Tributes have been paid to a “real gent" and "lovely man” who overcame the prejudice directed at him after joining Watford from Luton Town following his death last week, aged 69.

Born in Walworth, London, in 1951, former defender Alan Garner was signed by Mike Keen from Watford’s Bedfordshire rivals in February 1975 for £22,000.

He would go on to establish himself as a lynchpin in the club’s defence and was an ever-present for two consecutive seasons, the second of which saw Watford storm to the Division Four title under Graham Taylor and him crowned Player of the Season

A powerful centre-half, Garner missed just four matches of the following campaign as Taylor’s side secured back-to-back promotions and famously beat Manchester United 2-1 in a run that saw them reach the League Cup semi-finals.

Hornets legend Luther Blissett, who scored both goals in that memorable Old Trafford success, tweeted following his former team-mate’s death.

He said: “A real gent to play alongside. So sad to have learned this. Alan was a great player but also one of those footballers who no matter how rough or muddy it got he never had a hair out of place! Always a gent #RIP”

Watford Observer:

The Watford Observer’s former long-serving Watford correspondent Oliver Phillips remembers: “When Graham Taylor first arrived at Vicarage Road, he admitted to being prejudiced against sixes.

”The centre half gets his head in where it hurts while the number six just sweeps up behind him, ” said Graham, who bought in two central defenders in Ian Bolton and Sam Ellis.

“It seemed Alan’s future was limited and his many fans were upset that their favourite seemed to be sidelined.

“That in itself was a tribute to the player who had overcome the prejudice directed against the defender signed from Luton.

“Ten months later at Baileys night spot, Alan told me: “This is my night and I am going to get p****d.”

“He had just received the Watford Observer’s Player Of The Season award, voted the top player in the Division Four title-winning season by fans and also by the players.

“A lovely man, erudite and only too happy to talk about football whenever we met up subsequent years, Alan also held down the defensive role the following season when the club achieved a second successive promotion. In retirement, he was a frequent mid-week visitor to Vicarage road on match-nights.”

Garner scored 16 goals in 232 league and cup appearances before moving to Portsmouth in February 1980 for a fee of £80,000, almost four times what Watford had paid for him.