Reflecting on that outbreak of hooliganism at Easter 1996, it was the first such occurrence since November 1979, when Birmingham City fans went on a rampage at the Vicarage Road end.

Watford leant from the Birmingham episode and Watford became ‘hooligan free’ with the separation of fans’ areas and police vigilance that included stewards sitting on top of the turnstile entrances and watching out for supporters bringing inappropriate items into the ground.

Club officials admitted in private that no on could legislate for or stop a fan or fans suddenly letting loose on the Vicarage Road terrace, but the club created an aura in which fan behaviour was channelled into the right directions.

The club achieved wonders, led by their manager Graham Taylor and miscreants received substantial bans from the ground. Even the chanting was kept within respectable limits as Watford stressed the fact there were women and children populating the family enclosure.

Indeed, when government inquiry representatives visited the ground, after the Heysel Disaster spurred a crackdown on hooliganism, they were stunned to find Watford achieved their reputation without recourse to fences and cages.

Those fences at other grounds were to be removed in the wake of the Hillsborough Disaster, but Watford, with the introduction of a station halt behind the Rookery-Shrodells (Rous) corner of the ground achieved a lot.

When it came to Vicarage Road hooliganism after that 1979 incident, I recall only one other unseemly occasion, at the end of the promotion run-in which saw the Hornets reach the top flight. That was April 24, 1982 when Watford thrashed Shefffield Wednesday.

The Wednesday fans were housed on the right-hand side of the then Rookery stand with a no-man’s land policed between them and the Watford faithful on the Main Stand side of the Rookery. As Watford brushed aside Wednesday with an awesome display, some visiting fans found it hard to take.

I have no concept of the thought processes involved, but four Wednesday fans opted to climb up on the narrow ledge where the cladding met the wall at the back of the stand. They then proceeded to inch along the back, across the gap between the fans and then, upon reaching the beckoning, baying Watford section, threw themselves into the fray facing odds exceeding 250-1. Christians to Lions sprang to mind only I think the Christians had better odds.

The police moved in and took the four fans away, presumably, as I wrote at the time, to the local mental hospital. I must admit I lost total concentration on the game at that stage as I kept glancing at the progress of the quartet, wondering what they had in mind as they inched along that parapet.

Other than that, the ground remained pretty much free of incident, although there were problems when away fans were marched up from Watford Junction and back – a tendency that was brought to an end with the introduction of the halt.

However, after Graham Taylor left in 1987, the standards throughout the club were allowed to drop and before long we had a Queens Park Rangers player Pat van den Hauwe subjected to repeated chants about the possible sexual preferences of his wife, Mandy Smith.

Somehow, I cannot imagine such chants being tolerated in Graham’s time. I am sure he would have been on the public address system within a minute of the first chant.

Yet, following the incident involving Portsmouth fans in April 1996, Watford officials announced the ground would be a hooligan free zone. Secretary John Alexander, who now fulfils the same role at Old Trafford, stadium officer Mick Buttle and football liaison officer Al Gick met up to outline plans for 17 cameras to be installed at the ground with a police control room monitoring them.

Further to that, Al and other officers would travel to away games, driving round the town, spotting Watford fans and just saying ‘hello’. It was intended to let fans know, particularly those likely to cause trouble or who were banned from Vicarage Road, that they had been spotted.

The local police would liaise with other forces at away games and the cameras at Vicarage Road did produce results. I was privileged to be invited into the control room to review footage of a visiting fan who left the Bend, walked along in front of the Rous, punched a few Watford youngsters and sped speedily back to the visitors’ section. There he went into the toilet and re-emerged wearing an entirely different coloured top.

His ruse was exposed by the cameras. He was arrested, charged and punished.

I am not saying the club officials had not been shocked and angered by the Portsmouth hooligan incident, but Graham had some strong words to say after the game, stressing that the club needed to re-emphasise the fact it was a family club and not one “run by a gang of hooligans”.

“Watford are way down the league in respect of hooliganism but we thought it as well to nip it in the bud,” said a police spokesman the following week.

A lot was written about hooliganism and there were claims that people who ran amok in crowds, punching four-year-olds in the face were expressing their tribalism. I am old school and regarded such as crock of vaguely identifiable brown stuff.

Yes, the Birmingham fans did beat up four, five and six year olds in 1979 and Burnley fans acted in a similar fashion outside the ground in August 1997, after Watford beat them on the first day of the new season.

After Graham had moved on, Luton Town fans organised a tactical assault on those in the Rous Stand before a League Cup tie but such incidents were so rare, they are effortlessly recalled.

But, in general, Watford has remained way down the hooligan league table on and off the pitch since the day Graham first walked into Vicarage Road.