It had been a close call but then a manager does not get everything right as evidenced by his searching for strikers before discovering he had two very adept front men already on the books in Ross Jenkins and Luther Blissett.

The Emperor Napoleon was often in receipt of recommendations to promote officers to general and even marshal. He would listen to the case as it was presented and would then ask one telling question: “Is he lucky?”

He recognised the best laid plans often need a slice of luck to help them tip the balance.

Graham Taylor was a lucky manager until his period as England manager, when he experienced not even a modicum of good fortune. But at Watford, Lincoln City and Aston Villa, he had his slices of luck but often you work for it and earn it. As Gary Player once responded to an onlooker who described him as a lucky wotsit for getting out of the bunker and landing within six inches of the pin: “You are right but I find the more I practice the luckier I get.”

Graham admitted before the outset of the season that he had no real idea how his squad would fare because, despite working with them a year, he did not know them well enough.

In a sense Division Four had been functional and formulaic. They had experienced few really testing challenges once they got into the groove of their pattern of play. The Third Division would, and did, pose bigger problems and Graham had no idea how the players would cope with the increased pressure and greater questions.

There were two or three players who felt that Graham muddied the picture by bringing in new players when the side was top of the league. In a sense some of Graham’s charges were as much if not more converted to the Taylor approach than the manager himself.

The pattern of play that won them promotion and cup glory in Division Four and Division Three did not fully emerge again until three years later when Taylor suddenly saw the old format at Stamford Bridge. There he had thrown on Jenkins to replace the suspended Blissett alongside Gerry Armstrong, with Nigel Callaghan on the right and John Barnes making his debut on the left.

“Suddenly I saw the old shape and I was glad they did so well, because we had not worked on it in training,” said Graham, whose striker he had loaned out to the USA, Jenkins, had a hand in all three goals that afternoon.

It was like Glenn Miller, searching for that special sound, which proved so distinctive, who stumbled on it when his trumpet-player injured his fingers and he was forced to use a saxophonist as a temporary substitute. Then, he realised, he had his sound.

This is not to detract from Graham’s acumen. He thought of everything and everyone. In some cases he was guilty of over-thinking a situation but it is not the luck that determines success but the man’s ability to seize upon it and make it work.

Graham was still getting to know his players. They had done well in tackling a simpler challenge and had finally come through overcoming a bigger one in the shape of promotion form Division Three. Yet, when he planned that campaign he was still not sure of his troops. On one occasion he overheard Roger Joslyn relating a story about scoring the promotion-winning goal for Aldershot. “I used to have nightmares that I had missed it,” said Roger.

Graham stored that nugget for some 20 months and wondered when the going got tough towards the end of the Division Three campaign, if Roger might not be up to the intense pressure. Graham was relieved for if anyone was asked to vote on the best Watford player over the last six weeks of that campaign, a clear majority would have chosen Joslyn.

He was outstanding, wholehearted and fully committed and I can still see in my mind’s eye Roger breaking down the right wing at Hillsborough, oozing determination and setting up a goal. I was really pleased for him when he scored in that 4-0 triumph over Hull.

It was not that Taylor was wrong about Joslyn: he was always looking for possible outcomes from earlier indications. As Tommy Mooney was to recall after Graham’s passing: “He set you tests continually and you never knew if you had passed them or not.”

One of his pre-season signings in 1978 was John Stirk, who was a right-back and proved to be the only ever-present during the promotion-winning campaign. He cost £30,000, which rendered him the fourth most expensive player Watford had signed at that time (alongside Brian Pollard) yet he never played another league game for the Hornets and was sold on at a profit the March after winning promotion.

That seemed a bizarre decision, yet Graham never really said much about the about-turn, other than point out John had a tendency when on the ball, to turn inside – a habit which was dangerous for if dispossessed the whole right flank would be opened up.

He did that again in the League Cup tie before the start of the Second Division campaign and the next thing he knew, his place had been taken by Trevor How. Graham had no hesitation in being ruthless if he thought that was best for the team. Remember, he had sold regular right-back Tony Geidmintis in the January when the player had 18 games under his belt as Watford marched towards the Division Four title.

Graham’s mind was never dormant and he was always planning the next moves while completing a previous sequence of stratagems.