Where are they now? Watford 1997-98 Division Two Champions

By Neil Fissler

IN Graham Taylor’s first spell in charge of Watford he presided over the club’s meteoric rise from the Fourth to the First Division between 1978 and 1982.

Once in the First Division Taylor took the Hornets to a runners-up spot, the UEFA Cup and an FA Cup final prior to leaving for Aston Villa and then England.

So it was only natural that chairman Elton John turned to Taylor after they dropped into the Second Division in a bid to bring back the glory days. In his first season back at Vicarage Road in 1997-98 Taylor guided Watford to promotion to the First Division and then in his second into the Premier League.

Indeed for long periods of his first season back in the hot seat it looked as if Watford were going to romp away with the title. They went top in August after winning their opening three games and stayed there until the end of March, except for a short spell in the middle of January.

But two wins in 12 games allowed the chasing pack to close the game and it appeared that they were about to miss out on top spot. It all boiled down to needing a win in their final game at Fulham and then hoping that other results went their way.

Gifton Noel-Williams gave them the perfect start in front of nearly 17,000 at Craven Cottage with a 31st minute opener only for Peter Beardsley to level after an hour.

Ten minutes later however Jason Lee netted the winner while at Preston, Bristol City went down 2-1 to hand the Hornets the title. Steve Palmer remembers being a bag of nerves after he was forced off with injury midway through the first half and having to sit with the fans.

“I was very aware of what was going on as I had to go off after about 20 minutes. So I suddenly became very nervous,” he said.

“I was in the stand amongst everyone with their radios. It was a a lot less nerve wracking on the pitch!

“The celebrations with the Watford fans were great, especially as there was a lot of hype over Fulham that season after they had spent a lot of money, so it was nice for us to get a bit of attention.”

1. Kirk Wheeler: Since 2004 he has been the community manager of Aldershot.

2. Daniel Grieves: He lives in St Albans and runs an executive car service from Rickmansworth.

3. Nathan Lowndes: Is now living in Scotland and has been a policeman with Tayside Police since retiring.

4. Robert Page: After a long career he joined Port Vale as youth team coach and is now first team coach and also part of the Wales under-21’s set-up.

5. Keith Millen: Served Bristol City as under-17’s manager, assistant manager and then boss prior to moving onto Blackpool and now Crystal Palace.

6. Jason Lee: Was community projects manager with Nottingham Forest and is now an equalities education executive at the PFA.

7. Darren Ward: Is still playing for Swindon but has a financial services company and a cattery.

8. Gifton Noel-Williams: He has settled in Austin, Texas and is a freelance coach and head coach to Hyde Park Baptist Schools.

9. Lars Melvang: Is living in Denmark and is employed in the financial sector, where he is department head for Atradius.

10. Colin Pluck: Changed his name to Miles in 2004 for family reasons and is now working in the wine and spirits business.

11. David Perpetuini: He is now based in Romford, Essex and is sales director of his own engineering company.

12. Dominic Ludden: Based in Chelmsford, Essex and is a specialist markets executive at AXA Insurance.

13. Roy Clare: Was Watford kitman at the time of his death in February 1998.

14. Jimmy Gilligan: He was the head of Nike’s Football Academy and is now an academy coach at Nottingham Forest.

15. Gary Johnson: He once ran a football holiday business in Sweden but is now in his second spell in charge of Yeovil Town.

16. Vince Cave: After working in sales, publishing and finance he works on the procurement team at Skanska UK.

17. Steve Talboys: After going into the insurance industry he is now a director of Aon Sports, Recreation and Entertainment.

18. Dai Thomas: His professional career was ended by a conviction for football hooliganism. He now runs a scrap iron business in Caerphilly, Wales.

19. Tommy Mooney: After ending his career in Spain he lived in Marbella before returning home and coaching at Aston Villa.

20. Alec Chamberlain: He remained with the Hornets after his career ended and is the goalkeeping coach at Vicarage Road.

21. Chris Day: He is still playing for Stevenage.

22. Steve Palmer: Has worked as a performance coach and is currently head of performance systems for the Premier League.

23. Peter Kennedy: He is now living in Lisburn, Northern Ireland and is working as an accountant.

24. Micah Hyde: Lives in Brentwood, Essex and is head of the academy after previously being lead youth development coach at Dagenham & Redbridge.

25. Mark Rooney: Living in the New Barnet area and works as a ticket broker.

26. Tom Walley: Is now retired living in Nascot, Watford.

27. Phil Edwards: Running his own sports injuries rehabilitation centre in Watford.

28. Chris Johnson: Living in Sussex and works as a postman in Lewes.

29. Richard Johnson: After working as coach in a Sydney Grammar School he now coaches at Chelmsford City and Dagenham & Redbridge.

30. Wayne Andrews: After his career was ended by injury he became a personal trainer.

31. Paul Robinson: Is still playing for Birmingham City.

32. Clint Easton: Is now a professional will writer and life cover consultant and also coaches at Dagenham & Redbridge.

33. Kenny Jackett: Has just won promotion to the Championship as Wolves manager.

34. Graham Taylor: Watford’s honorary life president is a BBC radio pundit.

35. Luther Blissett: Founded Team48 Motorsport with John Barnes and Les Ferdinand, worked as a TV pundit.

36. Stuart Slater: He became a PE teacher at Kings Langley School and is now running Chelmsford City’s academy.

37. Nigel Gibbs: After coaching at Watford he has been assistant manager of Reading and Leeds.

38. Richard Flash: He is living in the Midlands and is a Lecturer in Football Business.

39. Darren Bazeley: Now coaching for Football New Zealand.

40. Andy Johnson: Twin brother of Chris is now living and working in Sussex.

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