I was reminded about that key element in all footballers and teams: confidence. In chatting behind the stage during the recent launch of the book Rocket Men, that quality was mentioned frequently and my mind went back to Ian Bolton’s interview, which I subsequently turned into one of the four sections in the book.

Bolts had commented on Luther Blissett’s initial ability in the air and how Luther’s head was akin to a rugby ball. You had to hit it at exactly the right spot, otherwise the ball would go all over the place.

Luther himself, when emerging from the Old Trafford dressing-room after heading two goals in the League Cup against Manchester United, confirmed that.

Up until then Luther had been the darling of the reserve-team faithful who delighted in his raw, random, rangy game and cheered with delight when one evening he headed home an angled attempt at the Vicarage Road end.

I can remember that header as if it were yesterday, yet it was perhaps 42 years ago.

The reason was the roar of delight emanating from the sparse numbers at the ground for the Mid-Week League fixture.

It was clear he was something of a favourite for they loved his haphazard relationship with the ball, his speed, his style, his bull-at-a-gate approach and his enthusiasm.

I remember our first conversation, held in a buffet car on the way back from a first-team away game.

Dennis Bond, perhaps Pat Morrissey, certainly Laurie Craker and the usual suspects were necking the beers and I turned and noted Luther was standing alone behind us. I thought the 18-year-old looked as much of an outsider as I was (because he was young and not a boozer), so I stepped back and we had a little chat.

Racism was general and implicit in those days. I remember one Watford player telling me that Luther favoured the opponent when Muhammad Ali was attempting to regain his heavyweight title. “I said to Luther, you can’t like that black b-----d. Then I realised what I had said.”

Racism was rife, a part of everyday life back then and people trotted out the old prejudices and jokes without ever stopping to think. That players such as Luther should have bananas thrown at them during games is as mind-boggling now as it was par for an unpleasant course back then. Luther treated it outwardly as a joke, picking up the odd banana and taking a bite and giving the thumbs up. That it should ever have come to that.

Soon it became a question of whether you should describe Luther as coloured or black. “I’m black: that television is coloured,” he said succinctly.

He occasionally made the first-team squad in those days but manager Mike Keen was generally dismissive claiming: “Luther prefers to play with the sun on his back.” The manager believed Luther was not keen on cold days or nights home or away and that limited his potential.

I had not heard such an observation before on other players but then we had not deployed many black players in the previous Watford squads.

Back in the 1970s, black players were still an unknown quantity and I remember at Swindon one evening, a Fleet Street reporter opined that black players don’t want to know when the hard tackles come in because they have “a yellow streak”.

My cartoonist friend, Terry Challis, nodded his head sagely and agreed: “Yes it was well known that Joe Louis, Cassius Clay and company didn’t like it when it became rough.”

It took a minute for the sarcasm to sink in. The Fleet Street reporter probably sussed it when he heard the giggles among the colleagues in the pressbox.

Luther and company had to battle through that unfounded stigma and a whole load of others en route to their position in the football firmament. In the process, he probably did more for race relations in Watford than a platoon of the well-intentioned.

Yet it must have been an additional load with which to deal as he attempted to make progress in his chosen career and years later he was to suggest that the colour of his skin prevented clubs from selecting him as their next coach or manager.

But in the early days, that heading and indifferent ball control also clouded his horizons as he tried to break through.

Later, Graham Taylor would argue that Luther’s less-than-perfect ball control was in fact an asset.

“The defender behind a striker, knows he is going to control the ball and prepares himself for the next move,” he said. “But Luther does not always control it perfectly and the ball shoots off. It is a surprise to the defender and Luther but Luther reacts so much quicker and with pace. He is off and running with the wrong-footed defender in his wake.”

He certainly had a point but it was Tom Walley, in 1977, who had advised Graham not to allow Luther to leave on a free transfer as Mike Keen had intended. Later, Graham loved to watch Luther run and loved the name. He repeated it several times, when they first met, rolling his tongue round the words Luther Blissett and said it would look good in lights.

“I have seen it all before,” said Graham after Luther came on in 1978 and, along with Keith Cassells, helped Watford knock Newcastle United out of the League Cup.

Taylor was looking for consistency but some of the old reserve team followers thought the manager was out of order. Their adopted son had done well and should be praised, they reasoned.

Which brings us back to Old Trafford and those two headed goals to send United out of the League Cup. Luther acknowledged it was quite bizarre. After coming out of the dressing room following the game, he said: “You know me Oli. Two headed goals. It’s ridiculous.”

Indeed it was but a week later in the Sunday People, the illustrator and artist Trevallion, showed why Luther was so lethal in the air in a series of depictions. They even included a flattering, supportive comment from United’s giant centre-half Gordon McQueen.

Those who read it, such as myself, thought it added up to ridiculous over-hyping on the part of Fleet Street.

But I suspect one person who read it was impressed and walked a little taller after that.

That was Luther, who never looked back. The flattery did not go to his head, but he began to believe he was a threat in the air, as everyone was claiming. And that is just what he became from that Tuesday night onwards.

Confidence is not everything, but belief certainly helps.