- Name: Watford Football Club
- Nickname: The Hornets
- Founded: 1881 (as Watford Rovers)
- Renamed: 1898 to Watford FC
- Ground: Vicarage Rd
- Ground capacity: 20,877
Watford Rovers was formed in 1881 by Henry Groverand, who went on to play for the club as a full-back. Rovers, originally composed entirely of amateur players, held home games at several locations in the town of Watford. The team first competed in the FA Cup in the 1886–87 season, and in 1889 Watford won the County Cup for the first time.
The team became the football section of West Hertfordshire Sports Club in 1890, and consequently moved to a ground on Cassio Road. Renamed as West Hertfordshire in 1893, Rovers joined the Southern Football League in 1896, and started to pay professional footballers in 1897. West Hertfordshire merged with local rivals Watford St Mary's in 1898; the merged team was named Watford Football Club.
Following relegation to the Southern League Second Division in 1903, Watford appointed its first manager – former England international and First Division top scorer John Goodall. He led Watford to promotion, and kept the team in the division until his departure in 1910. Despite financial constraints, Watford won the Southern League title in the 1914–15 season under his successor, Harry Kent. Watford held the title for five years following the suspension of the Southern League during the First World War – after finishing the 1919–20 season runners-up on goal average, the club resigned from the Southern League to join the new Football League Third Division.
From 1921–22, the third tier of The Football League consisted of two parallel sections of 22 clubs, fighting both for promotion to the Second Division and also battling to hold on to their league status. There was a re-election system in place which meant the bottom two teams in each of the two divisions had to apply for re-election to the league.
Watford finished outside the top six league positions in every season between 1922 and 1934. Following Kent's departure in 1926, they finished 21st out of 22 clubs in 1926–27, but were unanimously re-elected to the league after a ballot of clubs in the top two divisions of The Football League. By contrast, under Neil McBain and subsequently Bill Findlay, the team recorded five consecutive top six finishes between 1934–35 and 1938–39, and won the Football League Third Division South Cup in 1937.
The Football League was suspended in 1939 due to the Second World War. It resumed in 1946, with Watford still in the Third Division South.
A 23rd-placed finish in 1950–51 meant that the club had to apply for re-election to the league once more, but again teams in the First and Second Divisions unanimously voted for Watford to stay in the league. McBain returned in 1956, and the team remained in the division until 1958; the league was restructured into four national divisions for the 1958–59 season, and Watford were placed in the Fourth Division. Ron Burgess replaced McBain during that season, and in the following campaign Burgess presided over Watford's first Football League promotion.
This team included Fourth Division top scorer Cliff Holton, who scored a club record 42 league goals in the season. Holton was sold to Northampton the following year after another 34 goals, to the anger of supporters. Burgess was succeeded by Bill McGarry, who bought new players such as Charlie Livesey and Ron Saunders, and in his only season at the club led the club to what was at the time its highest ever league position: third in the Third Division.
18-year old Northern Irish goalkeeper Pat Jennings also featured under McGarry, and made his international debut despite being a Third Division player.
McGarry joined Ipswich in 1964, and was replaced by player-manager Ken Furphy, from Workington Furphy rebuilt the team around players such as Keith Eddy and Dennis Bond, but after holding Liverpool to a draw in the FA Cup and narrowly failing to win promotion in 1966–67, Bond was sold to Tottenham for £30,000, Watford's record transfer receipt at the time. Furphy's rebuilding came to fruition in 1969 with the signing of Barry Endean, whose arrival marked the start of an unbeaten run after Christmas. Watford secured the league title in April, at home to Plymouth Argyle.
A year later Watford reached the FA Cup semi-final for the first time, defeating First Division teams Stoke City and Liverpool along the way. However, hampered by a lack of funds, Furphy eventually joined Blackburn Rovers, to be succeeded by George Kirby. Forced to sell players to survive, Watford fell back into the Third Division in 1972. The team continued to struggle in the third tier, and despite a managerial change, Watford were relegated again in 1975.
