Tommy is now living and playing in Marbella. He has a wife, Sharon, and twin girls Lauren and Bayleigh, and son Kelsey.
Hi Tommy. Your Watford career started strangely, scoring against your own club whilst on loan…
I signed on loan from Southend on the Friday and travelled straight up to Sunderland for my debut. I actually played against Southend at home in one of my first games for Watford, in fact it may even have been my home debut. We won 2-0 and I scored. It happens more now but that was one of the first times that somebody had scored against there parent club. It was a bit strange, but I didn’t get on with Peter Taylor who was the Southend manager at the time so I had a bit of a wry smile on my face as I ran back to the half way line after the goal.
I remember you gave a little thumbs up as you ran past the benches on your way back!
Well it might have been a thumb…but it might not have been! He had made it very difficult for me to leave Southend for six months and then in the last week of the transfer deadline as it was then as opposed to a window, he said ‘alright I will let you go’.
When I look back at it now it is different and I have thanked him for it several times since as I had eight great years at Watford, but at the time he was very, very stubborn and a pain in the arse.
Why Watford? How did it all come about?
I knew Glenn Roeder. I had played against him when he was player manager at Gillingham. The move had been on and off for a little while. Peter Taylor wasn’t going to play me in his first team at Southend but he only wanted to sell me rather than loan me out. He had already turned down 9 or 10 loan offers for me, including one from my home town club Middlesbrough. As soon as he turned that down me and him fell out the very same day.
I then played in the reserves for a couple of months. When he finally realised that nobody wanted to buy me but a few clubs wanted to take me on loan, he allowed me to do it. Because of Glenn Roeder and because it was only an hour from my Essex home at the time that was the reason I went there in all honesty. I had no allegiances to Watford at the time. It all came down to knowing Glenn and travelling time.
How far into your time at Watford did you realise that you were really enjoying it enough to get settled?
I loved it from day one. I had spent 6 months at Southend hating it so much that I had put my house up for sale and I was going to go back up north and give up the game completely because of how Peter Taylor was treating me and because of how I was feeling about the game. I was only six months in to a three year contract that I had signed with Barry Fry. Barry then went on to Birmingham and they wouldn’t let me go with him. In all honesty I spent six months at Southend not wanting to be a footballer.
Then I went to Watford and it changed. I think we got a result up at Sunderland, then we beat Southend and in the space of a fortnight I had got my hunger back. The Watford fans had taken to me straight away as well. Basically, I wanted to be a footballer again. There was no way on earth though that I was going back to Southend. It was left right up until the last minute for the deal to become permanent but I knew it was going to happen all the way along. I was delighted when it did officially become permanent.
Did you realise at your time at Watford how much of an impact you had on the fans, and how much you were adored in your time here?
I think that is quite a tough question to answer. I knew they appreciated the way I play the game. I was no and am no Ronaldo but I will always give everything I have got for the team I am playing for. I had 8 fantastic years there. Granted we had a couple of relegations in that time but I won two of my three medals whilst with Watford, one at Fulham and one at Wembley. You don’t forget those days.
Since I have left the club, I think I realise more now. A couple of years ago a mate of mine who is a Watford fan phoned me and said he had a spare ticket for Watford away at Man. Utd. I said ‘No problem, I would love to go’ not thinking anybody would recognise me or anything. We were getting beaten by United - I say 'we' as that has become habit over the years as I consider them to be my team - and the Watford fans were still singing Mooney songs. Unbelievable.
I didn’t understand it and I didn’t expect it. Several little things that have happened since I left have made me realise that I did have a special relationship with the Watford fans and one that I will never have again anywhere else, but I will always have that relationship with the Watford supporters.
I remember after that game away at Old Trafford that you being there was probably the biggest talking point!
Ha ha! Like I say, it was just completely unexpected. I was wearing a hat and a hoodie, and I thought I would just get in unnoticed and mind my own business. I think it was just a case that once one person recognised me the word spread around the concourse underneath. As much as at the time I thought it was unnecessary, I appreciated it afterwards. It makes me laugh and smile now thinking about it but at the time I just didn’t expect it and it took me by surprise. It was just unbelievable.
