The 1959-60 season saw the team don gold shirts complemented with black shorts.

This change was more than just aesthetic; it culminated in the club being endearingly dubbed “The Hornets.”

This new identity was the result of an inclusive approach, with the name being chosen through a vote facilitated by the supporters club.

The mid-1970s witnessed yet another shift in the club’s color palette.

The iconic yellow replaced the gold, and red elements were introduced, adding vibrancy and contrast to the design.

This combination of yellow and red has become synonymous with Watford, and the club has carried this legacy forward into the 21st century, making it a recognizable and iconic look on the football pitch.

This color scheme not only mirrors the club’s rich history but also symbolizes its resilience and evolution over time.

Read More: Liverpool History- All about the Club

Watford Badge History and Nicknames

Watford Badge History and Nicknames
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Initially known as The Brewers, Watford’s moniker paid homage to the Benskins Brewery, which held the Vicarage Road freehold.

However, this title didn’t particularly resonate with fans.

Consequently, when the team donned blue-and-white uniforms in the 1920s, they were popularly referred to as The Blues.

The winds of change blew again in 1959, steering the club towards a new color scheme and a fresh identity.

It was during this time that fans christened the team “The Hornets.”

In line with this new identity, the club emblem showcased a hornet.

Watford mascot history lets us know that this emblem evolved in 1974 to feature Harry the Hornet, who was the club’s lively and beloved mascot.

While “The Hornets” became a cherished nickname, in 1978, the club updated its crest.

Looking at Watford logo history, we understand that the new design spotlighted a heart, which is a male red fallow deer.

This emblematic representation paid tribute to Watford’s location within the Hertfordshire county.

For a significant period, Watford enjoyed the distinct position of being the sole representative from Hertfordshire in the Football League until other clubs like Barnet and eventually Stevenage joined the ranks.

Over the years, fans have coined other affectionate nicknames for Watford, such as the Yellow Army and The ‘Orns, emphasizing the bond and pride they feel towards their team.

Read More: Manchester City History- All about the Club

Songs

Songs
credit: watfordfc.com

Up until April 2019, a longstanding tradition at Vicarage Road saw Watford players walking to the field to the distinctive tune of the Z-Cars theme.

Yet, in a departure from this ritual, mid-April 2019 brought about a shift as the players started making their entrance to the anthem “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John, a legendary music artist and one of the club’s most famous supporters.

However, this change was short-lived.

As the 2019–20 Premier League season commenced in August 2019, the club heeded the voice of its fans.

Watford history depicts that after considerable fan advocacy, including petitions and strong feedback, the club made a decision to reinstate the Z-Cars theme as the players’ entrance song, re-embracing the cherished tradition and showcasing the influence of the club’s supporters in its decisions.

Read More: Wolverhampton Wanderers History – All about the Club

Watford Stadiums

Watford Stadiums
credit: youtube

Watford Rovers, in their early days, didn’t have a consistent home ground, frequently switching between various locations like Cassiobury Park, Vicarage Meadow, and Market Street.

But by 1890, they settled on Cassio Road, making it their home for over three decades.

However, in 1922, a significant shift occurred when they relocated to Vicarage Road, which continues to be Watford’s home ground.

Initially, the stadium was under the ownership of Benskins Brewery, and the club had a rental agreement for the ground.

It wasn’t until 2001 that Watford acquired the freehold of Vicarage Road.

But this acquisition came with its challenges.

Post-purchase, Watford found itself grappling with financial instability.

As a remedy, the club decided to sell the ground in 2002 for £6 million, but they negotiated a clause in the deal.

This clause gave them the option to repurchase the stadium for £7 million if they wished to in the upcoming years.

By 2004, Watford, with the immense support and funding from its fanbase through the “Let’s buy back the Vic” campaign, managed to re-acquire their cherished home ground, Vicarage Road, an interesting fact to know regarding Watford history.

This move not only reinstated the club’s ownership of the stadium but also showcased the unwavering commitment and passion of its supporters.

Vicarage Road is a stadium that stands on all four sides and can hold up to 21,577 spectators.

The Stands

The Stands
credit: watfordfc.com

One of its distinct features, the East Stand, which was partially constructed back in 1922, was shut down for public use in 2008 due to safety concerns.

However, it was still in use for specific functions like housing the player dressing rooms and serving as a press area during match days.

By November 2013, a decision was made to dismantle the East Stand, and in its place rose a contemporary steel-framed stand that could seat 3,500 fans.

This new stand, which was opened in full capacity on Boxing Day of 2014, was named The Elton John Stand in honor of the club’s long-serving chairman.