Lifelong Watford supporter Elton John became club chairman in 1976. The singer declared an ambition to take the team into the First Division, and sacked Kirby's successor Mike Keen in April 1977. When Graham Taylor was named as Keen's successor, the club was still in the Fourth Division. Taylor achieved promotion in his first season; Watford won the Fourth Division title, recording the most wins, fewest defeats, most goals scored and fewest goals conceded of any side in the division.
Promotion to the Second Division followed in 1978–79, and Ross Jenkins finished the season as the league's top scorer with 29 goals. Watford consolidated with 18th and 9th placed finishes over the following two seasons, and secured promotion to the First Division for the first time in 1981–82, finishing second behind rivals Luton Town.
Watford started the 1982–83 season with four league wins from the opening five fixtures; in the space of seven years, the club had climbed from bottom place in the lowest division of The Football League, to top position in the highest division. Watford were unable to maintain a title challenge, but eventually finished the season second behind Liverpool, which ensured UEFA Cup qualification for the following season.
Luther Blissett finished the season as the First Division top scorer, before signing for Italian Serie A side A.C. Milan for £1 million at the end of the season. An FA Cup final appearance followed in 1984, although Watford lost to Everton. After guiding Watford to a ninth-place finish in 1986–87, Taylor left the club to manage Aston Villa.
Following Taylor's departure, Wimbledon manager Dave Bassett was appointed as his replacement, and England winger John Barnes was sold to Liverpool. After 4 wins from his opening 23 league fixtures, Bassett was sacked in January 1988. Watford were bottom of the First Division at the time of his departure, and Steve Harrison could not prevent relegation at the end of the season. In 1988–89, Harrison's Watford failed to return to the First Division, after defeat in the Second Division play-offs.
The under-18 team won the FA Youth Cup, beating Manchester City 2–1 after extra time, with future England international David James in goal for the Hornets. Harrison departed in 1990, and over the next few years, the closest Watford came to promotion was a seventh-placed finish in Division One[b] in the 1994–95 season. However, in the following season – Glenn Roeder's third as manager – Watford struggled. Despite the return of Graham Taylor as caretaker manager in February 1996, the club was relegated to Division Two.
Following the relegation, Taylor became Director of Football, with former Watford midfielder Kenny Jackett as manager. After a mid-table finish in Division Two in 1996–97, Jackett was demoted to the position of assistant manager.
Taylor returned as manager, and won the Second Division title in 1997–98 – Watford's second league title under his management. A second successive promotion followed in 1998–99, thanks to a 2–0 play-off final victory over Bolton Wanderers. Watford's first Premiership season started with an early victory over Liverpool, but Watford's form soon faded, and the club was relegated after finishing bottom.
Graham Taylor retired at the end of the 2000–01 season, and was replaced by Gianluca Vialli. Wage bills at the club rose by £4 million during Vialli's tenure, and the club finished 14th in the division in 2001–02. Vialli was sacked at the end of the season, following a dispute with the club's board over the wage bill. He was replaced by Ray Lewington, who had joined the club the previous summer as Vialli's reserve team manager.
Watford's weak financial position was exposed in 2002–03, following the collapse of ITV Digital. The club was facing administration, but an agreement by players and staff to a 12% wage deferral helped the club's cash flow, and a run to the FA Cup semi-final generated vital revenue. Financial constraints saw a large number of players released that summer.
After consolidating in 2003–04, the following season started well, with the club in the upper half of the Championship at the end of September. However, poor form saw the club drop towards the relegation zone. Despite reaching the semi-final of the League Cup, Watford's league form did not improve, and Lewington was sacked in March 2005. His successor, Aidy Boothroyd, led the club to Championship survival.
