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Oliver Phillips catches up with Heidar Helguson and Tommy Mooney in more reflections from Watford's awards night
Picture it: a small fishing boat bobbing on the sea just off the coast of Iceland. A solitary man is making his catch. Sometimes he is accompanied by his 15-year-old son. He enjoys the company but the man also enjoys the tranquillity.
After some 15 or 16 years in the public eye, he welcomes that tranquillity.
When the work is done, he returns to port and sells his catch in the market.
Last Sunday week, I watched as that fisherman received the Watford FC legend award at the club’s annual dinner at Shendish Manor.
“Why did you move to France?” Heidar Helguson asked.
“Part economics but also to get away from the intensity,” I replied.
He asked me if it was tranquil where I lived and I confirmed we both needed that tranquillity when we retired.
It was good to see and talk to Heidar and I enjoyed the vision of this all-action player, calmly bobbing about in his small fishing boat. It was a far cry from the club’s video of his greatest Watford moments and one particular clip which showed ‘H’ homing in on the ball at full pace with the keeper coming straight at him, which brought anxious gasps from the diners.
Another former player, Tommy Mooney was at the same table on awards night. He had helped Troy Deeney when they were both at Walsall, a fact Deeney acknowledged when receiving one of his awards.
Tom ended his playing career in Marbella some six years ago. He decided to settle there, played golf every morning and convinced himself this was the life. However, he became disillusioned with the lack of purpose and with his marriage breaking up, he headed back for the UK.
“It depends which day of the week you came and asked me if I was enjoying the job,” Tom told me, referring to his job at Aston Villa coaching the Under-17s. “I work a lot of hours and I spend a lot more time on a computer than I would have chosen to do, but the job can be really great, fascinating and very rewarding.”
Two former colleagues, the Moon-man and ‘H’, coping with life in different ways after their playing careers ended.
The previous day, I watched that unhappy game against Huddersfield and while that was taking place, my hopes of winning the Watford Mailing List Prediction League were fading.
I have been streets ahead since September but gradually over the last six weeks, I have been hauled back. I think Brighton’s late charge proved to be my undoing but congratulations to those who pipped me in the final week, knocking me from leader to fourth place. Naturally I was disappointed.
To be honest, I did not want to take part as I am so out of the loop in France, but I was persuaded to have a go, because “it is just good fun”.
So last August I sat down and entered the names Sean Dyche, Harry Redknapp and Nigel Pearson and then scoured the list of managers to assemble a complete list of those who know how to get out of the Championship. Then I put them in an order determined by the amount of money they had at their disposal and listed the teams accordingly.
I was hoping to win because then I could have claimed it was simple. Just get a manager who knows the Championship and what is required to move on. That’s what my list was based upon and the Pozzos would have been wise to follow likewise.
Ok, so they had their own agenda but you only had to be around Sean Dyche for a day or so, to appreciate this was a man who had what it takes in the managerial stakes. It is an irony that he is successful whereas the club that sacked him is not.
Yes it was only my fourth time back at Vicarage Road since I retired in March 2005 but I enjoyed it, despite those 90 forgettable minutes. It enabled me to take in my surroundings; seeing it as it is and remembering it as it was.
Apparently I was sitting in the soon-to-be-renamed Graham Taylor Stand. I always thought the concept of naming the stand after the former local schoolmaster, Rous, was a mite pretentious and stretching a point. I know Elton, who as good as paid for it and then gave the club away for Jack Petchey to profit, did not want the stand named after him.
During that moribund post-Taylor era (1987-96), some wanted to name the new Vicarage Road Stand, inspiringly dubbed the North Stand, as the Graham Taylor Stand.
After Taylor left, the bit parts had emerged and were eager to bring the curtain down on the Taylor era. There was a touch of de-Stalinisation to the policy.
So one day Graham received a call informing him that they knew he did not want a stand named after him and that they had done their best to point this out. They just wanted to let him know his wishes were being implemented and they were going to call it the North Stand, and the next one would be… yes the think-tank had come up with South Stand. And because the West Stand (Rous) was the biggest, the Main Stand was no longer the Main Stand, and instead they were going to call it…the East Stand.
It was artfully stage-managed. Graham was presented with a fait-accompli. He would have had to say: “No, no. You are wrong. It would be a great honour to have a stand named after me and to be perfectly frank (in all fairness) I would really like a stand named after me.”
He was not disposed towards overturning the suggestion that they were acting on his behalf by refusing to let the stand be named after him.
Now the years have sped by and so the previous wrongs, oversights and shenanigans are about to be righted: The Graham Taylor Stand. It is right and proper.
Good place too, for a wedding reception, I found out while visiting the loo.
This article was first published in the Watford Observer on Friday, May 16.
You can read the first part of Oliver's post-awards thoughts here.