Luther Blissett, the man, the myth, the legend. That might sound like we’re over egging things but it’s a fair synopsis of the former Watford hero because he really is all of those things, let’s look at each one.
“You can never guarantee anything in life but give it a go and do your best”
Born in Jamaica, Luther moved to England at a young age and signed up with Watford as an apprentice upon leaving school at sixteen. Things weren’t going all that well for Watford at the time, they were languishing in the fourth tier but he had always supported the club so it was dream scenario for the young striker. A year later he signed professional terms and managed to make three appearances in his first season for the Hornets, scoring once. The following season he again found his opportunities limited and he failed to score in the four outings he was given. Things were not looking good and manager Mike Keen was, er, keen to offload Blissett, but luckily for him, and in hindsight, Watford, he was replaced by Graham Taylor before that happened.
Taylor immediately got the best out of Luther and he bagged six goals in their next season to help them to promotion. He was just getting going though and twenty one goals the next year helped the club to back to back promotions. Over the next three seasons he scored consistently to help secure the club’s position in the second division and in 1982, he helped the side to a third promotion, taking Watford into the top division in English football for the first time in their history.
At this point we are starting to move in to legend territory. Fans of so-called smaller clubs will know the feeling, going glassy eyed and wistful, thinking about a player who came up through the ranks, made his way in to the team and helped get you to the first division, that would be enough to guarantee cult hero status for most. But Luther, Taylor and Watford weren’t done yet.
As newcomers to the league they weren’t expected to do much that year but they surprised everyone, battling their way through the season and finishing in 2nd, pushing Liverpool all the way. Blissett ended the season with twenty seven goals in the league, (and thirty three in all competitions).
With a record like that it was only a matter of time before the big clubs came calling and in the summer after that superb first division debut, he was signed by AC Milan for a million pounds.
It’s at this point that the myth of Luther Blissett began. Things didn’t go very well for Luther in Italy, he managed just five goals in thirty games for the Rossoneri and, according to one Italian newspaper, was famous for missing open goals and for the inexorable precision with which he would find the goalpost. Despite that he wasn’t disliked by the fans there, they saw him as a player who just didn’t suit the type of football they played. There are various stories around his time in Italy, one story that is still doing the rounds is that he was signed by accident. That Milan had actually intended to sign John Barnes but picked up the Watford front man instead or another story, that he had been recommended to the club’s owner Guiseppe Farina by a London gardener.
What ever the truth is behind those tales the enduring legacy of his time in Italy is his name. Luther Blissett is essentially the Tyler Durden of football. His name is a pseudonym used by writers, pranksters and anarchists, The Luther Blissett Project, which began in 1994 encourages anyone to use the name when committing or publishing acts or works anonymously. Luther himself once joked that he was part of the movement, repeating the movement’s motto, “Anyone can be Luther Blissett simply by adopting the name Luther Blissett” or as we said, “We are all Tyler Durden.”
The Man Again
Following his unsuccessful stint at Milan he was sold back to Watford for half the amount they had bought him for just a year before and and he was obviously delighted to be back at the club at which he had made his name. He managed twenty one goals in his first season back and then helped them to an FA Cup semi-final in 1986/87. Sadly they were relegated the next season but he stayed with the club as they went down to the second division. He had a successful spell at Bournemouth, where he moved in 1988 and he managed fifty six goals in 121 games for the Cherries but then in 1991 he returned to his spiritual home for the third and final time, scoring ten times.
It’s no surprise that Blissett enjoys “legend” status at Watford. A home grown player who had three spells at the club, helped them from the fourth to the top division, bagged thirty three goals in one season at the top and pushed them to second place behind Liverpool, who were more or less unstoppable at the time. With over 500 appearances for the Hornets he is also the club’s all time top scorer with 186 goals and was also the first black player to score a hat-trick for England. But what really makes Luther Blissett a legend is the fact that he is such a normal guy. A great footballer, but a man who loved and loves Watford, and a man the fans could relate to as he said of his time in Italy, “No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy Rice Crispies.” Luther Blissett, we salute you.
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