DAYS when Pat Jennings was just a gawky teenager, holding a cup of expresso coffee in exceedingly large hands, came back to me recently.

The memories were evoked by the man I met the other day, who was also understandably older than I remembered. He was not the dapper young buck of yesteryear who would emerge from a red Mini as he parked it by The Pond and tugging down the back of a short bomber jacket, head for The Chef or the Mocha Bar with the young Jennings and another Watford professional, Terry Stacey, in tow.

Meeting up with former Watford striker-cum-midfielder Ron Crisp, I was reminded that we are both older and slower than those far off days when watching the girls go by had some end-purpose.

For Ron, taking a holiday of reminiscence as he celebrated his 60th birthday, there were a number of changes to absorb, not least that the quiet Pat Jennings of his youth is now a personable, engaging man with a deep voice. And Vicarage Road has undergone something of a transformation as well.

Since leaving Watford and heading for Brentford, Ron and I lost touch. Football took him to Brentford and then to The States where he played for Los Angeles Toros before moving on to San Diego Toros.

In 1967, Ron was voted top professional, Player of the Year, which was no mean achievement considering the wealth of British and overseas talent that made its way to try and cash in on the first North American football gold rush.

He came back, had a brief period with Orient but jumped at the chance to go to South Africa where he now lives with his second wife Sandy and 15-year-old son Wayne. The two children from his previous marriage have grown up, are doing well and settled in South Africa.

While in England recently, Ron caught up with some old friends and colleagues. He was a guest of Pat's at a Spurs game and he dropped into Reading and caught up with George Harris, his former Hornet mate, who co-starred with Ron on the opening shots of the Watford Centenary video. They can still play the guitar and turn a song or two.

There were chats with other former colleagues Terry Mancini, Mickey Benning and Jimmy Linton, recollections of that big personality Dave Underwood who died in South Africa, with Ron a constant visitor until the end.

"You have never seen someone sprint so fast in football boots," Ron told his son as they watched the departing figure of Mickey Benning after meeting up with him one lunchtime.

Welcomed at Vicarage Road, Ron and his son took in a Watford game, met the management and players and was touched that some fans remembered his contributions in Watford's colours.

He had joined the Hornets as an amateur from Dulwich Hamlet and, after turning professional, found himself deputising for the legendary Cliff Holton.

"I can't believe he's dead," said Ron. "He was such an imposing figure. I did not know him well. He was just there and he would score a goal when you needed it, or so it seemed."

I was there, notebook in hand when Ron scored five goals for the Reserves one night, along with the free-scoring John Fairbrother, but he now admits he did not quite have it as a striker.

"When Bill McGarry took over, he had a system and we played to it. He asked me to play wing-half and told me I would have a run of five or six games in that position.

"It meant a lot knowing that you would not be out if you didn't deliver the goods in the first game," he recalls with fond memories for the manager he admired most during his playing days.

"You would look to play the ball to Charlie (Livesey) and then support him, or you would try one for the far post where George Harris would come in and leap and head for goal.

"We all had our jobs. I remember Charlie was a favourite of yours. I'm not surprised he has back trouble now. He just kept hold of that ball despite the challenges from all angles.

"That was a good season, with Pat in goal. Then Ken Furphy came and he was so different from Bill McGarry. It was the discipline that was different.

"He was almost one of the lads. People reckoned I would be OK when the substitute rule was introduced because I could play in several positions, but it didn't quite work out."

But the contribution many older fans will recall, apart from those who were late arriving at the ground, was his goal scored against Port Vale one February afternoon in 1962.

"We had the kick off and I moved forward on the ball. As I moved forward, all the defence seemed to open up in front of me. I suddenly realised that I was in the penalty area and just as a challenge came in I shot.

"As I fell, I saw it going into the net. We had scored straight from the kick off," he said, looking at the Rookery End goal where he achieved that memorable moment.

People have scored fast goals for Watford, finding the net within 30 seconds, but Ron is probably the only player to have done it after receiving the ball on the halfway line.

"All the players came round me but what with the adrenaline, the tension and the run, I was struggling for breath. I could hardly breath let alone speak and Tommy Harmer spotted the fact and called the players to back off and give me room and air," he told me.

Football has undergone great changes since those day and Vicarage Road too. Ron was stunned by the quality of the pitch, impressed with the transformation of the ground and amazed to hear that groundsman Les Simmons has only just retired.

Ron stood in Occupation Road, looked at the haphazard allotments and neighbourhood houses.

"Apart from the odd extension or two, they have not changed in 38 years. The ground is something else," he said.

There were many memories recalled because the early 1960's were something of an upward turn in Watford's graph of progress. False dawns perhaps, but not least was the sudden boost in commercial income from the introduction of the pools and bingo tickets in 1962.

Ron worked under the scheme's overseer, director Bill Graver, during his afternoons off, along with another Ron - Saunders - who went on to prove successful in management.

Ron was there at the club when Holton was sold and the flak came flying in, particularly at anyone in the directors' box or someone who presumed to wear the number eight shirt. It was harsh comparing Ron with Big Cliff.

But it is to McGarry and the the near-miss side of 1963-64 when Watford reached the high-water mark of their then 83-year history to which he returns.

The memories of Sammy Chung, Duncan Welbourne, Jimmy MacAnearney, Ken Oliver, Bobby Bell and Ken Nicholas comes to mind.

It was possibly quite an uplift for his young son Wayne to see his father recognised and the deeds recalled.

"I'm glad I came back. It has been a great trip," he said and with a firm handshake, we said our goodbyes and he headed for his car, gently tugging down the back of his bomber jacket.

We don't change; just get older.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.