Watford finished third in the league in Boothroyd's first full season, and defeated Leeds United 3–0 in the play-off final to gain promotion to the Premier League. But the team did not record a Premier League win until November, and Ashley Young was sold to Aston Villa for a club record fee of £9.65 million in January 2007. Watford finished bottom after only winning five league games, but did reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Boothroyd continued as manager, and spent heavily on players, including a club record £3.25 million for Nathan Ellington. Watford led the Championship by several points early in 2007–08, but only finished 6th; Boothroyd's team were defeated 6–1 on aggregate by Hull City in the play-off semi-finals. Boothroyd left the club by mutual consent three months into the 2008–09 season, with Watford 21st in the Championship table.
Under Boothroyd's successor, Brendan Rodgers, Watford finished 13th. Rodgers left to manage Reading at the end of the season; Malky Mackay, who had previously served as caretaker manager, was his replacement. Amid the departures of several key players during Mackay's tenure, including Tommy Smith and Jay DeMerit, and the club coming close to administration, Watford finished 16th in 2009–10 and 14th the following season.
Mackay left to manage Cardiff City in June 2011, and was replaced by Sean Dyche. Despite presiding over Watford's highest league position in four years, Dyche was dismissed as Watford manager in July 2012. He was replaced by former Italy international Gianfranco Zola, following the Pozzo family's purchase of the club.
Following a successful 2012–13 season which saw a league-best 85 goals scored, Watford ultimately finished third in the Championship, narrowly missing out on an automatic promotion place by two points, behind Hull City. In the promotion play-off semi-final, Watford was defeated by Leicester City 1–0 in the away leg, but won 3–1 at home, with Troy Deeney scoring the winning goal on a last-second injury time attack following a Leicester penalty kick miss to advance to the final. Watford was defeated in the final by Crystal Palace, 1–0, on an extra-time penalty by Kevin Phillips.
Watford went into the 2013/14 season full of confidence. They started the season well with positive results, including a 6–1 win over Bournemouth and then a 5–1 win over Barnsley. Although the form soon dipped and Watford struggled losing five consecutive home matches. This lack of form ultimately led to Gianfranco Zola's departure from the club. In December 2013, Watford appointed Beppe Sannino as their new manager and finished the 2013/14 season in 13th place.
Watford faced SK Austria Klagenfurt (Away), SV Feldkirchen(Away), Rubin Kazan(Away), FC Chemnitzer(Away), Shrewsbury Town(Away), Coventry City(Away) and Udinese(Home) in their pre-season matches before the 2014/15 season.
Despite winning four of the first five league games of the 2014/15 season, Beppe Sannino's future at Watford was subject to much speculation after it emerged some players were unhappy with his management style. Sannino resigned from his position as Watford manager on 31 August 2014 with the club 2nd in the table, despite winning 4–2 at home to Huddersfield Town the previous day.
Two days later, on 2 September 2014, Watford confirmed the appointment of former Brighton & Hove Albion head coach Óscar Garcia as the club's new manager and the successor to Sannino, beating off competition from fellow Championship side Leeds United for his services.
However, Garcia resigned from his position as Watford manager on 29 September 2014, for health reasons having been admitted to hospital with chest pains after the game against Charlton Athletic.
Billy McKinlay, who had only been appointed first team coach on 26 September 2014, was appointed as his immediate successor on the same day – his first position in management after spells as a coach with Fulham, and as assistant manager with Northern Ireland.
However, on 7 October McKinlay was replaced as Watford head coach by ex-Chelsea defensive-midfielder Slaviša Jokanović.
On 25 April 2015, Watford gained promotion to the Premier League after defeating Brighton 2-0.
On 4 June 2015, Quique Flores was announced as the new head coach, replacing Jokanović who had failed to agree contract terms.
Despite going on to lead the team to a comfortable mid-table position and the semi-finals of the FA Cup, it was announced on 13 May 2016 that Flores would be leaving at the end of the season.
On 21 May 2016, Watford confirmed they had reached an agreement with Mazzarri to become Head Coach from 1 July 2016 on a three-year contract. Mazzari's tenure as manager was terminated at the end of the season.
On 27th May 2017 Marco Silva was appointed Head Coach.
