Graham Taylor did not give the emergent Luther Blissett any direct advice on how to deal with the racist chants, monkey-noises and the bananas that were thrown onto pitches as the young, Jamaican-born striker made his way in the game.

“Most of that was done within the family but when I picked up a banana on the pitch, unpeeled it and took a bite and smiled at the crowd with the thumbs up, Graham did not say anything. But I knew him well enough to know he would be sporting a wry smile,” says the 59-year-old. “He was very supportive in that respect but the thing he said that resonated with me with regard to the racists was when he said: ‘You have as much right on the pitch as anyone else’.”

Luther soon realised that the only way to cope was to go out and do your job. “If you did that and scored or helped to create a goal, effectively you were sticking two fingers up at them.”

He admits that in the old dressing room back in the mid-1970s, “there were certain older pros’ who belonged to the previous era and you go the impression they did not think you had a right to be in the dressing room.”

He recalls them “talking down to me” but knew he had to go out there and earn his stripes on the pitch.

“I remember that coach, John Collins, claiming I did not like playing unless the sun was on my back. It was a ridiculous statement. I had been playing football every winter since I was seven. You could not answer him back because they ran the club at the time but it really was a ridiculous thing to say. I could not take it seriously and, added to that, it was a totally disrespectful remark.”

Despite those prevailing attitudes, Luther did not find it harder to break into the career because he was black.

“It was nothing different. Being black, I had to deal with that sort of thing every day, walking down the street in England,” he says.

“If you answered them back or adopted a confrontational attitude, you would be in trouble in the street, so, to a degree it was great going out there onto the pitch with teammates and knowing that a couple of thousand people would be shouting abuse and you had the opportunity to answer them back by scoring against their club. So playing football was an escape from the every-day racism we encountered.

“There were occasions when I had to run down the street, away from trouble, but playing football I was running against those who called out things. To go out there and do something you really loved by playing football was very fulfilling. In a sense it was an escape from every-day life.”

Luther was to note that the degree of racist heckling and hate began to reduce once Watford climbed out of the Third Division. Was this because by 1978, football fans and society in general were becoming more enlightened?

Luther recalls: “You did not hear so much of it in the old Second Division. I think there were several reasons. Possibly they were more aware of black players. Certainly I believe people became more aware of who I was and started to recognise me as a footballer first and a person second. They watched me as they thought I might be a danger to their team but whatever the case, you never let them know that the abuse got to you.

“Early in my career, the opposition centre half used to kick you and tell you as you fell to the ground there was more of that coming your way ‘you black b*****d’.

“You made sure not to react to it but if the opportunity came, you would get them back with a slightly mistimed tackle. You learnt to look after yourself and that was important because you couldn’t allow people to take liberties.

“But I was never confrontational. Perhaps the opponents did not realise you received so much of that just walking round town as a kid, it did not register any more. The old saying about sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt me, was very true in that situation.”

It must have taken a lot of patience and restraint not to react to remarks and chants.

“You couldn’t go nose-to-nose over the these situations. As soon as you did this they would label you as having a chip on your shoulder. You could not afford to get a reputation for that in the game.

“I remember the Watford players Dennis Booth and Sam Ellis were very supportive and encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing, as the opposition fans were giving me stick because of what I was doing to their team, and not because I was black. So I adopted the attitude of never showing they hurt or irritated me but if I scored a goal against their team, that would hurt and irritate them.”

Yet racism remains a part of his life. He gained all the qualifications for coaching but was unable to break back into the game after his playing days were over.

“Racism is obviously still out there but my failure to get a coaching job could and would never be about my being black . . . officially. They always fobbed me off claiming I did not have the experience. Of course anyone seeking to go into coaching for the first time, lacks experience. The only way you can get it is by landing a coaching job.

“Every manager started off that way, but I was always turned down because I did not have the experience. It was a pity and frustrating because coaching was something I would have loved to continue,” Luther reflects a trifle sadly but philosophically.

It is ironic because some questioned Luther’s coaching ability when he first started to work under Graham Taylor and Kenny Jackett when Graham returned to Vicarage Road. Yet after the first season, his approach seemed to change and those doubters began to enthuse over his coaching.

Unfortunately in 2001, Graham retired and Luther along with Kenn, was thrown out with the bathwater as Watford appointed Luca Vialli, who, unlike the outgoing pair, had not qualified for his full coaching badge