Glenn Roeder - Part One
Hi Glenn. Thanks for talking to Watford Legends. You came down to Watford in '89 when Steve Harrison signed you - what prompted the move?
I'd had a fantastic six years in Newcastle and I had genuinely loved it and felt really settled there and I still do have a love for the north east, however I was 33 and I felt it was time for me to head back down to the London area, or Essex to be more precise, to spend some more time with my family. I spoke with Steve Harrison and also had a good chat with Tom Walley who is very well known to Watford people of course and they took up the option of signing me on a free transfer.
This was at the very beginning of the Bosman thing happening which at the time the criteria was you had to be 33 and have given a club five yearsí service and by then I had already given Newcastle six yearsí service.
Newcastle fans are renowned for their passion of the game, was it a bit of a culture shock coming to Watford where it was maybe a bit more sedate?
Each club has a hard-core of supporters that is as devoted to their club as the hard-core support of other clubs are. Newcastle are famous and rightly so for their supporters. It's more to do with the support and the size of the crowds they get that make them such a well-known club probably more than they are known for their football. They havenít won a domestic trophy since the year I was born which was 1955. They won an Intercity Fairs cup in the late sixties though! We also won the Intertoto Cup when I was manager there but I don't think anyone takes much notice of that one!
We did ok after we won that and got through to the group stages of the UEFA cup after winning our group, and we only went out when we lost to Louis Van Gaal's AZ Alkmaar. Going back to your question, Watford may not get the same numbers that Newcastle get but the hard-core of supporters are no less passionate that their counterparts. Every club has a hard-core itís just in varying degrees of numbers. You mustnít dismiss Watford fans as not having desire or passion or wanting to see their club achieve. I was there for the Preston game recently and the Watford fans certainly let it be known they weren't happy when they were two down but then equally they were giving great support as the players looked to try and get that winner in the last ten minutes.
Newcastle fans have sometimes been accused of being impatient in waiting for success; did you feel you were given more breathing space at Watford to settle in?
I got on very well with everyone straight away I was made to feel welcome by everyone from the manager, the coaching staff and all the other people at the club and of course the players. The fans were somewhat still living off what Graham Taylor had achieved. What Graham achieved was and still is one of the phenomenonís of British football. There hasnít been too many managers that have had success to the extent of taking a club from the fourth division right the way through to the Premiership and then not just that but nearly winning it with players that were in the main home-grown and had a real affinity with the club.
That was a special time for Watford supporters and it has taken many, many years and several managerial appointments for any manager to try and emulate that. I did feel very privileged when I got a phone call recently from Oli Phillips and he told me that the second season under my management was the closest he had come to enjoying a season as much as he had during that special time under Graham. That was high praise from Oli which was nice to be given as during that second season we did play some good football on a limited budget.
When I first turned up as a player the club was trying to get back into the Premiership but that was hard to do as the best players had left. The likes of John Barnes don't come through every couple of years; they are once in a lifetime players. John Barnes actually went to QPR in that close season and was told to come back when the season started as he had shown promise but in the meantime Watford picked him up. QPR's massive loss was Watford's massive gain as we all know now. John was obviously a world class footballer, absolutely brilliant.
When you were playing for Watford who was your regular centre half partner?
I certainly played with David Holdsworth and Barry Ashby, I played a bit with Keith Dublin. Jamo was in goal, Gibbsy was at right back and Gary Porter was in midfield - you're testing my memory now boys!
What was in like playing in front of the young David James?
With the way he played he was often in front of me! All jokes aside though he was outstanding, absolutely outstanding. The first thing you noticed was that he absolutely had the physical presence. At 17 or 18 he had the body of a man who was in his late twenties. He had all the attributes he needed to go on and be a top class goalkeeper.
No surprise to you then to see he has gone on to have a decent career mainly in the top flight?
No definitely not. I don't like to use the term 'great' as it is used too easily now but he has certainly been one of the top keepers in the game and has earned the right to be considered one of the greats. Because of how he is he is always striving for perfection so when you speak to him he will probably tell you he could have done even better.
You moved whilst still in your playing days from Watford to Leyton Orient - what made you leave the club?
Well at the time I was thinking ahead and knew that I wanted to be a manager in the game. I had the opportunity to go to Italy with Paul Gascoigne when he went to Lazio. Paul was single and didn't have kids so the plan was that he was going to live with me and my family and that was a great opportunity for me to experience a different culture and get a huge education of Italian football. That was all agreed but certain events happened that we don't need to go into and I changed my mind about going.
That meant that at the beginning of the season I wasn't in Rome as I expected - though I had spent a very enjoyable ten days there with Paul - and I was in a position where I needed to look for a club. I went back to Orient and played a few games there whilst I looked for an opportunity to become a player manager in the third or fourth division and that opportunity came for me at Gillingham.
When you became manager of Watford there was some talk that Watford had tapped you up whilst you were still at Gillingham.