Silva was replaced by Javi Gracia on 21st January 2018, who signed an 18 month contract. After a disappointing start to the 2019–20 season, Javi Gracia was sacked on 7th September 2019 and replaced by previous manager Quique Sánchez Flores. Flores was sacked for the second time on 1st December 2019 with Hayden Mullins acting as interim for one game against Crystal Palace, which ended in a goalless draw.
Nigel Pearson was appointed on 6th December 2019, and watched the Palace game from the stands, officially starting 2 days later, with a contract until the end of the season. Despite lifting Watford out of the relegation zone, Pearson was sacked on July 20th 2020, with rumours suggesting an altercation with owner Gino Pozzo.
Watford fell back in to the bottom 3, and were subsequently relegated on the final day of the season.
On 16th August 2020, Watford confirmed Vladimir Ivić as their new head coach, on a 1 year contract. On 19 December 2020, he was sacked by Watford after just four months in charge. At the time Watford were 5th in the league having won nine of their 20 Championship games under Ivić.
Xisco Muñoz was appointed as manager of Watford on 21 December 2020, after the dismissal of Vladimir Ivić. At the end of the 2020-21 season, Watford were once again promoted to the Premier League after finishing 2nd in the EFL Championship.
Watford's kit has changed considerably over the course of the club's history. The club's kit featured various combinations of red, green and yellow stripes, before a new colour scheme of black and white was adopted for the 1909–10 season.
These colours were retained until the 1920s, when the club introduced an all-blue shirt. After a change of colours to gold shirts and black shorts for 1959-60, the team's nickname was changed to The Hornets, after a popular vote via the supporters club.
These colours remained until 1976, when Watford's kits started featuring red, and the gold was changed to yellow. That colour scheme that has continued into the 21st century.
Watford's initial nickname was The Brewers, in reference to the Benskins Brewery, which owned the freehold of Vicarage Road.
This nickname did not prove particularly popular, and upon the adoption of a blue-and-white colour scheme in the 1920s, the club became predominantly known as The Blues. When Watford changed kit colours in 1959, supporters chose The Hornets as the team's new nickname, and the club later introduced a crest depicting a hornet.
In 1974 the design was changed to depict Harry the Hornet, the club's mascot.The club's nickname remains, but in 1978 the hornet crest was replaced by a depiction of a hart – a male red deer – on a yellow and black background.
A hart represents the town's location in the county of Hertfordshire. Until Barnetand, later, Stevenage joined the Football League, Watford were Hertfordshire's only league club.
Other nicknames have since been adopted, including The Golden Boys, Yellow Army and The 'Orns.
When Watford play at Vicarage Road their players traditionally enter the pitch at the start of the game to the Z-Cars theme tune.
- Football League First Division
- Runners-up: 1982–83
- Football League Second Division / Championship
- Runners-up: 1981–82, 2014-15, 2020-21
- Play-off Winners:1998–99
- Football League Championship
- Runners-up: 2014–15
- Play-off Winners: 2005–06
- Play-off Runners-up: 2012–13
- Football League Third Division Champions:
- 1968–69, 1997–98
- Runners-up: 1978–79
- Football League Fourth Division Champions:
- Southern Football League Champions:
- Runners-up: 1919–20
- FA Cup Runners-up:
Watford Football Club is a football club based in Hertfordshire, England. Founded in 1881 as Watford Rovers, the club entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1886, and the Southern League a decade later.
After finishing the 1914–15 season as Southern League champions under the management of Harry Kent, Watford joined the Football League in 1920.
The club played at several grounds in its early history, before moving to a permanent location at Vicarage Road in 1922, where it remains to this day. Watford spent most of the following half century in the lower divisions of The Football League, changing colours and crest on multiple occasions.
England manager Graham Taylor's tenure at the club saw Watford scale new heights. Between Taylor's appointment in 1977 and departure in 1987, Watford rose from the Fourth Division to the First Division.
