Watford Football Club was formed on the 15th April 1898 by the amalgamation of two strong local clubs, West Herts and Watford St Mary's. The Watford Observer of the 7th May 1898 reported - “When three-parts of the season was gone, there were whispers of the advantages of amalgamation of the two clubs. That the principle was right few disputed, and the question narrowed itself down to a few minor difficulties. It was ascertained that the executive on both sides regarded the suggestion favourably, and joint meetings of the officials were arranged. The proposals took a definite shape, and very soon amalgamation was a thing accomplished. It was decided, however, that each club should finish off its fixtures. Next season the Watford club will play on the Cassio Road ground, and one of the chief ideas of the amalgamation is to have a second team of sufficient strength to be an attraction while the first string is engaged elsewhere. The details of the amalgamation scheme we have already given in these columns. Generally speaking, then, the local football season which has just closed has been a most important one. It has witnessed two steps which have marked fresh epochs - the adoption of professionalism and the amalgamation of West Herts and Watford St. Mary’s.” The amalgamation was approved by the full F.A. committee on the 27th May 1898 as reported by the Lichfield Mercury of the 28th May 1898 “permission was given to Watford St. Mary’s and West Herts to take the name of Watford Football Club, the two clubs having amalgamated.”
West Herts were previously known as Watford Rovers who were formed in 1881 by Henry Grover, 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 Club and Ground" in 1891, and consequently moved to a ground on Cassio Road.
As "West Herts" they joined the Southern Football League in 1896. West Herts fortunes slumped at the start of the 1897/98 season and attendances were less than 200. They took the bold step of turning professional and their fortunes revived. Watford St. Mary's were runners up in the Hertfordshire Senior Cup of 1894/95 and attracted crowds of 400 to 500 even when West Herts were at home. The two clubs talked of an amalgamation, which ultimately occurred on 15 April 1898. This was reported by the Watford Observer of the 7th May 1898. It was agreed that the two clubs should complete their remaining fixtures for the season. The new club 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.
Football 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. Eighteen-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 Hotspur 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 Third Division 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. Hampered by a lack of funds, however, 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 Milan for £1 million at the end of the season. An FA Cup Final appearance followed in the 1984 fixture, where they 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. Harrison departed in 1990, and over the next few years, the closest Watford came to promotion was a seventh-placed finish in Division One 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. Poor form, however, 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 then-club record £3.25 million for Nathan Ellington. Watford led the Championship by several points early in 2007–08, but only finished sixth; 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. Dyche went on to achieve success with Burnley and become one of their longest serving football managers.
In the 2012–13 season Watford finished third in the Championship, and reached the play-off final where they were defeated in the final by Crystal Palace 1–0 via an extra-time penalty by Kevin Phillips. The following season, Giuseppe Sannino replaced Zola, as their new manager and the team finished the season in 13th place. Sannino resigned at the start of the 2014–15 season and was replaced by Óscar García, who left shortly afterwards for "health reasons."
Billy McKinlay replaced him and won his first game in charge, 2-1 against Brentford F.C., before a 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.. Despite the team getting 4 points out of a possible 6 under his stewardship, the club decided to replace McKinlay, just eight days into his tenure, with Slaviša Jokanović. With Jokanović managing the team, Watford, on 25 April 2015, gained promotion to the Premier League after defeating Brighton 2–0 and other results going their way. However, they failed to win their final game of the season against Sheffield Wednesday, thus allowing AFC Bournemouth to win the Championship title in the season's finale.
Jokanović and Watford did not renew his one-year contract and the manager was replaced in June 2015 by the Spaniard Quique Sánchez Flores. Watford's first fixture in their return to the Premier League was a 2–2 away draw with Everton. In the 2015–16 season, Watford reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup with a goal by midfielder Adlène Guedioura against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, ending Arsenal's bid to win the competition for three successive times, and finished 13th in the Premier League. Near the end of the season, in May 2016, Sánchez Flores was sacked, because, as he stated, he and the owners "[did] not have the same point of view about the season," and was replaced by Italian coach Walter Mazzarri who signed a three-year contract. At the end of the next season, in May 2017, Watford finished 17th and Mazzari resigned, replaced by Marco Silva. The new coach was sacked after approximately six months, in January 2018, and the club hired Javi Gracia.
