As we prepare to return to our spiritual home, we today turn the clock back to a time when our original Plough Lane ground underwent a major overhaul.
Following the club's election to the Football League in 1977, Chairman Ron Noades initiated big changes to facilities.
The picture above (from 31 December 1977) was taken in the boardroom at Plough Lane with then Watford chairman and world-renowned musician Elton John drawing the winning ticket in the club’s Dons Draw.
Ron Noades certainly did not lack ambition. On entering the Football League he announced a 10-year plan to make Plough Lane a venue for First Division football. “We’ve spent a lot of money on the ground,” the chairman said. “We’ve completely refurbished the promotions office and our lottery is operating at a profit. The new boardroom, Vice Presidents Lounge and gym are almost complete. We’re also building a nightclub to accommodate 300 people.
"We have been given planning permission for a £100,000 sports hall and this will have seating for 1500 and will include a restaurant. We want to attract the local community into our club. Not just to watch us play, but to use our facilities. I see social and promotional activities as investments for the future. They will all provide the club with revenue.”
With an annual Football League pay out of just £34,000 per club, the Dons would need all the cash they could make to fulfil their plans.
On the field progress was less impressive. Initially setting out in Division Four as a part-time outfit in an effort to control costs, the Dons were in the bottom four at Christmas and when Noades insisted the team travel to Rochdale on Boxing Day in a convoy of players’ cars, the row that ensued led to the resignation of manager Allen Batsford. When his assistant Dario Gradi took over, it was on the understanding that the team would quickly become full-time.
Archive material is prepared by Stephen Crabtree, the editor of The Historical Don. To sample a copy, please contact him by e-mailing email@example.com .