The story begins at Edgeley Park
If anyone had told you that this was to be the start of a journey that would take the club to the First Division, the FA Cup final and into Europe, you would have questioned their sanity.
But this is where it all began. At Edgeley Park in Stockport, in front of three thousand people.
The match was no classic though. One of Stockport’s directors described Watford afterwards as ‘not a bad rugby team’.
Graham Taylor was determined not to hang around in the Fourth Division for a moment longer than necessary and he wanted his team to combine physical strength with an attacking approach.
He knew that getting out of the basement division required guts as well as guile. The players he signed in that first year, such as Sam Ellis and Ian Bolton, offered plenty of both.
Taylor said that 90 per cent of the matches would be like this and that the team with the sharper cutting edge would prevail.
In the final third, Watford were far better than County. Ross Jenkins scored the first when he beat the Stockport goalkeeper in a race to meet Keith Pritchett’s flighted free-kick and headed over him and into the net.
Stockport levelled a minute later only for Watford to win a penalty when Alan Mayes was hauled down. There was some debate whether the foul had taken place inside or outside the box but Mayes made sure he fell well inside to persuade the referee.
Sam Ellis thumped home the kick and Watford grafted and battled to keep Stockport at bay. In the end, Watford’s superior fitness told and they created a number of chances near the end, with Jenkins putting one away.
Taylor refused to get carried away. ‘We are going to have to play a lot better than that,’ he said. He was not wrong, because the following week, they lost 3-1 at home to York City.
After that, they were superb. They won 14 and lost three of their first 17 matches and were beaten only five times all season. They hit the top of the table in late September and never looked back.
Watford picked up a lot of fans on their remarkable journey but very few can say they were there when it all started back in August 1977.
Watford Sherwood, Geidmintis, Ellis, Garner, Pritchett, Bond (Downes 74), Joslyn, Bolton, Jenkins, Mercer, Mayes
Manager Graham Taylor
Scorers Jenkins 15, 84, Ellis 18 pen
Stockport scorer Proudham 16
Why was this match chosen? In many ways this is the most significant match in the club's history – the start of a journey that led to the top and the signs were there in the way that Graham Taylor talked about the performance and the need to improve that he meant business from the off.
How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? It's hard not to feel very sentimental about the whole era following Graham Taylor's death and anyone who was there supporting Watford that day has the satisfaction of knowing they were there at the start.