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7 Of The Best Payers To Ever Play For Watford

Podcast Blog Post 21

7. Luther Blissett

The Hornets' all-time record appearance maker and goal scorer, the stats don’t lie when it comes to Luther Blissett’s Watford playing days.

After progressing through the club’s youth ranks, the prolific centre-forward went on to score 186 times in 503 outings during three separate spells at Vicarage Road after making his initial debut in the 1975/76 season.

A key part of Watford’s rise from the Fourth Division to a second-placed top-flight finish in 1982/83, Blissett became the Hornets’ first senior England international when scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Luxembourg in 1982.

After a year in Italy with AC Milan, the Jamaica-born striker returned to The Vic for another successful stint from 1984 until 1988, at which point he moved to Harry Redknapp’s Bournemouth and found the net more than 50 times in two-and-a-half seasons at Dean Court.

He was brought back home to Hertfordshire by Steve Perryman for a further two-year spell in 1991 and later served under Graham Taylor once more as part of the club’s coaching staff.

6. John Barnes

Arguably the most gifted player to ever wear the yellow of Watford, John Barnes cost the club a full set of kit when signed from Sudbury Court in 1981.

A modest transfer fee, but it soon became apparent that the Hornets had unearthed a real gem in the skillful winger. Just 17 when making his debut, Graham Taylor’s side were promoted during his first season at The Vic, and they finished their maiden top-flight campaign as runners-up with Barnes contributing 10 league goals. 

His glittering form in Hertfordshire resulted in an England call-up at the age of 19, and he scored a famous solo goal in Brazil while on Watford’s books. During six seasons he scored 83 goals in nearly 300 outings and earned a £900,000 transfer to Liverpool in 1987.

Barnes enjoyed a success-laden decade at Anfield, twice winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award as Liverpool secured two league titles, two FA Cups and one League Cup. He was capped 79 times by England and also turned out for Newcastle United and Charlton Athletic before hanging up his boots in 1999.

He subsequently tried his hand at management with Celtic, Tranmere Rovers and the Jamaican national team, but it was as one of this country’s most talented footballers that Barnes will be best remembered.

5. Tommy Mooney

An iconic figure at Vicarage Road, Tommy Mooney’s popularity among the Watford supporters came from a relentless battling approach to the game - and the odd goal. 

Mooney’s scoring run in 1999 fuelled the club’s dramatic surge into the Premier League. He scored the only goal in a famous 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield, giving the Hornet’s their first victory of their inaugural Premier League campaign.

Despite an unfortunate injury that kept him out for the majority of that Premier League season, Mooney returned the following year in a determined fashion scoring 18 league goals for the Golden Boys.

Revered at The Vic to this day, in 2006 Mooney took a ticket in the away end at Old Trafford watching the Hornets, and spent the entire ninety minutes being serenaded by his adoring travelling faithful. 

4. Richard Johnson

An integral part of Graham Taylor’s 1999 promotion winning side, Richard Johnson made well over 200 appearances for the Hornets and scored seven goals in the Hornets Division Two title-winning season.

Johnson’s ability to strike the ball from long distance was a crucial part of his game and soon became a trademark of the Australian midfielder.

His talents were not limited to fierce efforts from 30 yards out however they did produce several memorable goals including a spectacular volley against Bristol City and a thunderous effort to clinch a late win against Wolves.

3. Nigel Gibbs

Local lad Nigel Gibbs made his debut under Graham Taylor for Watford in a UEFA Cup Third Round tie at the age of 18 as a graduate of the club’s Academy.

Gibbs went on to establish himself as a regular member of the first-team despite his young age, producing consistently impressive performances, eventually becoming an ever-present figure at right-back for the club.

After winning the Player of the Season Award in 1992 Gibbs was appointed club captain, but the next campaign proved to be a struggle after the defender suffered a long-term injury that would see his first-team appearances severely restricted for the next couple of years.

Despite the setback, Gibbs recovered and went onto make 411 league appearances for the club, more than anyone except Luther Blissett and Duncan Welbourne. 

2. Troy Deeney

Where to start with Troy Deeney.

The Birmingham-born forward was plucked out of West Midlands non-league football by Walsall in 2006 and went on to score 27 goals from just over 100 starts in three-and-a-half years with the Saddlers.

Signed for an initial £250,000 from Walsall on the eve of 2010/11, Deeney was often deployed as a sub and asked to perform a bustling wide midfield role in his early days at Vicarage Road.

Deeney's most memorable goal in Watford colours remains his final strike of 20 during 2012/13. An unbelievable injury-time winner in the Championship Play-Off Semi-Final with Leicester City, dispatched just moments after Manuel Almunia's double-save from an Anthony Knockaert penalty, was truly the stuff of Hornets folklore. 

Deeney then firmly etched his name in the Watford FC history books, becoming the first player in the club's history to hit over 20 goals in three successive seasons with a 21-goal haul in 2014/15.

The Golden Boys forward captained the Hornets to Premier League promotion, taking home both the Player and Players' Player Of The Season awards, and duly signed a new five-year contract ahead of the Premier League campaign that followed.

Deeney netted his 100th Hornets goal in the 1-1 Premier League draw with Crystal Palace on Boxing Day 2016, and again reached double figures in 16/17.

1. Tony Coton 

Few would question the standing of Tony Coton as Watford's greatest every goalkeeper. 

He started his 19-year career with a penalty save in the first minute of his professional debut for Birmingham City in 1980 and Graham Taylor parted with £300,000 to bring the keeper to Vicarage Road in 1984. During six years with the Hornets, he played 291 times.

Despite conceding five against Everton on his Watford bow, Coton went on to lift the Player of the Season trophy an unprecedented three times before a £1m move to Manchester City in 1990, where he received the same honour twice.

He left City in 1996 after 196 outings and short spells followed with Manchester United and Sunderland, but an injury forced his retirement soon after. He subsequently returned to Old Trafford as Sir Alex Ferguson’s goalkeeping coach for a decade and after spells scouting for Wigan and Bolton, Coton is now Aston Villa’s head of goalkeeper recruitment.

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