"Two arms and two legs in good working order"
By Caroline Gillies
In 1983, Watford finished as runners-up in the old First Division and thus qualified for the UEFA Cup.
It was a wonderful experience but one dogged by bad luck since an extraordinary number key players became injured that autumn.
Graham Taylor, true to character, didn't wail and gnash his teeth. Instead, he said to me one day "I wonder if there's some way that we could laugh at ourselves over this and get a little publicity at the same time�.maybe advertise for anyone who can kick a ball?"
"Great idea" I said. "But we need to be a bit clever about it".
The media have a way of ignoring anything which smacks of spin - they like to think they have found a good story all by themselves. So, knowing that researchers tend to look in off-beat places for leads, I placed a classified advertisement in the personal column of The Times asking for anyone who had two working arms and legs to apply to Graham Taylor, if they fancied joining the Watford team.
As I had hoped, Radio 4's Today programme picked it up and that set the ball rolling. We had letters from all sorts including a good number from players who thought we were quite serious. However, nearly 100 applicants saw the funny side and these included several women, a five-year-old, a man in a wheelchair, a 75-year old ex-player who still had his own blue and white striped Watford shirt, and Border Collie.
In the end it was the young lads who'd been in the previous season's reserve team who were thrown into frying pan. Paul Franklin, Jimmy Gilligan, Charlie Palmer, Neil Price, Ian Richardson, Steve Terry, Francis Cassidy and Worrall Sterling all played their part, winning against Kaiserslauten and Levski Spartak Sofia and succumbing only to mighty Sparta Prague.
Another young player, 19 year-old John Barnes, was just able to keep his place. But it was a close-run thing against the remarkable dribbling skills exhibited by the Collie dog!
Click here to read Revd. David Rivers' memories of the advert.
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Paddington Bear in Watford colours.
Presented to mascot Steven Coupe in 1983.