Graham Taylor did not surround himself with ‘yes men’ during his first spell at Vicarage Road although it could be argued that his coaching recruits Sam Ellis, Steve Harrison and his close friend John Ward, had long bought into the Taylor-Way.

There were many examples of how Graham heeded the advice of his subordinates but one anecdote perhaps typifies the man.

Towards the end of one season, Graham sat down with youth-team coach Tom Walley and Tom’s then assistant, Steve Harrison. It should be pointed out that Steve moved on to become first-team coach and continued in that role under Taylor at Aston Villa and England, but would always recall the period spent with Tom as an essential part of his formative coaching education.

The reason the three met up one afternoon was to discuss the retained and transfer list for the youth-team players. Watford’s youth arm was of prime importance, accorded far more support in the form of first-team imports than in most of the subsequent years, including the present-day Hornets. There is no period in the Hornets’ history anywhere near equal to the numbers of youth trainees who made it through to the first team.

During the course of the discussion, Tom, as was inevitably the case, passionately extolled the ability and potential of one of his youngsters, Iwan Roberts.

Taylor had his doubts and so too did Harrison and it was decided the gangling striker would be released at the end of the season. They discussed other players and the meeting ended and Graham went home.

However, the Watford boss had a nagging thought in the back of his mind. That was caused by the fact he had never seen Tom so angry. “I reminded myself I had appointed a youth-team manager and was over-ruling him,” he told him..

“The boss phoned me later that evening and said he had realised I was upset with the decision,” recalled Tom. “I was upset and I felt they had made the wrong decision. I felt the lad would make it as a professional. I was annoyed at being over-ruled.”

The call resulted in Taylor heeding his coach’s advice and giving the player a professional contract. The player concerned went on to make more than 600 league appearances (63 for Watford) and gained 15 Welsh caps.

The anecdote served as an example of how Graham, who ran the club not just the team and was in effect Eddie Plumley’s boss, was prepared to concede he might be wrong and take the advice of one of his staff.

Tom was certainly impressed and the man, who took Watford to two FA Youth Cup Finals, was to remember that as one of the highlights of his years under GT. The irony is that Taylor regarded Tom as ideally suited to become youth-team boss back in 1977 when Graham first came to the club. Tom had worked with youngsters and had demonstrated a skill in developing their prowess but the appointment at Watford was his first as youth-team manager/coach.

Talking of other youth-team successes, Watford fans of that period will recall John Barnes, Nigel Callaghan, Kenny Jackett and Steve Terry. Also, Jimmy Gilligan and Ian Richardson, both youth-team products, wowed reserve team followers with their goal-scoring feats. That neither were able to replicate those achievements in the first team was a disappointment but both played a part in Watford’s six-game, memorable and only foray into competitive European football.

Gilligan will remain on the record books for eternity as the scorer of Watford’s first ever goal in European football, scored at Kaiserslauten in what was then West Germany. Richardson scored two in the return – the first brace by Watford player in Europe.

Jimmy’s professional career was brought to a premature end at the age of 29 by injury but he has continued to earn a living from the game. Currently first-team coach at Nottingham Forest, he was youth development officer at Watford, then youth-team manager before taking a succession of coaching appointments and remains well-respected in FA circles.

He did not pull up any trees at Watford, making 27 appearances and scoring six goals before going on to finish with nearly 300 league appearances in his overall career, averaging a goal every three outings.

There were two strikers who did not sign for Watford, who made successful careers for themselves.

The first was Reading’s Kerry Dixon, then a free-scorer at Elm Park who Graham trailed for some time. However, the then Watford boss believed Dixon had an on-going groin problem and decided not to pursue that particular avenue. Dixon moved to Chelsea instead and finished with more than 500 appearances, including a handful for Watford when he joined the Hornets at the end of his career. Signed by Glenn Roeder, Dixon was quickly released by Glenn’s successor, Graham.

Certainly Taylor regarded that particular signing as one that got away but, when in the top flight, he made a move for another football household name. Watford’s offer was agreed, personal fees were settled with the striker and all that remained was the medical. On the Friday morning, the Watford Observer stated the player had signed for Watford, subject to a medical.

Having put the story to bed late Thursday afternoon, I was playing badminton that night in Sarratt Junior School when I heard the phone ringing. I searched through the building and finally answered the phone. It was Graham who had tracked me down. Apparently the deal was off: the player had failed the medical. An aberration of the heart had been diagnosed.

Subsequently, hiding the real reason, it was announced the club and player had failed to agree personal terms. This was designed so as not to blight the player’s reputation and career.

As it happened, the striker went on to make over 200 more league appearances, is still alive and his heart is still ticking. Sometimes the medics can get it wrong.