When Luther Blissett was sold to AC Milan, Ross Jenkins was hurried out of the club somewhat prematurely and Gerry Armstrong began his Spanish idyll, Graham Taylor was left with a need to fill the vacancies in the striker department.

As we know, he did this very well, signing George Reilly and Maurice Johnston, who helped the Hornets climb the table and then reached the FA Cup Final. However their recruitment constituted a deviation from Graham’s normal work.

As Ian Bolton said at The Palace interview for the Rocket Men, part of the boss’s recruitment included a study of the person off the field, his character and behaviour. Taylor wanted the “right men” with the right attitudes.

Johnston was a part-timer with an eye for the fairer sex. In essence, he was a playboy in the making and earlier in the year, after Graham’s untimely passing, Steve Harrison recalled how he smuggled a still drunk Johnston into training one morning. The striker was still in his white suit, having been clubbing all night.

They put him in the shower and did their best to sober him up. Johnston went out and with remarkable application, got through training without a mishap.

Later, when Johnston set off home, Taylor popped in and said to his coaches: “So you sorted out Maurice ok?”

Harrison cited this as another of many examples in that despite efforts to cover things up, Taylor knew everything that was going on.

“Maurice,” said Graham, who never referred to the striker as Mo, “was one of those individuals who could spend the night on the tiles and come in the next morning and train superbly. Unfortunately, the players who joined him on these nights were unable to do likewise. In their training, it showed.”

One of those was George Reilly, another who liked to burn the candle at both ends, often accompanying his striking partner – they were both Scottish – on those nights out.

Graham tried to bring the players into line and took time to help George with his money problems, but all to no avail.

Some saw his difficulties with Mo and George as indicative of his inability to deal as well with top-flight players but in fact both had been plucked from the lower leagues. Graham’s eye for a player had been spot on but the dedication that had been reflected in all the squad on the way up through the divisions, was not duplicated by the new striking partnership. In application, you could not have found two individuals more different than Jenkins and Blissett.

As soon as Johnston started to hit the goals, other clubs began to show an interest. Taylor attempted to pull Mo back in line, even flying out to France to try and talk to him when the player was with the Scotland squad in the summer.

Mo just did not get it; striking a sour chord as we approached the Cup Final by contending it was not as big as the Scottish Cup Final and when I suggested he was disinterested in interviews etc, he smiled charmingly and agreed. He was not interested; it was all irrelevant but he talked to me all the same, answering questions but his stint with Watford had put him in the limelight and he basked in that.

I was amused to read years later that Mo, managing in the USA, bemoaned that his players were not “dedicated enough”.

So Mo agitated for a move, spoke to the Sunday papers and we returned from a pre-season trip to Linfield one August Saturday in 1984 and read that the star striker wanted away, some 11 months after joining the Hornets.

Graham moved quickly, if expensively, recruiting Blissett from AC Milan for a club record £550,000, which was offset by selling Mo to Celtic for £400,000 – then managed by David Hay, who subsequently joined Watford as chief coach to Colin Lee.

Watford also pulled back another £110,000 profit when they sold Reilly early in 1985.

So the heroes of the FA Cup run to Wembley – Reilly scoring the only goal in the semi-final to book the place in the Final – spent only a brief and often turbulent time at Vicarage Road.

It was a busy summer in 1984 – Blissett returning and Johnston leaving – but Graham was not unnerved by his experience with Johnston. He took a punt on another hard-living character, Tony Coton, who faced the possibility of a prison sentence for an affray in Birmingham.

Coton proved to be the club’s best-ever keeper, winning the Player of the Season Award three times and although he was one of the boys, he had a soft side and I can testify, winning those awards meant everything to Tony.

“The day Graham signed me, he knew everything about me,” Coton was to observe. “He knew about my brother-in-law who died. Just everything: he was amazing. His attention to detail was amazing and he would point out little things so they did not become big things.”

Graham had been methodical with his research and while the court case and the quasi-playboy lifestyle might have suggested the keeper was not the ideal recruit, Taylor saw qualities in the man and not just the keeper.

“I am convinced I escaped a prison sentence because of Graham. He did more for me than my solicitor. Even the judge sat up straight when Graham was addressing the court,” recalls Coton, who remembered hearing later that his sister listened open-mouthed in the court and asked: “Is that our Tony he’s talking about.”

Graham admitted: “I did not want the £300,000 investment to blow up in my face. He got a two-year suspended sentence and a fine and I knew we had to protect him over that period.”

Graham balanced the books soon after that by making what Coton described as a brilliant signing: John McClelland from Rangers – a very reflective, laid back character, made of the right stuff and anything but laid back on the field.