Tribute: Andy Rankin (1944-2023)

By: Watford FC Staff

Two-time ‘Player of the Season’ winner, and the club’s highest-ever goalkeeping appearance-maker, Andy Rankin died on Monday August 21 – with everyone at Watford FC deeply saddened to learn of the news from his family.

For many supporters, especially those who weathered the turbulent downward spiral of the early-mid 1970s and then the Graham Taylor-led renaissance of the late-1970s, Bootle-born Andy will always endure as their No. 1 keeper of Hornet history.

Serving the club as he did from 1971 until 1979, Andy – more notably than any other player – successfully bridged the gap between the difficult post-Ken Furphy days and the stunning revival and rebuild of Watford FC, overseen by both GT and owner-chairman Elton John.

A healthy eight-year stint at Vicarage Road ensured the name of Andy Rankin – ‘Arthur’ to some of his teammates – would enter club folklore after he chalked up 329 appearances; the most famous of which, without question, came away to Manchester United as part of an October 1978 League Cup giant-killing.

Captured by the BBC cameras with highlights broadcast and therefore happily still easy to access and watch, Andy pulled off what was by his own admission his best save ever when tipping away Gordon McQueen’s late header, to preserve a 2-1 lead earned by two bullet headers from Luther Blissett.

It was a far cry from Andy’s early years with the club; he was a stoic presence in goal despite the Hornets wending their way back down the English football pyramid, having so gloriously reached the second-tier for the first time in the club’s history a couple of years before he signed from Everton.

Indeed, such was his consistency at a time when outfield players were struggling to get the better of Division Two and then Division Three opposition, Andy was named ‘The Watford Observer Player of the Season’ for 1972/73 – the inaugural presenting of the trophy – and for 1974/75 as well. Both campaigns saw the club relegated, yet it was the heroics of Andy and a handful of other stalwarts which meant their fate wasn’t sealed much before the season’s end in both cases.

By the time GT breezed into south-west Hertfordshire, Andy had already racked up over 250 Watford appearances. And at 33, he offered ideal experience for a new manager to build a solid defence in front of – although goalkeeping duties over the next two seasons were shared with the up-and-coming presence of Steve Sherwood, as Andy began to pass the baton to a player who would prove to be just as redoubtable a-presence between the sticks for Watford.

Andy left for Huddersfield Town in the Autumn of 1979, shortly after Eric Steele arrived at Vicarage Road, and he enjoyed the best part of three further seasons at Leeds Road before injury forced him to retire from the game. He settled in West Yorkshire and remained there until his untimely death.

Tony Coton may have won one more ‘Player of the Season’ gong, but no former goalkeeper made more appearances for Watford FC than Andy. He was a crowd favourite during both the bad times and the good.

Andy Rankin – truly a Watford legend.

Watford FC will pay tribute to Andy Rankin before kick-off at this Sunday’s (August 27) home fixture against Blackburn Rovers.

Andrew George Rankin
May 11, 1944 – August 21, 2023
Everton Appearances: 105
Watford Appearances: 329
Huddersfield Town Appearances: 81

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