RETURNING once again to the subject of "off the record" I recall one drama from the Jim Bonser era. The former chairman was being hounded by "Bonser Out" chants and the club was beginning to nosedive.

After riding out the Leslie Wise take-over saga, he was under pressure from a small group of directors to bring in new men and fresh blood to the board.

There were two important considerations in Bonser's approach to being chairman. The first was that he got his own way and the second was that every decision was seen to be democratically taken.

In order to achieve this, he made sure he had sufficient number of directors who were either in his employ, relied upon him for business or would never have got within a football pitch of the boardroom if he had not brought them in.

Board meetings often became pantomimes with one director, whose knowledge of football was limited in the extreme, suddenly bringing up a point "if I may, Mr Chairman". He would then make a point which was obviously one Bonser had rehearsed with him earlier that day.

The likes of Doug Broad and Jim Harrowell were not members of Bonser's fiefdom even if they had different ways of tackling the problem.

One day, following a tip, I brought up the subject in my weekly discussions with Mr Bonser. I had heard two names had been mentioned in connection with them joining the board.

Bonser was aghast. Top Cat, as he was known to his critics inside the club, stressed that negotiations were very delicate and that if I published anything, it would be to the detriment of the negotiations.

I half-suspected this was a load of effluent and that really he was trying to make sure, before joining the board, they would always support him in the boardroom votes.

However, I agreed to keep the tip to myself and was assured as soon as there was anything to know, I would be the first.

I mentioned the two names regularly in subsequent conversations and he insisted negotiations were still on-going. Eventually one of those names was dropped, presumably because he was likely to be too independent.

One Monday, Bonser phoned me up and asked me to come down to the boardroom to meet Peter Wellfair, one of the names I had mentioned to him three months previously.

Obviously he was going to be as good as his word and repay me for keeping things off the record.

Imagine my surprise upon meeting Mr Wellfair, to find the Evening Echo reporter there as well. You must agree not to say he is joining the board until next Tuesday at noon, said the chairman.

We agreed and we interviewed Peter Wellfair.

I was furious and on the Wednesday evening, before a reserve game, I bearded Bonser in his den and explained how miffed I felt. The story would come out on the Tuesday, in the Evening Echo, whereas we would have to wait until Friday.

I asked him if the Echo had brought up the two names two months back. "They never got in touch," he admitted.

He saw I had a point and said that as far as he was concerned, I could speculate as much as I liked without saying Wellfair was actually joining the board.

So that is what happened. On the Friday we speculated that the Chorleywood and Harrow-based businessman might be one of two significant, long-rumoured additions to the board.

The Echo was furious and complained to Ron Rollitt that morning. When Ron phoned Top Cat, he expressed total horror that I had speculated.

When Ron phoned me he told me "JB is on the warpath", to which I pointed out that if Ron recalled, he had taken me in to meet the chairman before the reserve game having stated I wanted to speak to him about Wellfair.

Bonser placated the Echo by bad-mouthing me behind my back - the Echo told me that. But to my face, Bonser was charm itself.

"So you got your story after all. You see, I did look after you," he told me, as if the whole scam had been his idea.

Covering Watford in those days, you had to keep your back towards the wall at all times. But never trust the wall, either.