The main reason for my return from France to witness the final weekend of Watford’s season, was to endorse the selection of Trefor Jones as Supporter of the Season, a journey I made happily for he has made a difference to the lives of Watford fans.
Every dispute and argument as to who scored, played where or when can be solved now with a speedy perusal of Trefor’s very detailed Watford FC Archive website. It is a work of diligent research and in fact is a work of scholarship.
I first heard of Trefor a few decades ago when I was told that a man frequented Watford Reference Library, scouring the files of the Watford Observer and West Herts (Watford) Post and mumbling into a tape recorder.
That was the basis of what became two books: one of Watford FC potted biographies and the other, statistics.
Trefor was able to check the results and details as they appeared in each of the two local papers that covered the majority of the club’s history and then seek confirmation and correlation with the records of the Southern League and Football League. He could also liaise with other members of the Association of Football Statisticians.
It is an amazing feat and having toyed with the club’s records in the past, I know just how much work was involved. At one stage, before I joined the Watford Observer, a succession of juniors had compiled the results and scorers from all seasons, but upon looking through them, I spotted loads of anomalies.
Regrettably, when Trefor’s book came out, we jettisoned those old records, which is a pity because they not only contained Watford’s scorers but the opposition’s as well, which occasionally made for interesting reading and ironic coincidences.
When Watford FC commissioned me to write a Centenary History as 1990 dawned, it had to be admitted we had missed the boat. How could that have happened, you might ask?
The answer is simple. For more than 60 years, Watford’s formation was designated as being in 1898 when West Herts, already playing in the Southern League at Cassio Road, changed their name to Watford, for they had amalgamated with the other local club, Watford St Mary’s. Both clubs had adopted professionalism by then.
All the literature appertaining to Watford, named 1898 as the club’s formation and, in company with the Hornets of the Holton era and later with Bill McGarry’s record-breaking squad, I attended the annual Watford St Mary’s-West Herts dinner and toasted the founding of Watford FC.
When I commenced my research in the 1960s and was set the task of conjuring up a series with a different season each week, I questioned, if West Herts absorbed Watford St Mary’s, why did we not go back to the commencement of West Herts as the start of Watford FC. The club and ground was formed in 1891, taking on leading local side Watford Rovers to represent the new club?
It was logical and subsequently it also tied in neatly with the club wanting to celebrate a Centenary. So it became the Official Centenary of 1991, but Trefor had unearthed the fact Watford Rovers had a history and had in fact formed in 1881. Their players then played for West Herts.
If you look at the old Watford Observer files of 1906, you are hit by thousands of tightly-spaced words on a succession of grey, type-filled pages. At the bottom of a leader column talking about everything Watford but nothing about sport, there is a paragraph, which, without a headline, just passes on the newspaper’s congratulations to the club on celebrating their 25th anniversary.
On the understanding that I included that fact he had unearthed, Trefor threw his weight and support into my writing of the Official Centenary, which states the true origins of the club. I was extremely grateful for that support and also for Trefor’s subsequent provision of weekly statistics appertaining to the latest Watford match.
Trefor did not know why I had flown over from France when we met on awards night, yet, within a minute of greeting me, he provided an update on his latest research. He is tracking down some extra details of Robbie Slaughter, a local lad who played for Watford St Mary’s, West Herts and ultimately Watford in those formative years.
Not many people would be interested in the outcome of his research, apart from me and perhaps a couple of fellow anoraks, but I know why Trefor is still undertaking such tasks, in much the same was as Mallory explained the need to climb a mountain: Because it is there.
No one could blame Trefor or criticise him if he did not follow the careers of various foreign professionals who have passed through the club’s portals these last two years. But his Archive website will keep us up to date with what they do and where they play for the rest of their career. He has done just that with every professional in the club’s history.
He was surprised and delighted to receive the award having wondered where my induction speech was going, as indeed was I, because my late instruction was to praise him but not mention his name. Finally there came the clinching paragraph and he realised I was talking about him and his diligence and professionalism.
Of course Supporter of the Season Award is a catch-all. It does not have to relate specifically to this season, for Trefor has been a supporter since his youth and as his archive demonstrates, a man for all seasons. I know only one other fan who has worked as many weekly hours in the cause of Watford, for the joy, as has Trefor. They sit next to each other at games.
During the course of the evening I was able to tell Trefor that I had lunch before the game in the guest suite in the Rous Stand, the previous day. The company at the table was excellent and I noted they greeted a fit, lean young man with warmth. On closer inspection I realised it was Richard Johnson, the former all-action midfielder.
Johnno did a double take when he saw me and we had a pleasant chat. I told Trefor of our meeting up and explained that Johnno was working with Micah Hyde and Clint Easton in the youth set-up at Dagenham and Redbridge.
He did not know that but doubtless he won’t take my word for it. He will check it up himself and that is what I admire, for that is the measure of the man.
This article was first published in the Watford Observer on Friday, May 30.