Watford were found guilty of tapping me up and it cost the club £40,000. However my reputation in football and as a person I think is very good and I want to keep it that way so I will tell you now completely and utterly truthfully - Watford never tapped me up. They never made any contact with me. It's that far in the past now it is not worth getting political with but I was involved all the way through and I can tell you now hand on heart - Watford never tapped me up.
What made you make the move from Gillingham to Watford?
It was a step up two divisions. I was as ambitious then as I am now. Nobody would turn down the opportunity to manage at two levels higher. I had done the job I was asked to do at Gillingham. I had taken over in early November and they were cut adrift at the bottom of the league and staring the conference full in the face. My remit was simply to do everything I could to keep them a football league club and that was my target.
I achieved my target and because of that the supporters were very pleased with the job I did. I suppose itís a back handed compliment that they were upset with me leaving after doing a good job for them. It doesnít matter what job you do, 99% of people would move if they were given the opportunity to do their job at a much higher level - that is natural ambition.
After Graham Taylor there were a few wilderness years at Watford with various different managers coming and going before you got to the club. How did you find it when you arrived?
When Sir Alex finally leaves Manchester United or when Arsene Wenger leaves Arsenal, whoever takes over from them will have a job three times harder than that job would normally be. It was the same for the managers that followed on from Graham Taylor because he had done so brilliantly well. It makes me laugh when a manager leaves a club and claims to have left a legacy after only two or three years at the club - you cannot leave a legacy at a club after two or three years. Graham Taylor spent nine or ten years at Watford and he left a legacy, no doubt about it.
Graham Taylor was so synonymous with Watford that you may as well have said Graham Taylor rather than Watford back then! Nobody is ever bigger than a club though at any level. When we all go home at the end of the day the club is still there and going strong but sometimes you do have instances where the club and a manager just go hand in hand with each other and that is how it was with Watford and Graham. I think it is harsh to criticise any manager that followed Graham as they had a nigh on impossible job.
Did you find that was the case for you as well?
I feel that I was probably the first manager to come in that was long enough after the Graham Taylor era that I was starting afresh. My first season was really a continuation of what Steve Perryman had endured as it was a bit of a struggle at first to stay up. The second season was great though. At that time Graham was manager of Wolves and I think he had spent £5 million on his two strikers which was a hell of a lot of money. I had spent £15,000 on our two strikers; £5,000 on Peter Beadle and £10,000 on Kevin Phillips. We beat Wolves at home on the Tuesday night in a game that was delayed as their fans had been held up. We won 2-1 under the lights and that was a great win for us.
Unfortunately we didn't have the depth to really build on that the following season and the inevitable happened. Your best players get injured, your worst players and the ones you don't want to put in the team are never injured. Andy Hessenthaler was out for half the season with a calf injury picked up in training, Gibbsy was never fit and Kevin Phillips was often injured. Our starting eleven was good as we proved the previous season but we just didnít have the depth to handle the level of injuries we were getting.
Out of your three years at Watford who would you say was the best player you had under your command?
I think it would have to be Kevin Phillips because I will never spend £10,000 so wisely again - no manager will.
Was Kevin Phillips just a punt that came off?
With all respect to Baldock Town, I was never going to go and watch them play on the off chance. I had scouts who would be looking about but it was actually a famous player from the Graham Taylor era who brought him to my attention - Nigel Callaghan.
Cally had retired but he trained with us once or twice a week for fitness. His fitness had gone but he could still deliver a ball and he was a good bloke to have around the place as well so we were happy for him to come in with us. After one training session just after Christmas Cally pulled me to one side and explained that he also trained at Baldock Town a few times a week and that there was this fantastic lad called Kevin Phillips who played for them and that I should have a look.
I went the following week. I was stood at Baldock Town behind the goal, on my own, absolutely freezing and there was no team sheet or programmes or anything so I didn't know who he was. I was watching two or three players warming the keeper up and I just knew that he was one of them in particular. You could tell his quality by how he struck a ball so cleanly and sweetly. Just before the game they announced the teams on the tannoy and he was the one I thought he was.
It was so cold I went home at half time but I had seen enough. I knew I needed to get on the phone the next day and get him into the club for a two week trial. Obviously Baldock agreed as they wanted to help the lad and also make a few quid for themselves. Kevin came in and the two reserve games we had he was playing with Paul Furlong who was coming back from injury. He didn't score in either game but from training with the first team and what the other first team players thought of him you knew he had a very good chance of being a very good first team player. You know if the other players like him because they will give him the ball and trust him with it.
Did he maybe have a different type of enthusiasm by taking the route into football he did?
I think he knew deep down he would get another shot at football but he is a wonderful human being. I speak to him probably only twice a year or so but our paths have crossed many times over the years and he is always the same great man with the same amount of humility as he was when he first came through the door for that trial period. That is nice to see as you donít always get people that stay the same like he has when they become as famous and successful as he did.