Chairman Elton John outlined his hopes and ambitions after recruiting Graham Taylor in 1977: “If it takes us five years to make Division Two, we will have done well.”

Two years later Graham pointed out: “We are not going into Division Two, just to make the numbers up.”

Reflecting on the club’s rapid rise to the First Division (now the Premier League), long-serving director Jim Harrowell observed: “Five years ago this was fantasy: four years ago it was a little brighter and three years ago it was no more than a possibility.”

Those quotes underline the fact that even among the board, there were those who were staggered by the degree of progress the club made under Taylor.

In the summer of 1981, after two years in the old second tier, Watford fans were a little anxious when their manager’s name was mentioned among the list of potential runners and riders for the vacant managerial post at Old Trafford. The bookies thought he had a chance as one of the up-and-coming managers, despite the fact he had not managed in the top flight and the highest status he and Watford had ever achieved was ninth in Division Two. It was an indication that the game as a whole had taken note of the achievement and transformation in culture and status at Vicarage Road.

“I would not have stood in his way had they approached us,” said chairman Elton, but he was saved that decision as United opted for Ron Atkinson, with Taylor widely named as second on the Old Trafford list of preferences.

In 1982, the Watford ground had been improved but it was still lagging even by second tier standards. The Main Stand, built in 1922 and the extension, added in 1969, stretched from short of the penalty area to short of the other penalty area while the old wooden Shrodells Stand had been there since the days Watford had moved from Cassio Road.

The floodlights were top quality, having been uprated in 1978/79, but the standing-only Rookery Stand provided cover but the terrace within it, was shallow. At the back, you were not that much more elevated than those in the front.

With the then-manager Ken Furphy’s encouragement, back in 1967/68, the Rookery became home to the young and vociferous Watford support but the rest of the ground lacked atmosphere. Between the Shrodells and Rookery Stands, the old clinker and railways sleepers terrace, known colloquially as “The Bend” had been concreted and was now the home of away supporters, the majority of whom would soon arrive at the ground via the specially built Watford Halt station just behind the ground.

In fact the former chairman, Jim Bonser, had been ridiculed for building the Main Stand extension in 1969, instead of ploughing funds into the team as it debuted in the second tier for the first time in the club’s history. Graham became aware of that as he soaked up the Watford heritage but he had a different view.

“That extension doubled the seating on that side of the ground. I don’t know that we would have made such progress without that having been built. It was a vital increase in the club’s revenue,” he said. “History suggests that extension was a bold but essential move.”

The Main Stand was of course replaced with the Sir Elton John stand, after the old 1922 edifice had been abandoned by the club because it had become a fire hazard in the light of more modern thinking after the Bradford Fire Disaster.

The Rookery Stand was to be replaced in the early 1990s as the compulsory move towards all-seater stadiums was forced on the Football League. Previously, the Vicarage Road end stand, built somewhat basically, had finally delivered the promise to cover that open end of the ground: again in the early ‘90s and was to be known colloquially as the Paul Furlong stand among fans after the striker was sold for £2.3million in 1994.

But those three stands, including what was then called The Rous (now the Graham Taylor Stand) were in the future when Watford set about their final assault up the Football League and reached the top flight. Additional concrete, improved floodlights and more secure crash barriers apart, there was little difference when Watford debuted in the top tier from the old Fourth Division ground. Yes the dog track had gone after more than 50 years association with Vicarage Road but it was a typical lower division ground.

That in itself brought into further focus the fairy-tale of Watford’s rise up the divisions.

Graham had finished the second Division Two campaign with three successive wins – the first time that had been achieved in that tier. The Watford boss immediately set a target of 50 points for the following season which would mean the Hornets would be in and around the clubs competing for promotion.

Kenny Jackett, the young midfielder/left-back had won Young Player of the Season, while Steve Sims had followed the success of his defensive partner Ian Bolton in the previous campaign, by lifting Player of the Season.

Taylor ordered all the young players in for additional training in the summer and plainly he had the vision that the likes of Nigel Callaghan, John Barnes, Steve Terry and company would have a part to play in the forthcoming campaign in Division Two.

Ironically he gave John Ward and Steve Harrison free transfers and they left the club but before long they would return to the fold in coaching roles. Graham had developed the equivalent of the Liverpool boot room, which was to produce successive Anfield managers. Sam Ellis, Harrison and Ward were steeped in the Watford approach and knew the club inside out. The manager believed that his successor would come from that group but the built-in continuity would be ignored and even destroyed when Graham headed for Aston Villa in 1987.