Another significant section of the stadium is The Graham Taylor Stand (known before as the Rous Stand).

Built in 1986, this two-tiered stand stretches alongside the entire pitch.

The top section is reserved for corporate hospitality, giving guests a premium matchday experience.

Flanking the pitch is the Vicarage Road Stand, which hosts both the family section of the club and the away team fans, and the Rookery Stand, exclusively for the home team supporters.

These two stands came into existence in the 1990s and were funded using the revenue from selling players.

To accommodate a growing fan base, in 2015, The Elton John Stand underwent renovations.

It was expanded to include approximately 700 additional seats.

Hosting All Kinds of Events

Hosting All Kinds of Events
credit: irishmirror.ie

This expansion strategy was further amplified when the club announced plans to add about 1,000 more seats by broadening the northeast corner of the stadium.

From 1997 to the beginning of 2013, Vicarage Road was not just the home of Watford but also served as the playing grounds for the rugby union team Saracens F.C.

Beyond its regular football and rugby matches, the stadium has played host to international fixtures as well.

This includes matches for the England under-21 side, as well as senior international football clashes featuring teams from abroad.

Vicarage Road has also had its share of musical notes reverberating through its stands, primarily thanks to Watford’s legendary former chairman, Elton John.

The celebrated musician has performed at the stadium on multiple occasions.

His first concert at Vicarage Road was in 1974, and he returned in 2005 and again in 2010 to conduct concerts that aimed at raising funds for the football club.

Watford history says that in addition to sports and music, the stadium has witnessed a variety of other events, including horse and carriage shows and even greyhound races.

Away from the main stadium, the players of Watford sharpen their skills at the Watford Training Ground.

Conveniently located within the University College London Union (UCLU) Shenley Sports grounds, this facility sits in the picturesque city of St Albans, Hertfordshire, offering state-of-the-art training amenities for the team.

Read More: Luton Town-All about the Club

Watford Rivalries History

Watford Rivalries History
credit: watfordfc.com

Watford and Luton Town fans share a long-standing rivalry.

Their initial encounters on the football field were during the Southern League from 1900 to 1920.

The rivalry intensified in The Football League, which lasted until 1937 when Luton climbed up the ladder from Division Three South, positioning them in a superior league division than Watford for several years, until 1963.

The subsequent decades, the 1960s and 1970s, saw intermittent clashes between the two teams.

 Nevertheless, the intensity of their rivalry only escalated.

An emblematic game in 1969, remembered for its fervor and aggression, where three players received red cards, is a testament to the deep-rooted rivalry.

The competition between the two clubs reached its zenith in the 1981–82 season when both earned a promotion to the First Division, with Luton narrowly edging out Watford to secure the championship title.

Their shared journey continued when both were relegated together from the rebranded Division 1 in the 1995–96 season.

Watford finished just one spot above the last-placed Luton.

A memorable League Cup face-off during the 2002–03 season connected their paths once more.

Regrettably, that match is more infamously remembered for the outbreaks of violence that erupted within the confines of Vicarage Road, showcasing the intensity of the rivalry.

On 2 January 2006, a heated match in the Championship saw Watford secure a 2–1 victory at Luton’s home ground, Kenilworth Road.

This was followed by a hard-fought 1–1 draw on 9 April 2006.

The latter match’s single point was pivotal for Watford, ensuring their spot in the 2006 Championship play-offs.

Riding on this momentum, they clinched a promotion to the Premier League by triumphing over Leeds United with a dominant 3–0 win at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The Century-old Rivalry

The Century-old Rivalry
credit: telegraph.com

For nearly a decade and a half, spanning from 2006–07 to the 2019–20 season, Watford consistently outperformed Luton in terms of league standing.

Luton’s downturn was so stark that they were relegated from the Football League entirely for a six-year stretch between the 2009–10 and 2014–15 seasons.

Watford history reveals that the age-old rivalry between the clubs reignited in the 2020–21 season.

In their initial encounter on 26 September 2020, Watford edged out Luton with a 1–0 win at their home, Vicarage Road.

However, Luton sought revenge and managed a 1–0 victory at Kenilworth Road on 17 April 2021.

The season ended in a draw for the fierce competitors.

The 2021–22 season saw a pause in their meetings due to Watford’s promotion to the Premier League.

Although Watford has held a higher rank at the end of every season since 1997 (and for 28 out of the last 29 seasons, with 1996–97 being the lone exception when Luton edged ahead), Luton takes pride in spending more years in higher leagues over the entirety of both clubs’ histories.

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Damian Cade
Damian Cade
He is an enthusiastic senior writer for Footbalium who leans towards writing and researching the history of football clubs and players' life stories.
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