On one occasion Graham Taylor wrote in his programme notes in the 1980s, telling supporters to believe what they read about the club in the Watford Observer but warning if they read something elsewhere, to wait until it appeared in the local paper to confirm its veracity. The reason for that was Oliver Phillips, pictured on the right of the above photo, who covered Watford for 45 years, firstly at the Watford and West Herts Post then with the Watford Observer.
He commenced covering the juniors and reserves in 1960, making his first team coverage debut in 1962, and then went on to report on over 2000 first team competitive games, dealing with 13 successive managers in the process. He also covered over 1,000 junior, reserve and friendly matches.
Oli played a big part in bringing Elton John to the club and subsequently produced many articles on the club’s past as well as writing the club’s definitive Centenary History and The Golden Boys - the latter featuring chapters on Watford’s terrace heroes from the club’s formation back in 1881 to 2001.
Watford fans grew up on the 8,000-plus words Oli produced every Friday and he wrote a summary of his life covering the Hornets in the first Tales from the Vicarage.
“It was a terrific job. I never had a Monday morning feeling about work,” said Oli, who retired in 2005 but has continued to contribute regular articles on the Vicarage Road scene. “I remember people in my Sarratt local would commiserate with me when they heard I was off to Darlington and the like the next morning. A few years later when they asked me where I was heading on Saturday and I would say Old Trafford, people would ask me how I got a job like that. I served an unfashionable but enjoyable apprenticeship.”
Upon his retirement, Watford Council presented Oli with a Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Contribution to the town.
You can buy Tales from the Vicarage here.