In the summer of 1978, Watford gave their ticket prices a significant hike. A group of Watford fans opted to report the admission rises to the Prices and Incomes Commission. In the end, the price rises stood but, in a couple of public meetings arranged by the Watford Observer, Graham Taylor came under fire from the fans for those increases. It was repeatedly pointed argued a family with two children would be priced out of regularly watching the Hornets. The parents could no longer afford the season tickets and would have to pick their games.

The complaints resonated with Graham. From the outset he and Elton John had been keen to establish a hooligan-free, family-type club and were in negotiations with a slow-witted council to find a new venue for a super stadium. Had they managed to find a site and build a ground, it would have been the first new football stadium since Port Vale after the war.

In the January, after discussing the fan reactions to the price rises, Watford announced they were going to introduce a new family area at Vicarage Road. This enabled those parents who found the price rises had ruled them out, could now afford a reduced deal to sit in the family enclosure the following season.

So the family enclosure started, more as a result of fans objection over the price rises than a pre-determined policy. Eventually the Family Enclosure, the Family Terrace, for which Graham ran sponsored in the London Marathon to pay for, and the Family Room became the pride of Vicarage Road, before the then Rous Stand was built. It became a signature amenity, which attracted representatives from other clubs who came trooping to Vicarage Road to see how they achieved such a reputation.

It is hard, even now, to think that once Watford was held up as the future of football and that Brian Clough stated the FA should move to Watford to learn how to develop the game, and that the Hornets would be mentioned in Parliament as the way to go.

Those changes were regarded as relatively subtle at the time but, for instance, the introduction of a new, electric scoreboard at the Vicarage Road end, replete with bouncing men, was another item that would become part of the Watford culture.

Throughout those early days, Watford stressed that they had organised the budget on anticipated league receipts and that any cup run income could be used for transfers. There was a degree of truth in this but there was also the concern that Elton John’s declared intention to take Watford to the top flight would put a premium on transfer fees being asked by selling clubs.

So it became generally accepted that Elton would invest in ground improvements such as the new floodlights, the concreting of the old charcoal bend between the then Shrodells and Rookery Stands (doing away with the blackberry bushes) and the improvement of the barriers at the Vicarage Road end. This also resulted in the filling-in of the concrete canyon on the Red Lion corner, where fans could walk down steps and go between the two banks of fans.

Just like the trees on the top of the Vicarage Road bank (cut down in the late 1950s), it is hard now to believe that canyon actually existed.

As for the transfer fees, Watford spent £58,000 on Dennis Booth, Ian Bolton, Sam Ellis and Brian Pollard in that Fourth Division season. They progressed to the League Cup third round and had a relatively lucrative trip to The Hawthorns and later, in the FA Cup, gained a third round tie at Upton Park. The receipts were good but it is doubtful they covered the transfer outlay but Watford stuck to their guns: Elton only paid for ground improvements.

Clearly the rock star launched the Taylor era with the input of funds to purchase the first four players.

The following season, Watford had a good run in the League Cup, reaching the semi-finals, winning at Old Trafford and drawing at Stoke City in the process, so that was a lucrative run. The FA Cup provided a trip to Southend United and a defeat but the cup revenue did make a hole in the £260,000 the club paid for John Stirk, Steve Harrison, Ray Train and Steve Sims. The £72,500 they received from Swindon Town for Alan Mayes cut that net amount to £188,000 but again it seems self-evident that Elton dipped into his pocket on odd occasions.

When we talked about the £4m Elton had in loans and shares by the time he left as chairman, that is not the whole story.

In Division Two, when things were not going too well, Watford invested in Wilf Rostron, Mick Henderson, Eric Steele, Martin Patching and Malcolm Poskett for £580,000. They recouped, through the sales of Alan Garner, Roger Joslyn, Keith Mercer, Stirk and Bobby Downes, a total of £250,000. That resulted in a deficit of £330,000.

The cup revenue from 1979/80 included a first round League Cup two-leg defeat against Colchester United and an FA Cup run to the sixth round, including matches at top-flight Wolves and home to Arsenal. Clearly the cup revenue helped but Graham was to make no secret that Elton helped the club establish a beachhead in the old second tier that year, by helping out transfer-wise.

It was important to the project at Vicarage Road and even more so to the fans. For 50 years, reaching the old second tier was the club’s Holy Grail and they finally achieved it in 1969 under Ken Furphy but the status was lost after Furphy moved on. So establishing a beachhead was important but then some believed Graham broke up that old Third Division promotion side too soon and perhaps they should have toughed it out with the old guard. One of those people was Graham himself.