What were you say were your stand out moments for the club?
I suppose any Watford supporter could pick my top two. Wembley in May, and Anfield in August. 1999 was a particularly good year! Those are the obvious ones, after that there would be the smaller ones like Bolton at home when I scored a header during the run in of that promotion season, I scored six or seven goals in about the same number of games on that run. That was a special time.
As daft as it seems, there was a goal at the home end against Bristol Rovers a few years before that. When I speak to Watford supporters they mention that goal a lot and so I think that’s what brings that goal to the forefront of my mind. I think that goal rather than a chip or smashing one in the top corner sums me up as a player. Just pig headed, bloody mindedness really! If there is something I want then I will go and get it and it would have to be a pretty strong bloke to get it off me. That goal just summed me up perfectly.
Another game that must stand out for you, how did you find the 4-0 demolition job at Luton?
Ha ha!! Still makes me giggle! Peter Kennedy got a couple didn’t he? Before that, I had a very, very average record in the derby games. I don’t know if that was my first win in the derby games but it was certainly the most memorable. It was a great atmosphere, and to shut that lot up in the space of 30 minutes and watch them leaving was brilliant. Just brilliant. That was how it was for the players, so I can imagine what it was like for the supporters.
We have spoken to Peter Kennedy and he said that he didn’t realise how much it meant to the fans until after the game, is it fair to say you knew the importance of it before the game?
Yes, definitely. I had played them a couple of times before already. But I think that was the first time I had played against them at there ground, I remember doing my knee a couple of times before games there but I had played them at home. I remember playing against them up front with Jamie Moralee at home and we lost 2-1 or something like that. The results against them had not always been great, but that 4-0 certainly made up for all of that!
Still makes me smile now thinking about it!!
It seems to make any hornet giggle that does! Long may it continue!
What was said at half time by Graham Taylor in that game? Were you told to take your foot off the pedal a bit because of the people coming on the pitch, or were you told to just keep going and score more if you could?
He wanted us to slow the game down, he was happy with the 4-0. He would have his own reasons for that. GT was very unorthodox in his thinking about the modern game of football. He was ahead of his time. Arsene Wenger is I suppose on record as being one of the most forward thinking managers in the game but at the time Arsenal were doing everything, we were doing it as well. GT got a lot of stick in the press, particularly with the England job but as a club manager he was undoubtedly a very, very successful man. Its difficult to describe. Different, but very clever is probably the best way of putting it. He could see things that other people couldn’t see.
We were 4-0 up and celebrating, and he went mad at us for celebrating at half time. I’m not suggesting he was worried about what could happen with the crowd and people on the pitch. But at the back of his mind he would be thinking that they could score one and get back in it, where as us players were thinking why don’t we go and win this seven or eight nil and really wind them up. He was incredibly professional in his thinking. I can’t remember his exact words but it was more or less ‘calm down and settle for 4-0’. Whatever his reasons were, that was the point he wanted to put across and if he wanted to put a point across, he put it across.
You mentioned Wembley earlier. That must have been an enjoyable game? You almost got on the score sheet as well with a header?
Yeah I nodded it just wide at the far post. I sound like a right statto here because I remember everything! I tend to remember good times though. I think Micah put a cross in to me at the back post, and I just tried to cushion it down into the bottom corner instead of going back across the goal. For a few seconds, I forgot where I was. If I had scored at Wembley, for me as a person that has made the most out of what I’ve got, it would have been an even better day than what it was if that can be possible.
I knew that that was my one and only chance on the day so for two or three minutes after that I was absolutely distraught, but then the final whistle comes and you forget about your own individual things and celebrate what we had achieved as a team.
You more than made up for not scoring at Wembley by scoring the winner at Anfield in front of the Kop…
Yeah, although at the time of the Wembley miss I dint know that Anfield was going to happen! As a Liverpool supporter as a kid, that was a very special day. I think that was the first time I had played at Anfield as well. I have been lucky enough to play there a couple of times since.
