Everton Football Club were formed in 1878. Watford followed just three years later.
That’s 277 years of combined football – yet on Monday night two of English football’s oldest clubs will meet for just the 27th time.
The Toffees and the Hornets share a very modern rivalry – and it’s a confrontation which will boast an even keener edge at Goodison Park in the light of recent history between the clubs.
The last time Watford came to Goodison Park Marco Silva was the opposing manager.
Since June 1 he has been the Everton boss.
But Watford claimed the Blues had made an “unwarranted approach” for Silva last season and subsequently lodged an official complaint to the Premier League.
The League were keen for Everton and Watford to resolve the issue between themselves but the two clubs have still not been able to settle their dispute.
So an independent commission was set up by the Premier League, with a decision still pending.
None of which stopped Everton from returning to Watford to snap up young Brazilian Richarlison in July, a player who has been the Blues’ player of the season so far.
Relations in the Goodison boardroom could be frosty on Monday night.
But it wasn’t always like this.
Way back in 1984 only the fifth ever clash between the two clubs was staged at Wembley, in an FA Cup final labelled ‘The Friendly Final.’
Before the kick-off Watford chairman Elton John walked the length of the pitch to wave at – and applaud – the Everton fans.
After Everton had triumphed 2-0 the Watford fans waited to applaud the Everton players parading the trophy around Wembley, the Everton players and the Everton fans applauded the Watford fans for their sportsmanship, the Watford fans, in turn, applauded back.
It was that kind of atmosphere.
Then in the early noughties a programme entry for an Everton trip to Vicarage Road also found solidarity with the Blues – expressing sympathy for their European ban in the 1980s.
Then there’s both clubs’ shared love of Z-Cars ….
We look at Everton and Watford’s very modern rivalry.
Why Watford will feel right at home on Monday
When Watford’s players emerge from the Goodison tunnel on Monday night they could be forgiven for feeling right at home.
Because, like the Toffees, the Hornets run out to the Z-Cars theme … and have done for almost as long as Everton.
Watford introduced the evocative Fritz Spiegel arrangement of a traditional Liverpool folk song in 1963, 12 months after Everton had done so, and the reasoning is intriguing.
Watford’s Centenary history written by Oli Phillips reports that the club’s manager of the time, Bill McGarry, liked the tune, asked for it to be played as the teams ran out – and his side duly went on a 29-match unbeaten run at their Vicarage Road ground!
After losing at home to Peterborough on October 5, 1963, suggesting the first playing of Z Cars was the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace on 15 October 1963, the Hornets didn’t taste a home defeat again until December 1964.
Z-Cars’ status as a good omen was reinforced during the campaign Everton first used it. They won the league in 1962/63 and went an entire league season unbeaten at Goodison Park, the last time they achieved such a feat.
Watford fans’ forums added texture to the tale.
One claimed that: “Before becoming the programme hut a taxi firm used to run five cars from it. It was called N CARS, because of the slogan ‘N E Where N E Time’ which was plastered on the taxis. However, after Jim Bonser purchased the hut the N broke free to look like a Z.
“Bill McGarry saw this and thought it was an omen, Z Cars had just been released as a single and so Bill adopted it for us!”
The origins of Everton and Z-Cars have been published in the Echo before. Leonard Williams was the only Scouser in the cast, whose appearance in the crowd at Goodison Park first prompted the playing of the tune.
Following publication of the original article Leonard’s daughter, Marianne Williams, wrote to us here.
“My father was Leonard Williams (Sergeant Twentyman) and he was indeed a guest at Goodison in November 1962 – shortly before his untimely death some days later,” she wrote.
“My mother always told us that because of the huge success of Z Cars and the fact that my dad was the only genuine Scouser in the cast, he was invited to the match and it was because of that, that Everton decided to play the Z Cars theme as a tribute to him after his death.
“I don’t think any of us could have envisaged that the theme would still be played all these years later, but it is a lovely memory for me and all of his family.”
And for thousands of Everton and Watford supporters every other weekend.
’82 and ’83
Everton’s historic first meetings with Watford offered some statistical curiosities – hors d’oeuvres to the sporting banquets to follow.
