Eyewitness report by George Matlock
The weather was humid and the rich evening of July 16, 2002, had a few glimmers of sunshine and a gentle breeze by Full Time.
At least that was the happy news. The result of the away match for Elton’s Watford football team against a lower division Brentford at Griffin Park was a less bright event.
Watford, containing few of the names that made the team the winner when it rose from Division One to the Premiership under Graham Taylor‘s management in 1999, seemed tired and even unfriendly with a bad second half tackle on a Bees player, kicking him on the ground.
This was a “warm-up” match, known as a “friendly”. They were not playing for points, only for prestige and the chance to prepare for the start of the season 2002-03 in August.
Division One Watford’s spectators appeared to number about 200, and the home team, a second division Brentford, made do with around 1,200. In all, it was a low number for this modest-sized stadium which can take a maximum of 10,800 spectators.
Since Gianluca Vialli‘s dismissal as Watford manager this summer, Ray Lewington has been handling the Hornets. For him it was an emotional return to Brentford, a team he once managed before Vialli snapped him up.
But Lewington’s return certainly offered more for the home fans than the visitors – indeed, in the first half, the Bees did enough to have opened up a comfortable lead.
The Hornets boss has said that games this early offer very little indication as to the tactics and formation, and he certainly gave a variety of ideas – and players – a chance, but all to no avail.
The first half was dominated by the home side, who really should have had gone ahead and could have enjoyed a two or three-goal cushion by the time the break came.
For Watford, there were few chances against Brentford.
I was stunned to see someone ahead of the match warming up. He looked up my way and I was puzzled. Could it be? Yes, it was later confirmed that shirt 14 (a late substitute) was none other than Nick Wright, one of the two goalscorers in the 1999 Final which took Watford into the Premiership Division for the first time in history. Nick, a Mick Hucknall look-a-like, has since cut his ginger locks short!
Brentford’s Dyche finally scored the only goal of the match on 87 minutes, and a whisker from a scrappy draw being declared.