When Graham Taylor mastered the intercom at the gates outside Elton John’s Old Windsor home in the summer of 1977, he met the pop star for the first time. The interview for the vacant managership at Vicarage Road was a two-way success. Elton could not help but be impressed by the personable young Lincoln City boss.

Graham was in turn impressed with the ambition of the Watford chairman who wanted the Hornets to climb to the top flight and get into Europe.

“And how much do you estimate it will cost you?” Graham asked.

`Elton did not shrink from the concept. “About £1 million,” he replied.

Graham nodded and thought to himself: “You will do for me fellah.”

In the course of achieving promotion from the Fourth Division to the top flight in five years, Graham spent £1,380,500. (The odd £500 was for Keith Cassells, sold for £50,000 a couple of years later).

To gain an element of proportion, £1m in 1977 is worth the equivalent of £6m today, which says more about the rising costs of football business than it does about inflation in general. Back in 1977, petrol was 18p a litre and a pint of beer was 30p and we moaned about the excessive costs because wages were much less in those days – annual average disposable income was £6,444.

As it happened, when Watford clinched promotion to the top flight in 1982, Graham had spent £1,380,500 on incoming transfers but had recouped a fraction over £0.5m. So the net cost in transfer fees was less than the £1m Elton estimated, at £880,500. However, it was always understood Elton paid for the ground improvement in 1979 to bring it up to second tier standards, which would have taken the cost to the pop star up to £1,380,000 overall.

So, in his dealings, Graham spent £1.38m on transfers and recouped £500,000 by the time they overcame Wrexham and secured First Division football at Vicarage Road. By the following summer, after they had clinched runners-up spot in the top flight, Watford had recruited Richard Jobson and parted with Malcolm Poskett, Gerry Armstrong and Luther Blissett.

As a result Watford were £350,000 in the black on the whole adventure. It was at that stage, Watford, fresh from the sale of Luther, offered Elton his £1m back. The chairman declined the offer.

Naturally, it was more expensive to sustain top-flight football: there were no more Keith Cassells to be had.

Graham’s total outlay on transfers from the day he walked into Vicarage Road to that sad and regrettable day he headed out for Aston Villa in 1987, was £4,088,500. He had, however, recouped £2,950,000.

So in effect the whole ten years, journeying from the lower reaches of the Fourth Division to sustaining five years in the top flight, cost Elton £1,138,500 – the modern-day equivalent of £6.5m. I reckon he would have settled for that with alacrity, back in that first meeting with Graham at his home in Old Windsor.

While the focus remains on Graham, it should be pointed out that Elton also bankrolled the share-issue, launched to raise funds for the new Rous (now Graham Taylor) Stand. That cost to him was in excess of £2.2m.

Of course statistics can be made to prove anything but in the course of that first Taylor era, a net transfer cost of £1,138,500 for those 10 most memorable of years was remarkable. It should also be remembered, Graham broke the club’s transfer record with the purchase of Ray Train (£50,000), then Steve Sims (£175,000) and finally Blissett (£600,000).

In the summer of 1986, he purchased Kevin Richardson, Marc Falco and the returning Sims for a total £625,000 to “show the fans we mean business”. It was a significant quote because Graham felt the momentum slowing. This was not reflected in the dressing room but in the boardroom. Within the year, Elton was to have a cancer scare and undergo an operation on his vocal chords; was involved in substantial litigation for a libellous article in The Sun newspaper, and facing increasing speculation on the state of his marriage.

All this constituted considerable pressure, added to which Elton was subjected to a succession of reminders that Graham was an employee. Certainly one or more directors felt the manager actually ran the board meetings – all of which was somewhat pathetic carping from the wings, for they only had to look at the club’s status. That should have been enough to persuade them to tell Graham to carry on running the show.

Graham was later to remark it took the board 10 years to get fed up with his presence the first time round and five years the second time. All of which suggests the doubting Thomas’s among the directors (or was it just one Doubting Thomas) should have taken a long hard look at themselves years ago and owned up to their misjudgements. The likes of Geoff Smith and Muir Stratford, who had campaigned the cause of Taylor while Elton was courting Bobby Moore back in 1977, were not guilty.

Graham sensed the loss of momentum and when the Daily Mirror’s Harry Harris broke the story that Elton was thinking in terms of selling the club and putting the entire, precious project into the questionable hands of Robert Maxwell, Graham wondered as to the timing of the negotiations, which took place in the week building up to Watford’s semi-final appearance against Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park. If the deal had gone through, it would have been a calamity, for Maxwell’s perilous finances were later exposed as being based on illegal use of the pension funds.

It would have also involved the abandoning of the principles on which the glorious ten years was founded – family club, hooligan-free environment, community-based commitment, fair play on the field combined with attack-minded football, etc.