This week’s object in our search for Watford in 100 Objects is in fact 14 objects. Together they represent a feat never done before at Watford and one that probably won’t happen again. In the 1997-1998 season, the year Watford were crowd champions of Division 2 (League One in new money), Steve Palmer wore every Watford shirt possible, numbers 1 to 14.
|Picture: A jigsaw puzzle was available showing Steve with his 14 shirts!|
We had considered putting in Steve’s bong*, but after chatting with Steve at the London Masters back in July he said he’d like to put in his 14 shirts. You’ll hear the story of his achievement on Pod 2.3 and you can listen to the rest of the interview with Steve and the rest of the Masters team on our Selco London Masters Special.
For me wearing 14 different numbered shirts in one season is great on two fronts. Firstly, that it won’t happen again. The Football League brought in squad numbers in 1999 and when they did we lost something in football. We don’t have the ability to refer to a striker as a ‘classic No. 9’ or even look at the away team and have a good idea of how they are going to line up and easily see when they make tactical changes. It’s also a sign that we have huge benches now and the real art of substitutions has gone. With 5 or more players on the bench a manager doesn’t have to worry that much about who he has on his bench, he has many options available.
The bigger reason I love this feat is it proves what a great player and great bloke Steve must have been. In the 97-98 season Steve had been pushed out of his normal position by the rise of Richard Johnson. Many players would become lost in the battle to get that position back. Steve showed his skills as an all rounder, an ability to fit in where ever needed. Graham Taylor must have loved having someone he could slot in where needed. And having met Steve, albeit briefly, I suspect he wasn’t the type of player to complain about being dropped. The role of a utility man is something else that we’ve lost in the game. Players are far more specialised these days. I mean how many players can you honestly say you can see playing out of position?
It’s also a sign of how much Graham Taylor was up for a laugh. Steve couldn’t tell us when someone noticed that he was missing a few numbers to complete his set, but by the time he started the games wearing number 1, Watford had not guaranteed the championship or even promotion. Taylor must have had massive trust in Palmer and the team to let him do it.
I’ve never brought a Watford shirt and had a players name put on it. It seems wrong to single one of them out, but I wonder if the Hornet shop will do me one with 14 numbers and Palmer on the back?
List of games where Steve wore the numbered shirt for the first/only time:
1- AFC Bournemouth – Home – Won 2-1 – Tuesday 28th April 1998
2- Bristol Rovers – Away – Won 2-1 – Tuesday 14th October 1997
3- Chesterfield – Away – Won 1-0 – Saturday 31st January 1998
4- Burnley – Away – Lost 0-2 – Saturday 10th January 1998
5- Preston North End – Away – Lost 0-2 – Saturday 30th August 1997
6- Bristol City – Home – Draw 1-1, Saturday 13th December 1997
7- Wigan Athletic – Away – Lost 2-3 – Saturday 4th April 1998
8- Luton Town – Away – Won 4-0 – Saturday 4th October 1997 (in the original red and black striped away kit)
9- Fulham – Away – Won 2-1 – Saturday 2nd May 1998 (in the brand new blue and grey striped away kit)
10- Carlisle Utd – Home – Won 2-1 – Tuesday 17th March 1998
11- Torquay Utd (FAC 2nd Round R), Home – Won 2-1 AET -Tuesday 16th December 1997
12- Brentford – H – Won 3-1 – Sat 23rd August 1997 (On for Melvang)
13- Millwall – A – Lost 0-1 – Saturday 18th October 1997 (On for Mooney)
14- Carlsile United – A – Won 2-0 – Saturday 16th August 1997 (On for Page)
Thanks to Matt Rowson for the details on the games Steve wore each numbered shirt.
* = “There’s only one Stevie Palmer, And he smokes Marjuarnia, walking along, Smoking a bong, walking in a Palmer wonderland.”