The team finished second in the First Division in the 1982–83 season, competed in the UEFA Cup in 1983–84, and also reached the 1984 FA Cup Final.
Watford experienced a decade of decline between 1987 and 1997, before Taylor returned as full-time manager, leading the team to successive promotions from the renamed Second Division to the Premier League for one season in 1999-2000.
The club experienced a further one season stint in the top division of English football during the 2006–07 season, under Aidy Boothroyd's management.
Watford will compete in the Premier League for the first time in eight years in the 2015–16 season, after clinching promotion from the Football League Championship in the 2014–15 season.
Watford is currently owned by the Pozzo family, which also owns Udinese Calcio in Italy and Granada CF in Spain.
Sir Elton John, who owned Watford during both of Graham Taylor's successful periods as manager, served alongside Taylor as the club's joint Honorary Life President, until 2008, only to later resume the role which he now shares alongside Graham Taylor.
For further information check out their Official website or their Fan Forum
Luther Blissett 1975 to 1983 & 1991 to 1993
John Barnes - 1981 to 1987
Luther Blissett 1975 to 1983 & 1991 to 1993
Tommy Mooney - 1994 to 2001
Heiðar Helguson 1999 to 2005 & 2009 to 2010
Former Watford Chairman & Life President Elton John
Vicarage Road Stadium
- Tennants: Watford F.C. (1922–present) , Wealdstone F.C. (1991–1994) , Saracens F.C. (1997–2012)
- Capacity: 20,877 - Opened: 1910
Vicarage Road, a stadium in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, is the home of the football club Watford of the Premier League. An all-seater stadium, its current capacity is 20,877 following the completion of the new Sir Elton John Stand in 2014.
It has been the home of Watford since 1922, when the club moved from Cassio Road. The ground was officially opened by Col. Charles Healey of Benskins Brewery for the visit of Millwall on 30 August 1922. In addition to being Watford's home since opening, the stadium was also home to Wealdstone F.C. between 1991 and 1993, and to rugby union side Saracens from 1997 until they moved to their new home at Allianz Park in February 2013.
After purchasing the freehold of the stadium from Benskins in January 2002, Watford's financial situation forced them to sell and lease back the stadium later that year. However, after a campaign entitled 'Let's Buy Back The Vic' with donations coming from fans, as well as celebrity former owner Elton John donating the entire proceeds of a concert held at the venue, the club was able to repurchase the stadium in September 2004.
Vicarage Road Stand
The Vicarage Road Stand was built following the conclusion of the 1992–93 season. Previously an open terrace, the all-seater stand was built to comply with the Taylor Report and raise the standard of the ground. It cost £2.3 million to build and has a capacity of 5,800 people. Construction was largely funded by the £1.2m sale of Bruce Dyer in 1994.
Originally a mere earth bank when the club moved to the ground, it was gradually transformed into a conventional terrace. In 1978, an electronic scoreboard was put up, which became an iconic symbol of Watford's eighties heyday. In a display of solidarity with the home support, Graham Taylor maintained that the benches for the coaching staff and substitute on the side of the pitch would remain exposed to the elements until such time as the home end was covered.
Its final game as a terrace was a 1–0 loss to Oxford United on 8 May 1993. It opened to the public once more on 18 September 1993, with Watford defeating Notts County 3–1.
Previously the home stand, it now houses the away support. A partition was subsequently added, meaning that both home and away support could be put in the stand. Half of the stand is given to away fans, and the other half is used as the family area for home fans. It also houses wheelchair supporters of both teams. Since August 2012, the stand has been home to the Hornets Shop
The Rookery Stand
The Rookery Stand was built over the course of the 1994–95 season. Another former terrace, the all-seater Rookery stand has a capacity of 6,960. Larger than the Vicarage Road stand, it has facilities on two levels and also holds most of the club's administrative areas. The stand cost £1.6 million to build, approximately £300,000 of this figure was contributed by the Football Trust, with the remaining money coming from the £2.3m sale of Paul Furlong by then-owner Jack Petchey in 1994.