But to go there on my first visit and get our first points in the Premier League, and my first goal in the Premier League was fantastic. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. There is a funny story from that trip as well. Whenever we played at Merseyside or Manchester teams we always used to get the train up on a Friday afternoon from Watford Junction.
We got to the station in Liverpool, and the coach was always there waiting to pick us up to go to the hotel. As we left the station we were all in our club tracksuits and following GT to the coach and we walked past the taxi rank. All these Scouse cab drivers were standing there and leaning against there cabs saying ‘Like lambs to the slaughter they walk to their coach!’. We had been beaten by Sunderland and beaten by Wimbledon and now we had to go and face Liverpool away, and thinking 'oh my god, what’s going to happen tomorrow?!' As daft as it seems, I was walking off the pitch at Anfield and I was thinking about those taxi drivers! What they were saying was what the rest of the country was thinking.
But we had managed to go and surprise everybody by being very, very lucky that Redknapp and Fowler had missed some chances where as we put our only chance away. Though saying that, it wasn’t our only chance as I could have had two in the second half. But we put one of our chances away, and held on through every weather condition you could imagine to get our first win. It was a great day for us.
If I was at The Rookery end playing against Watford, I would put it over the bar! As a Liverpool fan you must have been caught in two minds!!
Ha ha! There are not too many people fortunate enough to score at the Kop End, no matter who you are. I like to think that Watford fans know me well enough to know that goals are the only bit of football I am interested in so I was more than happy enough to stick it in the corner of the goal and be mobbed by the lads!
Were there any players in particular that you knocked about with a lot during your time at Watford?
Yeah there was quite a few of us that were close. Me, Robert Page, Keith Millen, Johnno, Paul Robinson…we had quite a good little social gathering. In that era of the club we had a very good team spirit and as much as it was a long time ago, I was still one of the senior pro’s then because we had a very youthful side. We all used to go and have a few beers on a Tuesday in Watford after training. We would still be there at closing time on a Tuesday as well because we had Wednesday’s off! It was that team spirit and work ethic that got us our success in that couple of year period. The majority of players were there for four or five and that was not the norm.
Peter Kennedy was another one that was in that little drinking squad, in fact Peter used to be the leader of the drinking squad! He used to drink Guinness all day, I would need a knife and fork after four or five of them! Like I said though that team spirit got us so far. Even when I left after eight years at the club, there was four or five players that were due to have testimonials. To give that time and service was just unheard of, and it is even more rare now. That dedication also enhanced the team spirit because we all knew that every one of us would be giving 100% for everybody else.
It must have been quite galling when we finally got to the Premier League and then you got clattered by Desailly?
I will be honest with you, I still cannot watch the World Cup coverage on the BBC because when I see his face I want to put my boot through the T.V. Its one of those things but….he was just a nasty bastard. As soon as we walked on the field he put his fingers in my eyes, so I knew it was going to kick off any minute. And literally five minutes later it happened. I don’t think it was a necessarily bad tackle, it was just clumsy.
He meant to hurt me, though I don’t think he meant to hurt me that much. I didn’t realise how much he had hurt me at the time. Its one of those things I should be able to put behind me but I genuinely cant because he took seven and a half months away from my Premier League season and I will always be very, very bitter about that. Whether I would be different if it had been somebody else I don’t know, but I will always be very bitter towards him. I have never come across him since, but then I am never going to get that season back. By the time I was fit after that, we were already relegated. That was the worst bit. I am seeing my team mates, and I have just said how close we were, hurting and suffering every week and I couldn’t do anything to help them because I was still on crutches. It was a very difficult time.
After four months I went for a second opinion as I was no closer to being fit and the physio at Watford at the time had told me I may have to think about not playing again. To say that to me after four months was awful. I had even tried to play on after the injury. My knee was the size of my head but I had though that I could have got through it. Like I said I went to get a second opinion having been out for four months and had two operations, I saw a different physio and surgeon and was back playing in three months. I will always be eternally grateful to the people that gave me the good advice, rather than the Watford physio at the time.
CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO...