Looking Back at Watford's 1999 Promotion-Winning Campaign
Watford had a legendary 1999 campaign under legendary manager Graham Taylor. Many of the team’s players have attributed it to their camaraderie.
The Hornets were a new team in the Championship or the second-tier in England. Many expected the team to fall back down to the third tier because they did not have the fanfare that other teams had like Sheffield United at the time. Many pundits and fans cite Graham Taylor’s managerial abilities to be one of the main reasons why they won the promotion.
A prominent player in that lineup was Micah Hyde who was one of the leaders in the midfielder for the team during that time. He has been one of the most vocal about their campaign because he is very proud of what they achieved as a team. As a leader on the team, he had a great vantage point. He said, ‘We had chemistry, it was a complex group of people together and the chemistry just fitted well’.
The team had a diverse set of characters which people did not expect to mesh well in their campaign towards promotion in 1999. They had a special aura about them because they managed to establish unique chemistry and a connection with the fans that helped them immensely during their run. If you managed to see them play, you can clearly see that they were the perfect example of a team.
Taylor was highly-praised for their campaign and for good reason. Steve Palmer who was one of the main defenders in the first-team lineup, feels that the training sessions with Taylor at the helm was one of the best experiences that the team had. This is what led to their success because they started on a good note with their practices.
Palmer said, ‘I think it was a group of people who came together and worked very hard in training, so there was a collective bond between us, and obviously our manager knew what he was doing so that brought us together and we were successful’.
Members of the team understood each other to a great extent because they did not have to participate in some team-building exercises to establish their chemistry. They just trusted each other and believed that they will win their games.
They had a rough start to their campaign that year, losing in five of their eight games. Many pundits expected the team to remain in the bottom end of the league table, but they managed to go on a long winning streak that took them over the hump and into the Premier League.
This was one of the best runs that the club had in the past because they were against all odds. Pundits expected them to be a bad team and other teams were underestimating them because they had a bad start to their campaign. They managed to surprise everyone and secure promotion even if they were having trouble.
Hyde has reflected on that season. He said, ‘When we went through a sticky patch and came over it, that was when we were at our best because we had to show our character and we did. In that season we went through a little blip, but we believed in ourselves. There were loads and loads of different relationships in the team, but that’s what you need to be successful and we had that’.
Words: Cholo Martin