Returning to my reflections on Graham Taylor’s first era, Watford had threatened to storm Division Three and finally inched over the line to promotion to the old second tier. Yet those first two seasons in the Second Division as it was then, were not Taylor’s finest.

When you look at those old Fourth and then Third Division promotion teams, they played to a set, well-drilled pattern. We saw it again when the Hornets gained promotion to the top flight and pushed on to shock the football world by finishing runners-up. There was something inexorable about those sides. They demanded victory, thirsted for it and more often than not achieved it.

The same could not be said of Graham’s first two seasons in the old Second Division. There were some who were to point out that Graham seemed to adopt the view that they had to play more sophisticated football than had worked so effectively in Divisions Four and Three.

Indeed, he came under fire from fans and there was a section of the local fanbase who thought Graham was an effective lower division manager who was out of his depth in the more rarefied atmosphere of Division Two.

Those views were based on the fact Watford struggled for a season and a half. There was nothing inexorable about their football and a club that had racked up 30 victories in their Division Four campaign and 24 in the Third, could only muster 12 and then 16 in those first two seasons in Division Two.

In a sense, Watford did not demand victories in those days. There may have been sundry contributory factors, not least an injury to Ross Jenkins early in the 1979/80 campaign, which broke up one aspect of their pattern of play. Fans may remember that Luther Blissett was deployed in midfield and on the right during those times and Taylor feared that he had lost that spark.

When Luther scored in the 3-0 FA Cup upset as Watford thrashed top-tier Wolves at Molineux, Graham later admitted it was not so much the goal but the player’s celebration after scoring which he found encouraging.

Indeed the successes in the cups during those first two seasons in Division Two, leant more towards the old Watford approach. When the Hornets beat top-flight leaders Southampton 7-1 on an unforgettable night and then dispatched Brian Clough’s highly-rated Nottingham Forest, then European Champions, 4-1, Watford demonstrated that old insistent attacking élan. It was not much in evidence in the league campaigns.

Graham later admitted he broke up the old Third Division promotion side too quickly and that they would probably have achieved safety had he kept it together.

Perhaps the addition of Malcolm Poskett to a side that lost its leader, Jenkins, for three months, would have been sufficient investment to turn that side into survivors. The purchase of Eric Steele, Wilf Rostron, Mick Henderson and Martin Patching, along with Poskett was the result of a significant outlay and along with it, a hint of panic.

Poskett was not a Taylor striker. He did not lead the line, neither did he ruffle defenders with his physical challenges. He was bought purely because he had the knack of scoring goals despite not being the bravest of strikers.

Steele was a good but not outstanding keeper and events proved that he was not better than the current incumbent, Steve Sherwood, and in fact was not quite as good. Then there was Henderson, who made just over 50 appearances in three seasons but did not look the answer in the right-back spot.

Rostron was signed to play on the left flank but did not prove particularly productive. After a year at Vicarage Road, he was not rated successful but all that changed when Taylor intuitively switched him to left-back, where the Geordie proved to be a revelation.

The jury will always remain out on Patching, who was a midfielder perhaps slightly ahead of his time as a box-to-box player. He was rated highly by colleagues but a double cruciate knee injury brought his career to a premature end.

Overall, Taylor’s recruits in the initial season in Division Two did not pull up any trees, nor did they fit into the old style of play. Even Poskett only scored three league goals.

There was one other point: Graham repeatedly underrated Jenkins. He sought to replace him at the outset of the Division Three campaign and then sent him off to the USA on loan in the second campaign in Division Two. On each occasion, Ross proved they were flawed decisions and returned in the summer of 1981, to lead a barnstorming campaign to promotion to the top flight.

The second season in Division Two included those magnificent victories in the League Cup – nights that will never be forgotten by all who witnessed them. But the league campaign opened with the suggestion that they might flirt with relegation again. This time Graham’s transfer touch was more assured. He bought Gerry Armstrong, Les Taylor and Pat Rice: all of whom would prove vital cogs in the success the club achieved over the next two seasons.

It was an expensive outlay but the squad, minus the absent Jenkins, turned things round and finished ninth in the table – the highest status the club had achieved in its history. It was an encouraging end to the campaign but Graham clearly sensed it was more than that. Within a couple of months, he announced: “I think it is time we were moving on.”

He said that while Ross was still in the States and John Barnes was still playing youth-team football.