Super Cally Goes Ballistic and Watford show it's time to be moving on
On the eve of the 1981-82 season, their third since promotion to the Second Division, Graham Taylor said: ‘There is this atmosphere, this air among the Watford playing staff that we have established ourselves as a Division Two club in every way and it is time we were moving on.’
The fixture list couldn’t have handed the Hornets a much tougher opening game than a trip to St James’s Park. Newcastle United were one of the so-called ‘sleeping giants’ playing below what they considered to be their natural level.
Watford rode their luck at times and it took a moment of brilliance from Nigel Callaghan to break the deadlock. But they got their promotion challenge off to a flying start, even if the next two games, a defeat at home to Grimsby and a draw against Oldham, reminded them that it was going to be a long haul.
Newcastle’s manager Arthur Cox, who later tried to sign Callaghan, called his goal ‘one in a million’. The strike, although witnessed by only a small number of travelling fans, was voted goal of the season. Callaghan volleyed home from 25 yards, connecting sweetly with a lofted crossfield pass from Gerry Armstrong.
Luther Blissett had been kicked and hacked repeatedly and, towards the end, his patience snapped and he lashed out. Kenny Wharton lunged at him three times in quick succession, trying to cut him down before David Barton finally got him.
The referee blew his whistle to give Watford a free-kick but it was too late. Blissett had already reacted, kicking Barton. He was sent off.
Blissett had to sit in the dressing room hoping his team-mates would hold out. He knew he’d bear the brunt of the manager’s frustration if Watford surrendered the points because they had been reduced to ten men.
Newcastle piled on the pressure but couldn’t get the equaliser. Watford held on for a terrific opening day victory. Blissett was spared the hairdryer treatment and accepted his £50 fine.
After the match, Callaghan was heading to the team coach for the journey home when a big Newcastle fan stopped him.
‘I thought he was going to hit me,’ says Callaghan. ‘But he gave me his programme and asked me to sign it.’ Callaghan took the programme and the man said, in a strong Geordie accent: ‘Just sign it flukey basstid.’
Watford Sherwood, Rice, Henderson, Taylor, Sims, Bolton, Callaghan, Blissett, Armstrong, Jackett, Poskett
Manager Graham Taylor
Scorer Callaghan 25
Why was this match chosen? The players and Graham Taylor are unanimous that this game was a statement of intent – a difficult away game to start the season and a chance to send a message to the rest of the Second Division.
How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? The fact Callaghan's goal does not exist on video only adds to its legendary status. This is where the final push for the First Division began.