A decision to board up the statue of Graham Taylor outside Vicarage Road has been met with a mixed reaction.

A two-year-old statue of Watford's greatest ever manager has been boxed up and protected by Watford FC ahead of tomorrow's game against rivals Luton.

Contractors were on site on Thursday morning placing protective hoardings around the statue of Mr Taylor and the box has since been painted.

The club has declined to comment on why it has taken action to hide Mr Taylor away for the big game - especially when the match is to be played behind-closed-doors - and the decision has been a source of plenty of discussion from fans of both Watford and Luton.

There have been rumours that a since deleted tweet suggesting Luton fans were "on their way to smash the Graham Taylor statue", which tagged Hertfordshire Constabulary, may have played a part in the club's decision.

Watford Observer:

The statue was unveiled in 2018. Credit: Action Images

Andy Lewers, who runs Watford fan account The Hornets Nest, says he understands why the club has decided to take action.

Yesterday, he tweeted: "Can understand people's frustration at this, but would you rather GT was kept safe or left open to potential vandalism? Realistically the only people stupid enough to travel on Saturday are the ones looking for trouble."

Speaking to the Observer today, Mr Lewers said: "This action is entirely sensible. I don't think it is an overreaction and the club is taking the necessary precautions.

"I think the club have got to take any whispers that something might happen seriously because the last thing we want is trouble from either sets of supporters.

"It is sad the club feel the need to do it but it is the right thing to do."

Watford Observer:

Initial work to board up the statue

Fellow Hornets' fan Stuart Levy is not so supportive of his club's decision.

He said: "I just don't think it's necessary. I wasn't happy when I heard about it I don't think any Luton fans would attack it. Emotions are high but I think there is a fair bit of respect for Graham in the elder generation of Luton fans.

"It seems an overreaction from the club. This just doesn't sit right with me although I get that prevention is a cure."

Harry Cresswell, suggested he understood both sides of the picture.

He said: "I don't fully agree with boarding the statue up but I can see why the club have taken the decision to do so. It's such a shame that the club felt these measures had to be taken."

Watford Observer:

Watford Observer:

The statue now, hidden. Credit: Mark Crowley/Watford Observer Camera Club
In the past meetings between Watford and Luton have been marred by crowd trouble - most recently in 2002 when fights broke out in Watford town centre and the Vicarage Road pitch was invaded by away fans on several occasions.

Police have warned fans to stay away from Watford this weekend while the owner of one of Luton Town's biggest fan sites told the Observer he is not aware of anyone planning on travelling into Watford to cause trouble.

Ian, who runs 'We Are Luton Town', gave us his thoughts on Watford's decision to board up Mr Taylor.

Referring to a tweet suggesting violence from his fellow supporters, he said: "It would be naive not to expect trouble based on the past but there is no foundation to accusations Luton fans are coming down to destroy the statue.

"The majority of our fans respect Graham Taylor for when he put his hand in his pocket for the club.

"From a Watford perspective, I get it is better to be safe than sorry. But doing this has painted Luton fans in a certain light in the build-up to the game when it should be focused on the game itself.

"There’s pure passion on both sides for the game and that’s how it should be. I'm absolutely not aware of anyone coming to Watford to cause trouble. In the last few years, we’ve won family club of the year award numerous times. Everyone loves the rivalry."

Watford Observer:

Police on the side of the pitch when Watford faced Luton at Vicarage Road in 2002. Credit: Action Images

Hertfordshire Constabulary says extra police officers have been drafted in to patrol Watford this Saturday even though no fans will be attending.

The game, which kicks off at 12.30pm at the request of police, will also not be broadcast on live television.

Chief Superintendent Matt Nicholls said: "I want to reassure our local communities that we are working closely with our colleagues in Bedfordshire, Watford Borough Council and the respective football clubs to limit anti-social behaviour and disorder.

"We will have a high-visibility police presence at train stations and in city centres across Hertfordshire to make sure the match goes ahead peacefully as planned. I would like to remind supporters of both teams of the new Government rules of the ‘rule of six’ – no more than six people can meet in a group indoors or outdoors.”

"Anyone who comes into Hertfordshire to cause criminal damage, violence or anti-social behaviour can expect to be arrested.

"If you have any information about supporters who intend to cause disruption, please report online at herts.police.uk/Report/ or call 101 in confidence."