"Mr Taylor to you sonny!"
By Peter Fincham
There didn't used to be the sort of Kudos that football has today. It used to be a game that middle class politicians sneered at, not re-invent themselves as fanatical supporters of. Anyone famous used to give 'Gods Game' a rather wide berth, not revel in publicising the fact that they have had a season ticket (which of course they pay for themselves!). So in the early 1980's, with hooliganism allegedly rife, you can understand that my mother was not overly pleased at letting her 10-year-old only son travel from Hemel Hempstead to Watford to watch his true passion in the flesh.
And if it was not for Graham Taylor, I could honestly believe that I would not be writing this piece 20 years later.
Mum was, and to an extent still is, not someone you would really consider to be clued up. But the fact that even she had heard that Watford F.C. was a different club to "the others", paid testament to the changes that Graham Taylor had made at the club during his first spell. While the creation of one of the best teams in the country provided one miracle for the masses to applaud him for, the creation of the "Family Club" concept was the reason for my applause. For without it, I, and a whole generation of little Hornets, would not have had the opportunity to come to the Vic as and when they wanted to.
GT's vision made football safe for kids and families. The Family Terrace provided an area where families felt comfortable together, and kids could congregate safe in the knowledge that while they were too young to risk standing on the North East Terrace, they had their own area to learn the ropes before making the break for the scoreboard once over 5ft 6"! Meanwhile, there would always be Jack on the gate to prevent us from growing up too quickly!
I always remember one incident when I met GT in the flesh for the first time. It was not so much of a meeting, more of a personal and very public humiliation!
At half time some of us used to try and make a break for the tunnel to get players autographs. In those days there was a gate separating the terrace from the stand, guarded by 2 delightful lady stewards; delightful if they let you through to the tunnel, foul authoritarians if they did not! One particular game - they all seem blend into each other in the early '80s - I had convinced the ladies that I was not going to the tunnel for � time autographs, and instead was in search of my fictitious relative who for some reason sat in a family enclosure on his own. As the 2nd half was about to start I was trying to attract the attention of "Graham" coming out of the tunnel. He came over as I held out my pen and paper, and I was excited that I was about to get the autograph of the manager of the greatest football team in the world. I would be the envy of about 2 people in my class at Berkhamsted School! But instead of providing me with a fantasy moment, he quite loudly stated that he was
"Mr. Taylor to you sonny!"
I turned round, utterly deflated, having learnt a rather painful lesson in the idea of respect for ones elders. If that was not bad enough, the 2 people from school who I could have impressed, were standing about 5 yards away, and had witnessed the whole thing.
Fortunately I recovered from this, and after many years had the confidence to try and his autograph again. This time, there were no people from school around, just in case!
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