The Boss Files: Glenn Roeder

By: Watford FC Staff

To help celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Watford’s move to Vicarage Road, Daily Mirror sports writer Mike Walters recalls his encounters with those who have occupied the Hornets’ hotseat.

First up, we begin with a legendary figure for the Golden Boys who wore the yellow shirt of Watford and took his place in the home dugout, Glenn Roeder.

Gratified for his upbringing in the shires, it was time for the cub reporter to make his move towards Fleet Street.

Teesside had been an ideal place to learn his trade in all the basic facets of journalism, from court cases to page layout, but sport was his preferred branch of the Fourth Estate and there was a job going at the renowned Hayters agency.

Dear old Reg Hayter worked you hard, but his establishment was a famous conveyor belt for the next generation of sportswriters on national papers and he set the ambitious 22-year-old hack a live audition for the job.

His task? Ring up the captain of Newcastle United, who was born on the fringes of East London, and produce 3,000 words for a book with a prospective chapter entitled The Pearly King Of Tyneside.

One midweek evening in April 1986, the phone rang at Glenn Roeder’s home – and he could not have been more helpful, more accommodating or more articulate in conversation with a bloke he had never heard of, never spoken to before and, frankly, could easily have resented for the intrusion on his down-time.

Yours truly buttered up Roeder by commending him for his brilliant goal for QPR at Vicarage Road in 1979, where he left Ian Bolton for dead with his trademark double shuffle before drilling his shot low beyond Andy Rankin.

Though I say so myself, it must have been a decent read – because Hayters offered me the job. So all the sportsmen and women who have been subjected to puns and other assorted crimes against the English language at my expense have Glenn Roeder partly to thank for their traumas.

Seven years later, when Roeder became Watford manager, he even remembered our conversation when I reintroduced myself and jogged his memory. Until the second coming of Graham Taylor, the 1990s were remembered as a largely fallow decade for the Hornets, but Roeder presided over an era of tight finances by producing a decent side who tried to pass the ball.

Some time after his departure from Vicarage Road, I bumped into him on the platform at Preston station, as you do, on the way home from covering a game at Blackburn.

Kevin Phillips had just knocked in a hat-trick that afternoon and he was pleased to be reminded of his bargain-basement signing from non-league Baldock Town.

“Best 10 grand I ever spent,” purred Roeder. “I went to watch him play for Baldock one night, stood behind the goal during the warm-up and everything he hit flew in. After 10 minutes of the game, I had seen enough, so I legged it before anyone clocked who I was and realised why I was there.”

Glenn Roeder passed away in February 2021 after a protracted and dignified battle 18 years after he was first diagnosed with a brain tumour. For Watford, he was a fine player, a good captain, a commendable manager – and a thoroughly decent football man to his core.

Oh, and the Pearly King of Tyneside remains lionised among Newcastle supporters, too. Fly high, Glenn – and thanks for your part in giving this eager hack a helping hand towards Fleet Street.

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