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Gerry Armstrong had been the star of Northern Ireland’s summer, scoring the goal that defeated the hosts Spain in the World Cup.

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Now he was to make history for Watford. It was a day for breaking new ground. Watford’s first game in Division One was against a team they had never faced before.

Who knew what to expect? After all the excitement of the journey, and a long summer of anticipation, who was to say the whole experience might not be a fleeting one?

Perhaps reaching the destination would turn out to be a disappointment. That was what made it so electrifying for Watford’s supporters.

They were confident their team could cope but they didn’t know what Division One held in store for them.

The team savoured every moment. They walked out onto the pitch in their tracksuit jackets and enjoyed the sensation of being the men to make history.

Pat Rice, who had won the league championship and FA Cup double, says he felt every bit as much pride leading out the Hornets that day as he had lifting trophies for Arsenal.

For many, it was a first taste of life in the top flight but Taylor had trained them not to be overawed.

Watford had earned their place among the elite and they were not going to stand on ceremony.

With Les Taylor not fully fit, Luther Blissett played in midfield with Armstrong taking his place up front alongside Ross Jenkins.

The stage was now set for Armstrong to give the newspaper reporters the story they wanted to write.

After 22 minutes, he scored, stabbing home from close range after Nigel Callaghan’s free-kick had bounced around in the Everton box.
Armstrong had scored in the First Division before, for Tottenham, and he’d just come back from a World Cup but he says it wasn’t until some years later that he realised the scale of what he’d done.

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‘I came back to Watford to watch a match when Graham was back as the manager and we were walking up the steps in the hospitality area in the Rous stand,’ he says. ‘There was a big photo of me scoring that goal and it caused me to sort of stop and take a second look. Graham turned to me and said: “That was a moment in time, Gerry. There can only be one first goal in the top division and you scored it.”’

Everton looked like they were still on their summer holidays at times but take nothing away from Watford. They started the way they intended to go on.

The second goal came when Neville Southall caught Pat Rice’s misdirected cross and carried it back over the line. ‘I’d totally shanked it,’ says Rice.

‘I’d already turned to run back thinking, what an idiot, when I heard the crowd roar. Big Neville had taken it over the line. Was I claiming it as my goal? Too right I was.’