Object of the Week: Elton John’s glasses

Superstar owners are having a bit of a moment in world football. Anyone who’s anyone, from Will Ferrell and LeBron James to David Beckham and Tom Brady, is investing in a football club. On these shores, movie stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney brought their affable charm and significant pulling power to Wrexham, attracting millions of viewers and newfound support on a global scale.

In doing so, the Hollywood duo have followed the (yellow brick?) road laid down by another global icon.

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Reginald Dwight was a Watford fan before they became the Hornets. Born twenty minutes down the road in Pinner, the five-year-old Reggie saw the likes of Johnny Meadows and Maurice Cook turn out in blue at Vicarage Road. He was approaching his teen years when the club underwent its golden rebrand, but the newly-christened Hornets remained in the Third Division for much of his adolescence.

Reggie adopted the stage name Elton John and made his breakthrough in 1970, fast becoming one of the UK’s most critically acclaimed performers. 1973 was a huge year for Elton, with both of his albums – Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player and the legendary Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – topping the charts on both side of the Atlantic.

It was a significant year in footballing terms, too. The singer-songwriter became a Vice-President at his boyhood club at the age of 26. As in his childhood, Watford were still very much a Third Division outfit in need of a boost. Elton and “his guests” staged a benefit concert at Vicarage Road, with proceeds going to the club. One such guest was Rod Stewart, joining Elton for three songs to the delight of the 30,000-strong crowd on the pitch.

One season later, Watford were relegated to the Fourth Division: at one point, they were propping up the entire Football League, and in January 1977 were dumped out of the FA Cup by Northern Premier League side Northwich Victoria.

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Elton John, acting on the advice of managerial great Don Revie, got in touch with Lincoln City manager Graham Taylor. Taylor had just guided the Imps to the Fourth Division title, but the personal pull of Elton – and the rock star’s steadfast commitment to transforming Watford into a top British club – saw him turn down an approach from First Division outfit West Bromwich Albion.

Under John and Taylor’s stewardship, Watford’s rise was nothing short of meteoric. They earned back-to-back promotions, reaching the Second Division before the end of the decade, then earning a spot in the top flight in 1982.

Luther Blissett had been with the Hornets since their Fourth Division days. He finished the 1982-83 season as top scorer, firing the Hertfordshire club to a remarkable second place: Watford’s highest ever league finish to date.

This feat saw the Hornets qualify for the UEFA Cup, achieving Elton’s European dream. There were more big days out to come for the supporters, as Watford made it to Wembley for their first ever FA Cup Final. Cameras trained on the chairman captured his outpouring of emotion prior to kick-off, tearing up as the traditional rendition of Abide With Me rang around the national stadium.

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The rock star found his packed touring schedule and duties as chairman increasingly difficult to reconcile, ultimately selling the club to Jack Petchey in 1990 (though he remained club President). Watford had been relegated towards the end of his tenure as owner, and suffered another demotion in 1996.

John returned as owner and chairman the following year, bringing back Taylor in the hope of rekindling the success of yesteryear. They did just that, once again earning back to back promotions to return to the top tier of English football.

By 2002, Watford had slipped back into the First Division, and Elton John – by now a knight of the realm, multiplatinum artist and Academy Award winner – stepped down as chairman once more. The rock star remains Watford’s Honorary Life-President, and has held three further benefit concerts at Vicarage Road in aid of the club.

His decades-long contribution to the club was honoured in 2014 with the opening of the Sir Elton John Stand.

Aside from his devotion to Watford Football Club, Elton is famed for his vocal range, his enthusiastic piano playing and his taste in glasses. We are fortunate to have one pair of his iconic specs – these fetching, crystal-encrusted Versace glasses, generously on loan from Watford.