Rocket Man signs up for Watford relaunch

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The roar which greeted the announcement at Saturday's match that Elton John was resuming his position as chairman of Watford told its own story, writes Mike Rowbottom.

The singer's return to the club as part of a consortium, seven years after he sold it, has aroused huge expectations among Watford supporters for whom the glories of the 1980's have become distant memories.

Speaking from New York, John expressed his hope that the new organisation would start putting Watford "back on the football map", adding: "It is great to be back."

But if Elton is back on the Yellow Brick Road, in tandem with Graham Taylor, the man who guided the team from Fourth to First Division in five years, then that road is a broader one.

Plans are in place for Watford to ground-share with Saracens rugby club next season. Thus, world-class performers such as Michael Lynagh will be on view at Vicarage Road, although the rugby will have to fit in around the football. It is intended to follow the model established at Loftus Road, which is shared by QPR and Wasps. Indeed, care of the pitch has been given over to the same contractors.

There are also plans for a stock exchange flotation to raise further funds for a project which is likely to include more than just rugby and football. Two of the holding company's directors have experience of other sports at top level - Haig Oundjian, vice-president of the National Ice Skating Association, and Terry Rosenberg, head of the South African Tennis Association.

"It has been an open secret that the club's previous owner, Jack Petchey, wanted to sell out," Taylor, the club's general manager, said. "But the situation has created an uncertainty which has transmitted itself to the club. "We have drawn 19 games this season. We have not known whether to win or lose."

Oundjian said the consortium was thrilled to pull together John and Taylor once again, a pairing he described as "the Dream Team".

Taylor, who left Watford in 1987 for Aston Villa, England and, briefly, ignominy, said the singer had not felt able to take entire responsibility again.

"Elton did not want to come back on his own," Taylor said. "He has done all that. When he was last here, everything rested on his shoulders financially. We have what we call the Stanley Rous stand here, built in 1985. But that is Elton's stand. It wasn't so easy to get money for new buildings then. Elton had to find the money himself."

John's stake is a substantial one, but no more than any of the other consortium members. There had been no question, however, of anyone else being chairman. "We can't sing as well," one member said.

Comments