Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Acting Chairman; (1)FOOTBALL Countdown to the FA Cup Quarterfinals (2)Watford's Chief Plays His Hardest Role to Date

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Acting Chairman; (1)FOOTBALL Countdown to the FA Cup Quarterfinals (2)Watford's Chief Plays His Hardest Role to Date

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN DYER

GRAHAM SIMPSON has tried his hand at many diverse occupations over the years, from driving a minicab, to owning a travel company and, wait for it, training dolphins in Oxford Street.

The job which has probably helped most to prepare him for his present position as chairman of Watford Football Club, however, was his time as a jobbing actor in local repertory.

"Above all else it taught me how to survive on very little," recalled Simpson.

Prudence and restraint are two qualities which will be much-needed in the months to come at Vicarage Road, even if Simpson's club beat Burnley in front of 20,000 fans on Sunday and move triumphantly into the FA Cup semifinals.

As an actor, Simpson appeared intermittently on our TV screens, in 1970s episodes of Z Cars, Doctor Who, Spytrap and other classics.

Now, though, he is playing a leading role in helping to extricate Watford from the depths of the pecuniary hole which they have dug for themselves.

The present Cup run will help, quite a lot actually but, as Simpson admitted: "We're not out of the woods yet, not by a long, long way."

Simpson, who spends more than half of each week in Belgium, is a Watford fan from as far back as 1959 when, as a 13-year-old, he went with a group of friends to Vicarage Road to watch a match.

After leaving school he became a police cadet but after several other jobs, went to drama school where he discovered he much preferred playing the part of a police officer to the real thing.

"I eventually married a Greek girl and in 1978 we formed a travel company specialising in villa holidays in Crete," he said.

In the first 12 months they had 80 bookings but by the time the company, Simply Travel, sold out to Thomson in 1999, they had more than 45,000 clients a year.

"I had watched my team, on and off, all those years on the terraces, but now I could afford to take a box," he said.

Simpson became interested in becoming more involved and asked if, in return for a substantial investment in the club, they would be interested in him becoming a director.

"Soon after that I decided to take a sabbatical," he said. "I wanted to go to the southern hemisphere for a few months and told my fellow directors that, whatever they decided, I would go along with it. They appointed Gianluca Vialli that summer."

It took Simpson and his colleagues a few months before they realised the seriousness of their position. …

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