I suppose the 1980s were Watford’s Golden Age. Under Graham Taylor’s stewardship, they arrived in the First Division in 1982, having travelled from Division Four to top flight in four seasons. Swansea had managed it the season before and taken Division One by storm; Watford did likewise in 1982-83 ending the season as runners-up to Liverpool.
They were certainly Arsenal’s bogey side. During this spell until their relegation at the end of 1987-88, the two sides met thirteen times in all competitions. It is fair to say that the Hertfordshire club enjoyed themselves at Arsenal’s expense, winning nine of those matches. It is not a uniquely modern phenomenon that Arsenal cannot handle long-ball merchants.
On this occasion, The Hornets had not reckoned with Perry Groves. Signed from Colchester a month earlier for £65k, it’s fair to say that the reaction of most was, “Who?”. If memory serves, his initial outings did little to cure that perception but the step up would have been a big culture shock. Still, matters got easier as he grabbed his first goal for the club, breaking the deadlock in the 20th minute.
It’s fair to say that Niall Quinn wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Certainly Don Beet was no fan, determining that the Irishman had “the turning circle of a cross-channel ferry”. Fair point…