FOR those Watford fans, who cheered loudly when the legendary Graham Taylor returned to Vicarage Road, but were too young to recall his previous era, those years from 1997 to 2001 were great and filled with more success than failure and some truly positive memories.

Yet, for those of us who remember the years 1977 to 1987, his second coming did not resonate so loudly. That fact was endorsed by Graham himself, for the man could recite chapter and verse of the days when Watford rose from the fourth tier to the second. He did not easily recall that second spell and certain players’ names even when reminded did not register with him around 2013.

“I know it sounds bad but I remember the first period with far greater pride,” he admitted and with good reason.

Of course, to all fans, he had two successful spells at Watford but the blight of Jack Petchey reached into the club long after he had left, and the Hornets' Premier League hopes were jeopardised by the need to pay off Petchey for the loans that appeared on the books but loans he never made.

Yes he splashed out on Nordin Wooter but by 2013 he was stunned when I suggested he paid almost £1million for the player in 1999 just after the top-flight season had got underway.

“I asked my wife Rita and she said I would never have paid that much for Wooter,” Graham told me, but had to accept the fact his memory had played tricks on him.

However, Graham was not the same man as the one who left in 1987, when he returned to the Watford management. It is said he was not bitter and he certainly had a big enough heart to have swallowed his England tribulations and moved on, but the experience did stick in his craw. His image, which had been of man going places with a string of managerial successes behind him, had received a severe mauling.

Was his confidence battered? I do not think that for a moment. He believed in himself but he felt and was aware of the doubts and derision that followed him around the football world. Suddenly he was regarded as incompetent and there were those among the press corps at second-tier Wolves, who thought the club had appointed a no-hoper when he took over following his resignation from England.

It was if his previous success and the reasons he had qualified for the England job had been erased. It is said you are only as good as your last game and despite taking Wolves to the play-offs at the first attempt, a poor start to the season as Graham tried to stir up the de-motivated squad, resulted in a premature decision to sack him.

Tellingly, Graham told the acting chairman that the axing effectively ended his potential for revitalising his career in the top flight. That comment, which he related to me on the day he was fired, is worth remembering when people jumped on his back for coming out of retirement after leaving Watford and taking over as Aston Villa boss. The offer of that post was a sop to his vanity, a chance to rectify things and prove himself but, as Graham admitted, it was also a big mistake.

I think the England experience scarred him badly and the Wolves setback only re-opened the wound.

The game had changed: agents, who he had always resented, were taking money out of the game and making it harder for a manager to manage. Players too were from a different generation to those who he had once moulded and who frankly admired but were also wary of him and his explosions and sweeping decisions when things did not go as he expected.

You cannot revisit and then recapture the past but Graham made a pretty good attempt, effectively proving the doubters wrong when they claimed you should never go back.

The Watford of 1977 needed a big kick up the backside; the club to which he returned had to be patted on the back on occasions and encouraged to move forward. Make no mistake, in his second spell, he ruled with an iron fist when the occasion demanded it. He drove the players, installed discipline but it was not the same club.

Graham ran Watford FC from top to bottom; on and off the field in the 1980s. Eddie Plumley was titled the chief executive but he answered to Graham and, in a special way, so too did Elton John. The Watford of 1997 was not the same and Graham did not have the clout or the remit or, for that matter, the trust that was accorded him first-time round.

In the eighties, he knew everything that was going on and if he noted something that he did no agree with, he would make the point, right down to ticking off the man on the public address system for making an inopportune remark.

Perhaps the following example may highlight the difference. An employee, not on the football side, also ran a business on the side while working at the club. He was setting up people with Russian brides who wanted to come to the UK.

Something like that could never happen and would never have happened during Graham’s first spell at the club. People were kicked out for far less an offence but in the late 1990s, it was a different club.

Another example struck me at the time. One of the directors and a club employee hated the fact the teams walked out to Z-Cars. They started to look into alternatives. Graham stayed out of the debate and never expressed a public opinion.

Yet Graham in 1977 had asked me to name a song that was associated with the club’s past. I said there was only one, short of resurrecting the Watford Silver Prize Band, and that was Z-Cars, played back in the Bill McGarry days when Watford boasted an unbeaten home record stretching over 27 games. Graham ordered it to be played as the teams walked out in 1977 and it remained, and thankfully has managed to outlive the revisionists and survived to this day.