** – Colours – **
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 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 fallow deer– on a yellow and black background. A hart represents the town's location in the county of Hertfordshire. Until Barnet and, 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.
Watford Rovers played at several grounds in the late 19th century, including Cassiobury Park, Vicarage Meadow and Market Street, Watford. In 1890, the team moved to a site on Cassio Road, and remained there for 32 years, before moving to Watford's current stadium at nearby Vicarage Road. The new stadium was initially owned by Benskins Brewery; the club rented the ground until 2001, when it purchased the freehold outright. However, the club's financial situation worsened following the purchase, and in 2002 Watford sold the ground for £6 million in a deal which entitled Watford to buy the stadium back for £7 million in future. Watford took up this option in 2004 using a campaign backed and funded by the fans called "Let's buy back the Vic".
Vicarage Road is a four-sided ground with a capacity of 21,977. The East Stand, part of which was constructed in 1922, was closed to the general public in 2008 for health and safety reasons, although it still hosted the dressing rooms and the matchday press area. In November 2013, the East Stand was demolished and in its place a new steel-framed, 3,500-seater stand was constructed. The stand opened fully on Boxing Day 2014 and was named The Elton John Stand after the club's longstanding chairman.
The Graham Taylor Stand (previously the Rous Stand), built in 1986, has two tiers and runs the length of the pitch, with the upper section containing the club's corporate hospitality. At either end of the pitch, The Vicarage Stand is split between the club's family section and away supporters, while the Rookery Stand is for home supporters only. Both stands were built in the 1990s, financed by proceeds from player sales. In the summer of 2015, The Elton John Stand was revamped in order to accommodate an extra 700 seats. This number was revised a day later to around 1,000 extra seats following the announcement of an expansion in the north-east corner.
Between 1997 and early 2013, Watford shared Vicarage Road with rugby union side Saracens F.C. The stadium has hosted matches for the England under-21s, and senior international football between overseas teams. Elton John has also used Vicarage Road as a venue for concerts: He first played at the stadium in 1974 and returned in 2005 and 2010 to stage fundraising concerts for the club. Former events include horse and carriage shows and greyhound racing. The Watford Training Ground is located on the University College London Union Shenley Sports grounds in St Albans, Hertfordshire.
** – Facilities – **
Where the need for personal support has been identified, the Club will admit the personal assistant free of charge on the understanding that they are providing a service to the disabled supporter to enable them to access matchday facilities. The Club requires the disabled person and their PA to enter the ground together and sit together. The personal assistant must be in possession of a mobile phone and be able to communicate effectively with those in the vicinity. They must also be physically able to support the disabled person in the event of an emergency.
You will be offered a free personal assistant admission if you are in receipt of Middle or Higher rate components of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (P.I.P.) however proof of eligibility may be required before tickets are issued.
You can take a tour of their accessible seating provision, including entrances and toilet facilities, below. The tour includes a highlight reel on which you can select the area you are interested in. It also gives you 360° views from the seating areas and you can click on target icons for more information about each area.
As well as housing an accessible toilet, the Changing Places facility at Vicarage Road includes a height adjustable adultsized changing bench, mobile hoist, shower, a screen to allow some privacy as well as a wide tear off paper roll to cover the bench. The facility is ideally positioned near both wheelchair and amenity/easy access spaces in the South West Corner, between the Rookery and Lower Graham Taylor Stands. Those seated in other areas of the stadium will also be able to access the facility by speaking to their matchday disabled liaison officers.
Should supporters wish to be seated near the Changing places facility, our ticket office staff will be happy to discuss all individual requirements and help with booking tickets in the closest places. An accessible toilet is available in the Sir Elton John stand concourse, which is Radar Key operated and has support rails and alarm cords fitted.
Places in their Sensory Room, which enables children on the autism spectrum to enjoy football in a calm environment, are available for booking on matchdays. The room features a comfortably furnished viewing area, with an excellent view of the action and a state-of-the-art calming area featuring a bubble tube, fibre-optic carpet, soft seating, wall projectors, a glitter-ball with a colour wheel and a Bluetooth speaker system so that visitors to the room can choose their own music if the game becomes too distressing for their child.