When Watford moved from Cassio Road, this end of the ground featured a roof over a cinder bank, and over the years the roof eventually had to be removed for safety reasons. The Supporters' Club eventually raised funds to enable the Rookery End to feature concrete terracing under cover, and this aim was realised in 1959.
The new stand, replacing the 1959 model was used by Watford supporters for the first time on 22 April 1995, for the visit of Bristol City. As part of redevelopment work in conjunction with the Watford Health Campus, 164 units of affordable housing, known locally as The Wrap, were built on and around the Rookery end. Construction finished in 2009.
The Rookery is the "home end". It lends its name to the Watford fans' podcast, From The Rookery End. The stand was known as the Rover South for Saracens matches.
The Graham Taylor Stand
The Graham Taylor Stand was renamed for the 2014-15 season, taking its name from the club's most successful manager Graham Taylor. It was previously named after former FIFA president Sir Stanley Rous. The official re-naming ceremony took place on the 29th November 2014.
The stand with its distinctive wavy roof runs along the side of the pitch, on the west side of the ground. It is a two-tiered stand, with executive boxes and a TV camera gantry. Built in 1986, it replaced the Shrodells Stand. The £3 million development was partly funded via a loan from Elton John. The upper tier, complete with executive boxes, was constructed first, and temporary seats forming a lower-tier were added later. These were later replaced with permanent seats, first used for a game against Notts County on 18 September 1993.
When the club moved from Cassio Road in 1922, the Union Stand was transported and reconstructed on this side of the ground. It was replaced by the Shrodells Stand, which was constructed during the 1930s. It was extended in 1979 with a further 2,200 seats replacing the standing enclosure in front of the stand.
The final match for the Shrodells Stand was a 1-1 draw against Manchester United on 3 May 1986, the Graham Taylor Stand opened on 23 August 1986, when Oxford United visited Vicarage Road, with Watford coming out 3–0 winners.
The Sir Elton John Stand
The Sir Elton John Stand sits on the east side of the ground, and contains the changing rooms & tunnel. The stand was fully opened on the 13th December 2014, in a ceremony attended by Sir Elton John.
Prior to the development of the Sir Elton John Stand, the east side of the ground was home to the Main Stand, which was constructed in 1922 following Watford FC's move from Cassio Road. The Main Stand was closed in 2008 due to safety concerns.
Following the acquisition of Watford FC by the Pozzo family in 2012, the club were able to finance the development of a new stand to replace the Main Stand. The redevelopment of the east side of the stadium began in 2013, with the aim of developing a 3,000 seater capacity stand which would also house the players changing rooms, television gantry and tunnel.
In May 2014, it was announced the stand will be known as The Watford FC Community Stand. However the club announced in November 2014 that the new stand would instead be named after former chairman Sir Elton John. The changing rooms were used for the first time in a friendly match between Watford and Udinese on the 2 August 2014.
The first game under floodlights at Vicarage Road was played in 1953, when lights were installed on top of the Main Stand. These were replaced in 1960, with four pylons being built in the corners of the ground. Currently the floodlights are mounted on the top of the Vicarage Road and Rookery Stands.
In 1982, Vicarage Road Stadium gained its own railway station, Watford Stadium Halt. It was introduced as a means of managing the crowds attending football matches, providing an alternative to Watford High Street and Watford Junction, and was only open on match days. Development of the station was funded jointly be the Football Trust, Watford Borough Council, Watford F.C. and British Rail. The station was officially opened on 4 December 1982 by Elton John and Lord Aberdare, chairman of the Football Trust. The inaugural train rolled into the station 5 minutes late, bringing away fans of Manchester United to Vicarage Road; the match that day ended with a 1-0 defeat for Watford.
The station fell out of use when British Rail closed the railway line in 1996 and has remained derelict ever since. A new London Underground station, Watford Vicarage Road, is due to open in 2018 on the opposite side of the Vicarage Road bridge as part of the Croxley Rail Link project to extend the Metropolitan line.