Tales from the Vicarage is a series of books about Watford Football Club. I started the series in 2012 and have produced three editions so far, with a fourth due in September 2015.
The first volume included chapters from fellow journalists, including people I had worked with at the Watford Observer, such as Oliver Phillips, Andrew French and Stuart Hutchison and those working for national newspapers and broadcasters, such as The Guardian’s Simon Burnton, TalkSport’s John Anderson and Adam Leventhal of Sky Sports News, who I knew were Watford supporters. David James, the former Liverpool and England goalkeeper, who started his career at Watford, also contributed. The jacket, which depicts players in different Watford shirts from down the years in front of the distinctive Rous Stand (now Graham Taylor Stand) roof, was illustrated by Simon Scarsbrook.
Several of the contributors returned for volume two, when I added to the team with Mike Walters from the Daily Mirror and Ian Grant and Matt Rowson from the pioneering blog Blind, Stupid and Desperate. I also asked Paolo Tomaselli, an Italian journalist I knew from the Tour de France press room, to write about the Pozzo family, who had taken over the club. Paolo covers Serie A and knows the Udinese set-up very well and at the time the book was published very little had been written about the Pozzos’ business empire and methods. It was also a coup to include a chapter from Miles Jacobson, the driving force behind the Football Manager series of games, and a Watford supporter who became the team’s shirt sponsor.
This time the jacket featured a detail of a Watford scarf with a story. The scarf on the cover was knitted in the mid-1980s by my mum for a friend of mine called Simon Gill, who grew up two doors down from me. Simon is now a professional sports photographer and together we came up with this idea for the cover.
Tales from the Vicarage Live
In March 2014, we held our first Tales from the Vicarage Live event at Watford Palace Theatre. Watford’s all-time leading goalscorer Luther Blissett and former managers Sean Dyche and Aidy Boothroyd joined Adam Leventhal on stage and a sell-out audience enjoyed a couple of hours of entertaining and revealing conversation.
The second live event was held in November 2014 and served as the official launch for volume three of the book. Adam again hosted the sell-out show and was joined by a range of guests who have featured in the book series, including Ray Lewington, Nick Wright, Tommy Smith, Nigel Gibbs and Craig Ramage.
Volume 3: The Interviews
The third volume of the book marked the beginning of a new partnership between Adam and me and the formation of a new company, Tales From. Between us, Adam and I interviewed 11 former Watford players and managers, all of whom had interesting stories to tell about their time at the club. My interviews were with Craig Ramage, Tommy Smith, Nick Wright, Micah Hyde and Ronny Rosenthal, while Adam spoke to Ray Lewington, Sean Dyche, Aidy Boothroyd, David and Dean Holdsworth and Paul Furlong.
The fourth book in the series was published in September 2015. This book was a solo effort in which I wrote ten chapters on subjects that appealed to me. While I was writing the book, Watford were chasing promotion to the Premier League and so a theme of dreaming and aspiration started to emerge. It seemed logical to recap the successful promotion campaign as well as look forward by looking back at the club’s previous attempts at establishing itself in the top flight. In the 1980s, Watford took the First Division, as it was then, by storm, finishing runners-up at the first attempt. Subsequent arrivals among the elite had resulted in immediate relegation. What could we learn from those experiences? Four chapters are in-depth interviews with former players who had all represented Watford at the top – John McClelland, Tommy Mooney, Allan Smart and Gifton Noel-Williams. Each has a fascinating story to tell.