A Review: Tales From the Vicarage 4, Live

Adam Leventhal, Tales From the Vic live, Naomi Duffree, Books Kettle Mag,
Written by Naomi

In the early evening of Sunday September 6th, despite the International break I found myself making my way into Watford town centre. It was not to watch a match though but the launch of Tales From the Vicarage, volume 4.

The fourth book, by Lionel Birnie, in a series inspired by Watford Football Club (WFC) aka The Hornets,was launched at the Palace theatre, hosted by the TV journalist, writer (and Hornet follower) Adam Leventhal. It contains ten new stories about the Hornets – and the series has become popular amongst not only WFC fans but football fans in general. Unless you are a L*t*n fan I can recommend these books as an entertaining read. I’ve read the first three volumes and they proved to be a fascinating, entertaining history, not just of the club but a social history too. (I will at this point hold my hands up for those that don’t know me and declare myself a fan but I will try not to show my bias.) There are plenty of names from other areas scattered amongst the stories. For those who enjoy biographies these books are a must for you –fellow Hornet supporter or not.

Sunday’s launch saw on stage defenders John McClelland and Jay DeMerit, who had flown in from the States, joined by strikers Tommy Mooney, Gifton Noel-Williams, Allan Smart and surprise guest, Troy Deeney. Well, who else was going to talk about THAT goal! You know, the one against Leicester that put us through to Wembley for the Play-off final? I was there – and I’ve got the cushion to prove it.

What was special about the legends on stage wasn’t just their personal stories of life as footballers but the camaraderie and repartee that went on between them. Obviously ex-team mates have connections by their very nature but there did seem to be something exciting and quite touching going on amongst them as the audience listened to them banter away as Leventhal asked questions related to their interviews in the book. Each one is involved in chapters within volume 4, and the laughter exuding from the stage just made me look forward to reading it even more. There was a large screen which was used to re-run special goals that had won them promotion at various stages of their careers, or in the case of John McClelland showing him refusing to acknowledge the cup after a Rangers win over Dundee United. It turned out that he had fallen out with the club after a long saga over signing a contract which refused to acknowledge his loyalty to them or his worth as a player. Their loss was Watford’s gain and the seed of his five year career with the ‘Orns was sown.

Comedy golden boys

Also bringing the book to life was Tommy Mooney and Allan Smart who spent the majority of the evening ribbing each other over wardrobe choices or lack of technique. Thank goodness for the hosting skills of Leventhal or this could have turned into a comedy night show down. This was spurred on by the arrival of Gifton Noel-Williams whom you might have thought had been kept in a closed box since his last appearance in a Watford shirt and couldn’t believe he’d been released he seemd so happy to be present. Effervescing from the moment he walked on stage. He was,as Mooney remarked like a school kid, “You haven’t changed,” he added, reminding us that Noel-Williams was only 16 when he scored his first goal for the club. His story tells of “how life forced him to grow up quickly, and so did football, after he suffered a serious injury when still a teenager.” Tales From the Vicarage 4, Lionel Birnie.

The first anecdote he told was about some members of the team- and he named Mooney- messing his room at a hotel where they were staying for an away game – a type of initiation. He did wonder why everyone was so welcoming as he sat relaxing – turned out that they were after his room key. It sounded like he hadn’t forgiven him all these years later, but of course, you could see there was a well held respect between the players. In vol 4, Noel-Williams recounts family influences and how he is tries to influence his son who also plays in the Watford academy.

Prior to the interval Troy Deeney, cool as ever, came onto the stage to a rousing applause and chant of ‘Deeney Deeney’ from the Watford faithful, and THAT goal (always worth a mention) was discussed.


Following the interval the evening continued with a short auction in aid of The Peace Hospice where two audience members between them raised £3000 for a VIP day at the training ground with the team and a signed shirt from the current squad. A bargain – not that I’m biased.

There then followed a defensive masterclass from Mooney and DeMerit in which the main lesson was don’t get to close to your man otherwise he’ll know where you are. Makes sense. Also it was important to know how to say the right things to your opposition to put them off their stride. When Leventhal put this to Deeney after the strikers had re-joined them on stage, and asked if defenders ‘sledged’ him, he replied, “I’m quite thick, so I don’t understand what they are saying.” Harsh Deeney, harsh.

The evening drew to a close with the inevitable question of God Taylor – I mean Graham Taylor a legend in his own right when it comes to managers at Watford. Each player who had worked under him was asked to sum him up. Despite Noel-Williams putting forward Kenny Jacket as the real elite of the coaching squad, he did say Taylor was a God to him and “He knew how to tickle your balls.” Don’t ask me what was said in response to this as I was too busy watching the faces of the other players: McClelland picked up his chair, turned away from the audience and hid his head in his hands, Deeney looked horrified and confused, while Smart lay stretched out like an oversized Labrador with his legs open! Basically Taylor was a manager who showed respect and treated them all as individuals…just as Noel-Williams had suggested!

Tales From the Vicarage 4 is published by Tales From and is on sale now along with the first three volumes. If you are interested in a behind the scenes and characters in football, particularly Watford, get yourself a copy…and enjoy the read.