A new book about Watford FC which Sir Elton John has collaborated on has been dedicated to former Watford Observer sports editor Oli Phillips.

Along with the club’s chief executive through the heady days of the late 1970s and 1980s, Eddie Plumley, Oli’s name appears at the front of Watford Forever which was released on Thursday.

The hardback book has been published by Viking and written by the award-winning journalist and novelist John Preston, who worked with the Hornets’ Honorary Life-President Sir Elton to tell the story of his time at the club and share the former chairman’s thoughts and insight.

To do so, Preston drew on the extensive knowledge and memories of Oli.

Watford Observer: The hardback version of Watford Forever was released on ThursdayThe hardback version of Watford Forever was released on Thursday (Image: Viking)

"I suspect every writer of non-fiction dreams of meeting someone who knows far more about the subject they’re writing about than they do, and who is unfailingly helpful into the bargain. Oli Phillips was all that to me and a lot more,” said Preston, whose previous book, A Very English Scandal, was adapted into a multi-award-winning mini-series starring Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw.

“I wrote to him when I was starting work on Watford Forever and asked if he would see me. His immediate response was to ask me to come and stay with him and his wife, Ellie, at their home in France.

“Arriving at the nearest station, I saw a small car being driven, somewhat erratically, through the rush-hour traffic. Out jumped a tall, abstracted-looking man in faded pink shorts. We proceeded to talk long into the night about Watford FC and most of all about Oli’s relationship with Graham Taylor.

“It was a relationship which started with a good deal of suspicion on Oli’s part - essentially he thought Graham was too full of himself and equally full of batty ideas - but soon changed into deep respect and friendship.

“Afterwards I would phone him up from time to time to check on some obscure fact. It seems entirely typical of Oli’s patience and fortitude that the last time I called him to check on the age of Watford’s assistant youth coach when Graham took over - it turned out the man had been 95 - he was lying in his hospital bed. Alas, he died not long afterwards.

“Under the circumstances, the least I could do was to dedicate Watford Forever to Oli and to Watford FC’s former general manager, Eddie Plumley, who also sadly died before it was published.

“As anyone who remembers Oli’s football reports will know, he was a fantastic football writer - dramatic, concise, full of passion and frequently very funny. Reading his match reports, you have the extraordinary experience of seeing a game come back to life before your eyes.

“Watford were very lucky to have him to record their glory days. And I too was very lucky – to have been able to call on his expertise and just to have known him.”

Watford Observer: John PrestonJohn Preston (Image: John Preston)

The dedication of this new book is another tribute to Oli, who also had the club’s media suite at Vicarage Road named after following his death earlier this year.

“Hearing that the book is dedicated to Oli was a very emotional moment for all of us,” said Oli’s wife Ellie, on behalf of his family.

“It confirmed the regard held for Oli by John and was extremely special. The book would have been particularly close to Oli’s heart as he had a special relationship with Graham and Elton, at a special time for Watford and the supporters. That meant a great deal to Oli as a journalist and as a Watfordian.

“His professional integrity was very highly regarded and to have this acknowledged in this personal way would have given him such pride and pleasure.

“It’s bitter-sweet for us, a reminder of how special he was, and will always be, and the fact that he’s not here to enjoy the lovely gesture.

“Oli was really happy to have met John and was impressed by his writing, thoroughly enjoying the time they spent chatting about ‘the good old days’ at Watford and finding him convivial company .

“We’re very fortunate to have such a positive remembrance of Oli.”