The outbreak of hooliganism on Saturday, April 6, 1996, that upset former chairman Elton John galvanised Watford officials into action. However, it may well have been Graham Taylor’s reaction to the issue that sharpened the club’s focus.

“It was a terrible day for me on Saturday, both on and off the field. What I saw with my own eyes against Portsmouth on Saturday only showed how deep-rooted the problems are at Watford Football Club on and off the field,” said the new general manager.

“While it is easy to castigate players for their performance on the pitch, I had to ask myself what is happening between that corner of the Rookery and the Rous.

“People tend to say this is the society we live in but we are part of that society. You have to stand up and be counted. Coming back to this club, I can see the problems on and off the field.”

The police reports suggested Portsmouth fans responded to the goading by their Watford opposite numbers and, while there were not any home fans on the pitch, there were four arrests made following the incident that sparked the Pompey pitch invasion.

“We have to decide as a club what our policy and philosophy is, or we are going nowhere,” said Graham. “I could see Watford supporters leaving their seats and going towards the Portsmouth fans. I would ask them, what are you doing and what are you about? If they had started to leave their seats and move away from Portsmouth supporters, I could understand it.

“Seeing the team’s non-performance and seeing the performance of some of our supporters was quite an eye-opener. I do not know the club’s philosophy and policy and I am not certain how we as a club have been addressing that.”

Taylor admitted that after he left Vicarage Road, people told him how things had changed and it is well known that some people at the club went to sleep on the watch, failing to maintain the standards Graham had established years before.

“It is one thing to hear that, but now I am back, I can see how things have changed.”

The manager was equally incensed about the chants from Watford fans about Luton-born striker Kerry Dixon when he turned out for the Hornets at Southend United, where Watford fans also clashed with each other.

“The club has got to be saying something about this. It is infantile and it is not the sort of thing we are about,” he said. “What can Kerry do? He plays for Watford and the reaction of a few fans just because he played for Luton is absolutely stupid.

“Wolves signed their cult-hero, Steve Bull, from West Brom, the local rivals. Alan Garner came to Vicarage Road from Luton and was voted Player of the Season by the fans. It is absolutely ridiculous.”

Taylor’s need to bring his players up to the mark also extended to bringing the supporters into line, in that he wanted to sharpen their focus.

“I have not come back here to be a yes man. We all see the problems on the pitch but that was not the role I was invited back to look after. My role, as general manager, is far wider and it’ll be my job, policy and philosophy to ensure that if actions take place on or off the pitch, which are contrary to what we believe in, we will have to be seen as standing up for our corner.

“Saturday just said everything about our season. The club is in turmoil and so are the fans.”

His reference to the incident at Roots Hall two days after the Portsmouth debacle, involved only Watford fans and one needed treatment following a scuffle between those who chanted “there’s only on Kerry Dixon” and those who resented the signing because of his Luton Town connections.

An eye-witness claimed: “The only thing stopping a fracas was the fact both sets of fans were supposed to be on the same side. Those anti-Dixon people had to advance over 10 to 15 seats to achieve a threatening stand-off.”

The return of hooliganism to the ground was the main reason Elton John walked out of the Portsmouth match after the club had snubbed him with regard to a place to park his car near the ground. Graham had to fix this error as well, pointing out that it was not in anyone’s interest to snub Elton.

As for the two incidents of hooliganism, they were a far cry from the culture that pervaded Vicarage Road from 1977 to 1987 – dubbed the safest ground in the country for families and children to visit and without their ears being assailed with obscenities.

One was reminded of a more pointed display of ‘hooliganism”, which was in fact more of a protest, when Watford fans stormed the directors’ box at the end of a Tuesday night game when Jack Petchey was chairman.

The board and guests had left the box but the fans almost broke onto the stairs leading to the boardroom but were frustrated by a feverishly and quickly closed and bolted door. The demonstration was in protest at Petchey’s running of the club and the continued downhill slide of the club’s fortunes and culture, so clearly at odds with the past era.

I remember some very conservative fans were uplifted by the sight of such a protest, even thought Petchey was not at the game. It achieved little of note and it could be said the directors were shaken but not stirred.

Two days later, Petchey announced his resignation as chairman. Asked if this was nothing more than a cosmetic move, the club’s senior administrator fatuously denied it.

Petchey, in fact, still held the strings and continued to run the club . . . slowly downhill.