Here is Part Two of Ross' interview with Watford Legends. For Part 1 Click here.
What did you do when you left Watford?
In the summer I got an offer to go and play in Hong Kong. I went for it because I had recovered enough to play out there as it was only a short season. Obviously if I had got my full fitness back I would have stayed at Watford to carry on playing top flight football, and by the same token I donít think Watford would have let me go as I was doing a job at Watford which helped us as a team be very successful. It allowed people like Barnes and Luther to play off me, and also I was getting great crosses from Barnesy and Nigel. It was an unfortunate way to end my time at Watford. Football was more demanding then on the physical side of it, and it was very hard for me but I came through it and overcame the obstacles that were put in front of me. All through my time, even when I was struggling I always got a good response from the crowd.
How would you say you got on with the fans overall?
I like to think I got on very well in the end with them. I spoke to the fans quite often either at train stations or on the coach on our way to games, and generally got on with them. I think they could see that I had a particular way of playing and that I did have something to offer. It also helped when we were playing under Taylor in the fourth division, then the 3rd and I played the majority of the games. We were also good in the cups. I was club top scorer in Europe with some silly amount of games. It was all there for me.
We shot through the third division and nobody could really stop us as we had such a good side. Then we were playing 2nd division and it was going O.K until I broke my ankle and we didn't have anyone else that could naturally go in and do the job I was doing. There were other times when Graham was looking at doing things differently and looking at different players but that is the manager's job, its all about how you respond to it.
You won the player of the season award in 75/76; you must have been pleased with that?
Everything snowballed and was going very well. We were becoming increasingly successful as a club. I was talking to some supporters after the Carling Cup game against Spurs this season and they were telling me how much they didn't enjoy being in the Premier League, as you have to put up with constantly being the underdog and they prefer to be in a league where they can win a few games and have something about them. Something I don't understand, and bear in mind I live away and don't see a lot of live football, is why are we not competing when we get our chances in the top flight? We did it when we first got in the top league, Hull are doing it this season, Bolton have consolidated in that league. I don't know why we never made a good fist of it?
I think there are mixed views on this. The top 4 are becoming richer by the season and with that the gap grows. The example you used of Hull is a prime one to use. They have had to spend a lot of money to even have a shout of staying up, and if they don't then it is almost certain they will face financial difficulties in the next year or two unless a Russian sugar daddy turns up.
I can see your point, but what I cant understand is that a team spends time developing in the Championship and builds up to get there chance in the premier league, but when most teams get there they are not competing but they are almost waving the white flag and just accepting there fate before a ball is kicked. If you are a good footballer and you have a good manager then you should be able to give it a really good go. We went through the leagues and got up there and when we did get there, not only did we knock people about but we came second. That wasn't because we were lucky, we were not lucky in the slightest.
To score goals in the Premier League is the hardest thing in football. Promoted teams are up against the task of trying to score past the most organised defences in England, containing some of the best defenders in the world. Even teams like Man Utd struggled at the beginning of this season. I remember watching them play Man City, and for 43 minutes they knocked the ball about and controlled the game but didn't get any shots away and so even with all that possession, never looked like scoring. The end result of any passage of play has to be a good attempt at goal, otherwise what are you playing for? It's what people want to see. Not just the ball hitting the net but the interplay, getting the balls round the back, getting the balls to the flanks and getting attempts on goal.
Under Graham quite often we would have 20 attempts at goal in a game. In that Manchester derby game I mentioned, it was great to see somebody like Rooney when he is motivated. You want someone like that up against a back 4, somebody who wants the ball so he can try and score a goal. You don't want him chasing back, you want other players winning the ball and for him to make the runs and frightening the defenders. His job is to tread on players toes, lean on them and gain himself a couple of yards and then make a curling run.
Back to your time at Watford, did you live locally when you were here?
Yes I lived on the Cassiobury Estate. In fact I was back there before the Spurs game to see an old mate of mine. I enjoyed living there. My boy grew up there and went off to school at Parmiters. That was at the time I was doing a bit of double glazing installation after I left Watford.
So after Hong Kong and the double glazing, what have you been up to since?
I stayed in Watford until about 1990, and I was running the double glazing business up until then. Then my father died suddenly which none of us were prepared for. It made me evaluate a few things, and I had to take a decision on my business and either expand it or sell up. We decided to sell up and see what happened next, without having too much planned. I went with some friends to build a house in America for me to live in, just on a lake in Michigan which I had a big hand in building. I loved having this big wooden house, especially after seeing the care that goes into the finishing of it. I was really pleased with it.
Unfortunately, things didn't work out for us over there. I don't want to go into it, but letís just say somebody really didn't like us over there. I did have the intention of living there for good and developing a career as a coach, as I had all the badges from the F.A. We ended up going back to Spain where I had my holiday home and we settled down there. In about '93 I got involved in this sports club bar in Javier called Lancorra. It had tennis courts, and we put in a pool, exercise rooms and stuff like that. I ran the kids five-a-side, and we also had an adult five-a-side league. It was quite a lively place, and was the main place to be of an evening or even during the day.
Also Sky was just coming in then so we had a few televisions and showed a lot of sport, and we had quite a good scene going. I ran that for seven years before it all got too much for me. The biggest mistake was my business partner and I done too much of the work ourselves and worked too hard and we should have offloaded a bit more to the workers. Also I was getting older, and I wasn't able to maintain something I had always been able to. We both had a sit down and decided to sell it on, and that is what we did at the end of 2000. In 2001 me and the missus decided to have a six month break in Africa. In all the time of running the bar, we had only taken one holiday which was a safari holiday and we loved it, so we decided to have a longer one to make up for lost time. So we flew to Cape Town where we had a friend, and within a week I had bought a car and some camping gear, and without any plans we just took off for 6 months. The car is now in storage, and every summer we go out and spend some time exploring a different part of Africa.
My son is married and settled now, and my step son is married and working in Dover so sometimes we come over to see him or he comes over to us. It's quite a nice lifestyle now that suits us down to the ground.
Is there a day job now?
No, I don't work anymore. My wife and I looked at our situation, and if we are economical then we can spend our lives together just exploring different avenues and having fun. If I worked it would take that away. The eight hour working day is gone now effectively, 10 hours is more normal now and that wouldn't give us the freedom we are after.
I spent 20 odd years running myself into the ground with football, then seven years working with the double glazing which was physically hard. I am quite a hands on person so I always mucked in. It has all taken its toll which is why I am happy having a life of leisure. My knees are packing up now as well, I need new knees so that is something else I have to consider. My brain is probably a bit worn out now as well!
As an ex centre forward, what did you make of Watford's current number 9, Tamas Priskin, during the Spurs match? There is a bit of a split opinion amongst the fans!
I certainly wouldn't want to judge anyone on one performance. What I would question is why he, as a lone striker, is getting the service that he is. Whenever a team plays one up top, if the team is not doing well it is always the centre forward who gets the blame. It depends what system you are playing in. Sometimes you have five across the middle but not one of those will step up to try and score or create a goal for fear of giving one away.
So I wouldn't want to judge him, certainly not on the second half as he didn't get any service at all because after the first ten or fifteen minutes of the second half the team fell away again. The game then became scrappy. Spurs are not a great side this season; they have a lot of work to do. I know Redknapp has put a few results together but as a unit they are not performing. But at the end of the day, there boy Bent got the ball in the box and hit it. It may have had a bit of luck going in, but as GT always drummed into us, you have to shoot to score and that is what the boy done.
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