Watford were no longer the favourites for promotion for Division Three for, with five games left, the rest of the division had caught up with them and, in a few cases, gone ahead.

The 2-0 defeat at Alan Mayes-inspired Swindon Town was particularly unpleasant with Watford demonstrating the loss of confidence by kicking it long and hopefully, at every opportunity.

The defeat was rendered harder to take for the Hornets’ leading goalscorer Ross Jenkins mistakenly headed the ball into his own net. It could be said the subsequent defeat at Carlisle United was unjust as they fell to a set-piece when everyone in the ground knew the kick should have been given the other way.

Watford had a home game with Plymouth Argyle to make amends and they put together their best display in weeks to take a 2-0 lead only to throw it away with nervous defending after Ian Bolton had perpetrated a rare miss from the penalty spot that could have made it 3-0.

So the Hornets had three games left but a goal by Bobby Downes enabled them to overcome Chester at Vicarage Road, which left their promotion hopes resting on an away game to Jack Charlton’s Sheffield Wednesday and a home match against Hull City, who had slaughtered the Hornets 4-0 earlier in the season.

But as May dawned, Watford faced two formidable opponents knowing that two victories might not be enough. The first was at Hillsborough where Charlton described Watford as no more than a “hump up and knock back side” – a tactic that would see him through to international management and beyond.

They were certainly ready for the Hornets and after Watford took the lead, Wednesday hit back with two goals. The signs were not good but Jenkins hit a rare left-foot shot to equalise, which he later joked was a “shovel-foot” that could have gone anywhere. Then a handling offence gave Watford a penalty and we waited and prayed while Bolton stepped up. He had missed the previous penalty against Plymouth but this one he blasted into the net and ran behind the goal to celebrate in front of the Sheffield Wednesday fans. He was not truly conscious of teasing the home fans – he was just relieved to have scored a winning penalty after previously missing a vital one.

It had been tight but the Hornets then had a nine-day wait until their final fixture – a gap that Graham Taylor filled with an away trip for a friendly against Sochaux. He was glad of the journey to France in that it provided some relief from just sitting round wondering what the other teams would achieve in the meantime.

It was not the best of Watford trips. The party spent many hours on the coach travelling from one place to the next.

“Look out the window now. You’ll see Luxembourg on the right. Then we are into Belgium as part of the ten countries in ten days tour,” Steve Harrison called out on the coach.

It did seem very much like that but, in joining the Watford party on that trip, I was able to see how influential were the humorous contributions of Dennis Booth and Harrison. They perked up the players and eased the boredom. They are each among the funniest people I have ever met: Booth relies on mimicry and Harrison on observed slapstick and irony.

Waiting in a packed departure lounge, Harrison on one occasion, slipped into the toilet, put on a Hornets scarf and bobble hat before emerging as a deranged Watford fans with exaggerated walk, before “suddenly spotting” the players.

“Here. It’s Watford,” he literally drooled to the assembled travellers. “Look. I know you. You’re Sam Ellis,” he continued, tapping Luther Blissett on the head. He continued the role of an unhinged Watford fan for a few minutes with the players in stitches and the remainder of the departure-lounge occupants sitting there with jaws dropped.

Boothie could do Brian Clough and Graham, so there were welcome laughs before we finally got to play Sochaux in what proved to be a boring, uneventful, goalless draw.

But after the game there was good news as the results began to filter through.

Shrewsbury Town and Swansea City were ahead of the Hornets, but Swindon had fallen at Sheffield Wednesday meaning that the Hornets only had to win their last game to ensure victory in the top three for promotion. As it happened, Gillingham came through with a late charge but too late to catch Watford if the Hornets won.

But had Graham made a mistake? The players travelled back from a forgettable trip late Saturday morning, arriving in the UK that afternoon and then had just 48 hours to clear their heads to prepare for a game against Hull and their famed double act of Bannister and Warboys. Clearly he judged it just right – the players getting together in France and improving that vital camaraderie.

It was another magic night, that Monday evening as the sun shone down at Vicarage Road and 26,347 fans packed into Vicarage Road to see the four heroes of the season, Bolton, Jenkins, Blissett and Roger Joslyn score the goals in a 4-0 trouncing of the Tigers.

Promotion had been achieved with Watford shading second place from Swansea as both clubs gained successive promotions.

It was Swansea, with considerably more outlay that Watford, who reached the top flight first and former Welsh International John Toshack’s feat earned him an MBE. But Graham made two off-the-record predictions back in 1979. The first was that Swindon would blow up in the run-in, which they did. The second was that Swansea were taking a short-term route to the top for their highly-paid and ageing stars would not last the course. When Watford finally made it to the top flight, they completed the double over Swansea who were relegated.