Vicarage Road has been Watford FC’s home since 1922 and has been the scene of many highs and lows over the years. But which matches have filled the stadium to the rafters and what is the maximum number of supporters that can squeeze into it in modern times? In this article, we will answer those questions and furnish you with plenty more information about Vicarage Road, referred to by fans as “The Vic”, to give you an insight into the stadium that has served as Watford’s home for more than a century.
Vicarage Road: Facts & Figures
- Current Capacity – Vicarage Road is an all-seater stadium and has a capacity of 22,200.
- Highest Attendance – 34,099 on 3rd February 1969 (see below).
- Brewery Links – The freehold for Vicarage Road was held by local brewer Benskins Brewery and was only purchased by the club in January 2002.
- Ground Share – Over the years, various other sports and events have utilised Vicarage Road including horse and carriage shows and greyhound racing, which last took place at the ground in October 1978. More recently, from 1997 to 2013, rugby union side Saracens shared the ground with Watford.
- Four Stands – Vicarage Road is comprised of four stands: the Vicarage Road Stand, the Rookery Stand, and two named in honour of club legends, the Graham Taylor Stand and the Sir Elton John Stand.
- Elton’s Home from Home – Speaking of Sir Elton, the pop legend has played various concerts at the stadium, first performing there in 1974 and most recently in 2010 as a fundraiser for the club.
- Floodlights – It was a big deal when floodlights were installed at Vicarage Road back in 1953, though they have been replaced on various occasions over the years. The ground now has LED floodlights atop the Sir Elton John Stand and the Graham Taylor Stand.
- Official Opening – Vicarage Road was officially opened ahead of the match against Millwall on 20th August, 1922. The man to orchestrate the opening was Colonel Charles Healey of Benskins Brewery, who apparently kicked a football from the Main Stand onto the pitch.
Highest Attendances at Vicarage Road
Here are the highest attendances recorded at Vicarage Road over the years split into the different competitions. Note that all the records occurred before Vicarage Road (and the stadiums of other English clubs) became all-seater.
- Football League/Premier League – 27,968 against Queens Park Rangers on 20th August 1969 in the old Second Division
- FA Cup – 34,099* against Manchester United on 3rd February 1969 in a fourth-round replay
- League Cup – 27,656 against Nottingham Forest on 30th January 1979 in the second leg of the semi-final
- Europe – 21,457 against FC Kaiserslautern on 28th September 1983 in the second leg of the first round
*Note that some sources suggest the 1967 FA Cup match against Liverpool at Vicarage Road attracted upwards of 35,000 supporters, but others have the figure as low as 33,000, so we’re going with the Man United game.
Hence the record attendance for a Watford match at Vicarage Road occurred in the 1968/69 FA Cup against the European Champions, Manchester United. Watford were playing in the old Third Division at the time, but they were in good form (indeed, they would go on to win the division to gain promotion to the second tier). They were also having a decent cup run having overcome Cheltenham Town 4-0 away in the first round, Bretford in the second (1-0 at home), and Port Vale in the third (2-0 at home).
Watford were then drawn against Sir Matt Busby’s European champions in the fourth round and they went into the match at Old Trafford as massive underdogs. Watford, managed by Ken Furphy at the time, were not to be intimidated by the Red Devils, and the visitors struck after just three minutes, Stewart Scullion putting the underdogs ahead.
The Man United side included many of their top stars including George Best, Nobby Stiles, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, and it was Law who scored the equaliser on the hour mark. Watford held on for the draw, though, and demand for the replay at Vicarage Road was off the scale.
Unfortunately, for Watford, things didn’t go quite so well when United came to Vicarage Road and the visitors won 2-0. Even so, it’s not often a third-tier side can give the European champions such a good run for their money, and it was a fitting occasion to produce the highest-ever attendance for any home Watford match.
Where Did Watford Play Before Vicarage Road?
Prior to their move to Vicarage Road in 1922, Watford played their home matches at Cassio Road, which is also referred to as the West Herts Sport Ground in modern times. Watford first played at the ground way back in 1891 (when they were known as Watford Rovers) and their last game there was on 29th April 1922 when the Hornets beat Gillingham 1-0 in front of a crowd of 5,000.
That was not the biggest attendance at Cassio Road, however. That occurred in the derby match against near neighbours Luton Town on 25th March 1921 when around 13,000 fans packed into the ground. Watford had been elected to the Football League by then and were starting to attract decent crowds, hence the need to upgrade to a larger ground.