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Sir Elton John recalls how Watford chairman role kept him grounded

Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter
·2-min read

Sir Elton John has said becoming chairman of Watford FC grounded him at the height of his fame.

The star, 73, added that the “horrible things” some fans said about his clothes and music only helped level him out.

The singer was chairman and owner of the club when they rose from the Fourth Division to the First Division in the 1970s and 1980s.

Under manager Graham Taylor, Watford finished second behind champions Liverpool during the 1982-83 season.

Sir Elton stepped down as chairman in 2002.

Speaking in conversation with former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at the Hay Festival Digital Winter Weekend, Sir Elton said: “It’s part of my life that gave me so much. When I was a big star and a big musician it grounded me, because people who go to football, they’ll tell you the truth.

“The fans will say, ‘I don’t like your new record, I wish you wouldn’t look like that’.

“But they didn’t mean (anything). It was just something that levelled me out.

“The passion of the crowds and the horrible things they said about me were part and parcel and it was wonderful.”

Graham Norton Show – London
Arsene Wenger (Matt Crossick/PA)

Speaking about his team’s rise, he said: “We worked as a team and we got places because we were a team and I didn’t just sit there saying, ‘Here’s another million quid – go and buy that player’.

“It was a labour of love and we went places because we were professional about it and one of the most joyous things I’ve ever done in my life.

“Arsene said about leading Arsenal out into the cup final, when we got to the cup final and played Everton I cried because when I took over Watford we had two little grandstands and a greyhound track.

“If you go the club now it’s a Premier League club with a 24,000 capacity and the current owners have made it very wonderful behind the scenes and I’m very proud.

“Since that day we’ve never gone beyond the championship and I’m extremely proud.”

Sir Elton and Wenger were interviewed over video call by Dylan Jones.

Both recently released biographies and discussed the relationship between music and football and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the sport.

The session will be available to watch for free until midnight Monday at www.hayfestival.com.