Time Capsules: Sir Elton John's Play-Off Hopes (1999)

By: Watford FC Staff

In our 'Time Capsules' series, we dive into the Watford FC archives to re-publish a classic interview from an historic matchday programme.

For our third instalment, we take a look at an article written by the club's Honorary Life President Sir Elton John on the final day of the 1998/99 Nationwide Football League Division One season.

As the club's owner at the time, Sir Elton John reflects on the incredible resurgence from Graham Taylor's team which has given them a shot at promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs, and looks ahead to the prospect of a trip to Wembley Stadium...

The Programme

  • Season: 1998/99
  • Match: Watford 1-0 Grimsby Town
  • Date: Sunday May 9, 1999
  • Manager: Graham Taylor
  • Competition: Nationwide Football League Division One

The Article

Every supporter can look back at specific games and say ‘that was a defining moment’.

For example, go back three years when the last game of the 1995/96 season saw us face Leicester City here. If we won there was a chance we could stay in Division One, after a late run from a seemingly impossible position.

For Leicester a win meant a possible play-off place and all that could bring.

As you know we lost 1-0 – a result which sent us down, even though as it turned out, a win would not have saved us given results elsewhere. For Leicester, a play-off place resulted in a successful visit to Wembley and a Premiership place. That first season back in the top flight, City won the Littlewoods Cup and played in Europe as a consequence - going out of the UEFA Cup to Atlético Madrid.

Suddenly, from playing on the same field, we were two divisions – and a world – apart.

Thankfully, due to the management skills of Graham and his staff – and the incredible efforts of the players, we could be the Leicester City of the 1998/99 season. A play-off place beckons and a chance to play in the toughest League in the world against players and teams of global stature.

The butterflies start to go even as I write this.

In the immediate future, our opponents today know what the play-offs entail. They came up to Division One via that route last season. Can you imagine the atmosphere at a Wembley play-off final? Oh, the butterflies are going again.

Meanwhile, there have been defining moments since the Leicester City game. Last season when we went to the last game of the season, Bristol City looked the more likely to take the title. And although we still would have been promoted, there's something special about going up as champions. But Jason Lee's winning goal and Bristol's defeat at Preston meant we collected the silverware.

Look at Bristol City's fate now - perhaps that silverware meant more than we think?

This season's defining moment – I was there, but I missed it!

Of course you know the game I'm referring to – against Tranmere Rovers on April 3 when we were 1-0 down with a little over 15 minutes left. A play-off place then looked very remote.

Then Peter Kennedy whacked one in and we went on to win the game.

Seasons turn on moments like these. And who's to say today's game won't include a moment or incident which could directly influence the next few weeks?

Either way, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support this season, particularly those of you who also go to the away games.

I know from talking to Graham that your backing has been a key factor in the winning, or drawing of certain games.

Here's hoping I see you all at Wembley – it's been a long time.

Keep an eye out for the next historic interview in this series, coming soon.

A play-off place beckons and a chance to play in the toughest League in the world against players and teams of global stature. The butterflies start to go even as I write this.
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