The room is managed by fully-trained staff with a background in working with children on the autism spectrum and is accessible from Vicarage Road. The room is also fully wheelchair accessible. Places will be subject to availability and a letter from a doctor/consultant or other healthcare professional confirming diagnosis of Autism Spectrum disorder may be required when booking. Parents will also have the option to visit the Room before matchday, if they wish to check the suitability of the room. For more details about the Sensory Room or to book places please contact Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison and Disability Access Officer, on 01923 496397 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The club has 21 Soccer Sight headsets, so that visually impaired supporters can sit in any part of the ground and listen to the commentary provided by volunteers from the Watford Hospital Radio team. Please email email@example.com or call their ticket office hotline on 01923 223023 in advance of your visit with your name and seat number to order a headset, which will be delivered to your seat in time for kick off and collected at the end of the match. Headsets can be provided on a seasonal basis and are also available to visiting supporters.
They offer a seat side food and drink ordering service for all disabled supporters. A drop counter and induction loop is also available in their kiosk situated in the Rookery concourse. Their staff at the catering kiosks will be happy to read out the menus. Evacuation procedures will be advised by the matchday Disability Liaison Officer and stewarding teams in the event of an evacuation being necessary.
Assistance dogs are welcome at Vicarage Road. Should you wish to bring your assistance dog along, please call their ticket office hotline on 01923 223023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can make the necessary arrangements.
They provide Wheelchair facilities on the official club coach travel to away games. Please call their ticket office hotline on 01923 223023 or email email@example.com to book a space on the coaches. Storage is provided for wheelchairs and walking frames for those supporters who are able to transfer into a seat. Please ask their matchday Disability Liaison Officer and stewarding teams for details when you arrive at the stadium.
Signage around the stadium is gold type on a black background and their concourses are painted in highly visible colours, offering contrast between floors and walls.
Getting to Vicarage Road By Train and Tube
The nearest stations to the stadium are Watford High Street (0.6 miles, 12 mins walk) Watford Underground (1 mile, 20 mins walk) and Watford Junction (1.1 miles, 25 mins walk). Watford Junction Station has the most accessible facilities. The station is on the West Coast Mainline and fast trains come from London Euston. Services are run by London Midland and Virgin Trains.
A number of buses (10, 320, 324 and W1) run between Watford Junction station and the stadium. Frequent services are run by Arriva and Red Rose Travel and take around 10 minutes. All buses are low floor accessible and supporters should alight at the Watford General Hospital, which is situated next door to the stadium.
Watford High Street Station has a single island platform which can be accessed by staircase only, there is no ramp or step free access. An induction loop is situated in the ticket office and staff are available to provide additional support. Services are run by London Overground.
Watford Underground station is on the Metropolitan line. This station also has a single island platform which can be accessed by staircase only, there is no ramp or step free access. Staff are available to provide additional support.
They provide 25 parking bays for wheelchair users, which are located in Stadium Way and Occupation Road, both are accessed via Cardiff Road. There is step free access to the Rookery, Lower Graham Taylor and Sir Elton John stands. All traffic will be held back for a short while after the match to ensure clear access for pedestrians.
They also provide parking spaces for ambulant disabled supporters in the nearby Lower Hospital Car Park, which can be accessed via Thomas Sawyer Way. They provide a buggy service to bring supporters to the accessible entrance of their choice and supporters can also make the return journey to the car park by buggy.
To book a space, please call their ticket office hotline on 01923 223023 or email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Spaces are provided for both home and away supporters and are subject to availability. Maps showing access routes for each car park can be provided on request when booking your space. A drop off point is also available at the junction of Stadium Way and Occupation Road, which is also accessed via Cardiff Road.
Location : Watford Football Club, Vicarage Road Stadium, Vicarage Road, Watford WD18 0ER
Transport: Watford Junction (National) then bus OR Watford (Metropolitan Line) then 20 minute walk OR Watford High Street (London Overground) 12 minute walk. Bus Routes: 10, 320, 324 and W1 stop next to the stadium.
Capacity : 21,977
Tel: 01923 223023