That very first meeting, at Vicarage Road on August 28, 1982 (the First Division season had started late following the World Cup in Spain) was Watford’s first match in the English top flight – and their first goal in top division football was credited as a Neville Southall own goal.
Had goalline technology been in use in the 1980s, though, the goal would surely never have stood?
Watford skipper Pat Rice sliced a 65th-minute free-kick under Southall’s crossbar and the backpedalling goalkeeper caught the ball with his feet behind his goalline, but his hands stretched out in front of him.
The linesman ruled a goal, Southall argued vehemently with the officials and had to be restrained by skipper Mark Higgins.
It was ultimately meaningless because George Armstrong later scored a second leaving Blues boss Howard Kendall to declare afterwards: “I have never been so depressed by a team performance as I was this afternoon. Our strength is playing football and we did not play.”
The two sides met twice in 1983, Everton won each time 1-0 – and a returning Everton forward who only scored four goals in his second spell with the Blues, former England international David Johnson, scored the winner each time.
Curious. But he would be far from the first unlikely goalscorer against the Hornets.
After three successive clashes where both teams failed to score, Everton’s next two visits to Vicarage Road were modern day classics.
In February 1984, just three months before the sides met at Wembley in the FA Cup final, the sides shared EIGHT goals.
Even more remarkably the score just before the hour mark was only 1-1.
John Barnes had scored the only goal of the first half, levelled by Graeme Sharp seven minutes after half-time.
Mo Johnston, later to play his trade in Royal Blue, restored Watford’s lead and Barnes added his second as Everton trailed 3-1.
Andy Gray made it 3-2 before Wilf Rostron thought he had secured victory 15 minutes from time.
But Sharp added his second 11-minutes from the end, then Adrian Heath snatched an injury-time equaliser.
That was nothing compared to the drama which followed the next time they sides met at Vicarage Road.
Everton won a NINE goal thriller 5-4, with Derek Mountfield scoring at both ends – just as he did against Watford again in 1986 – and Terry Curran coming on as a 52nd minute substitute for Everton, then getting himself sent off!
The Unlikely lads
The Hughes boys, Mark and Stephen, were not renowned marksmen.
Striker Mark had been a reliable goalscorer for Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea -but his eye for goal had dimmed long before he joined Everton.
He scored just once in his 19 appearances, against Watford.
Namesake Stephen scored only twice in his 33 Everton appearances. Again both were against Watford.
One came in the same match Mark scored, a 4-2 victory on April 1, 2000 – the other was leathered in during an FA Cup third round success at Vicarage Road in January 2001.
Duncan Ferguson went straight home from that match to apprehend a couple of burglars who made the costly mistake of trying to break into his home. But that was another story!
Given how late the Watford v Everton rivalry kicked off, they have faced each other on the opening day of the season more times than statistics should suggest.
Andy Johnson scored on his debut as Everton’s record signing just 15 minutes into the opening day of the 2006/07 season. Everton won 2-1.
Then in 2015/16 Everton kicked off the campaign with a 2-2 opening day draw against Quique Sanchez Flores’ cosmopolitan visitors.
Bonfire Night Fireworks
Where do you even start with Everton’s last clash with Watford?
David Unsworth was in the Blues dugout as caretaker boss, opposite soon to be Everton target Marco Silva in the away dugout.
And for 45 minutes both sides were evenly matched.
They went in at the interval goalless, before all hell broke loose in the second half.
Everton trailed 2-0 after 64 minutes, then produced the most stirring Goodison comeback since the final day of the 1993/94 season against Wimbledon.
Oumar Niasse scored, Dominic Calvert-Lewin levelled – and then the nerveless Leighton Baines slotted a 91st minute penalty.
But that was only the start of it.
In the 101st minute – 13 minutes were added on because of an injury to Heurelho Gomes – Watford were awarded a penalty, and as Goodison peered from behind its fingers former Blue Tom Cleverley drove his spot-kick wide.
Watford achieved some measure of revenge in February when a late Troy Deeney goal sparked the first rumblings of discontent at Sam Allardyce’s reign as Everton manager.
What will the next instalment hold in store on Monday night?
We’ll soon find out.