I was pleased to see Les Simmons’ name mentioned in a report in the sport’s nostalgia page of last week’s Watford Observer regarding ‘When Watford went to the dogs’.

The connections Les had with greyhound racing at The Vic are well documented and recorded in the report. However, after being a friend of Les and knowing him a number of years, I would like to think that in his capacity as groundsman for the football club, Les was by far more devoted and dedicated to Watford Football Club than he was to greyhound racing.

Les was a good friend and a much loved and liked local character who served Watford FC for more than 50 years, and not just in his capacity as groundsman.

My fond memories of Les and the enthusiasm he had for his local club takes me back to the start of the 1967-68 season.

Les got hold of a pony and trap to promote the club’s new season back in August 1967. With Watford FC manager Ken Furphy and his young son Keith on board the trap, and with Les walking alongside the pony, the three of them travelled up and down Watford High Street handing out fixture cards to the public for the new season ahead.

On another occasion I can remember Les at a public meeting one evening in the Assembly Hall of Watford Town Hall in 1973. The hall was rammed solid with supporters of the Leslie Wise consortium takeover bid of Watford FC. From the floor Les rose to his feet and spoke against the takeover bid and was convinced, just like Watford FC chairman Jim Bonser, that the amount of money being bandied about by Mr Wise and his consortium to buy out chairman Jim Bonser just did not stack up.

My fondest memory of Les goes back to 1986, on the very sad occasion of “Watford’s own” Tommy ‘Boy’ Barnett’s funeral. On the day of the funeral it was Les who ran the flag to half-mast and mustered up some young Academy players to stand outside The Vic with their heads bowed down as a sign of respect as the funeral passed The Vic for Tommy ‘Boy’ Barnett’s final journey. I thought it was a lovely gesture by Les and those young football apprentices and so true to the type of character Les always was.

Ernie MacKenzie

Gammons Lane, Watford