Watford v Kaiserslautern, 1983 UEFA Cup
Watford completed a meteoric rise from the Fourth Division to the First between 1978 and 1982, under future England manager Graham Taylor. The Hertfordshire club then finished second behind Liverpool in 1982-83, and embarked on their first-ever European campaign the following season. They drew tough opponents in the First Round, Kaiserslautern, founder members of the Bundesliga and one of Germany’s strongest teams at the time who had reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals two seasons earlier. Their side contained internationals Andreas Brehme, Hans-Peter Briegel and Thomas Allofs, who scored twice in their 3-1 first leg home win, with another from Swedish striker Torbjörn Nilsson. For the second leg at Vicarage Road, Taylor gave a debut to young forward Ian Richardson in an injury-hit team captained by experienced former Arsenal full-back Pat Rice.
After this spectacular comeback, Watford progressed through the next round with another fine second-leg performance, winning 3-1 in extra time in Bulgaria against Levski Sofia. Their Third Round tie proved a challenge too far, as they were knocked out by Czech side Sparta Prague, 7-2 on aggregate. The 1984 UEFA Cup was eventually won by Tottenham Hotspur. Though they couldn’t maintain their League form of the previous season, finishing 11th in the First Division, Watford reached their first FA Cup Final in 1983-84, losing to Everton. Winger John Barnes, having made his England debut at the end of the previous season, was selected for the 1984 summer tour of South America. While Watford have now re-established themselves at the top level in England, they have yet to return to major European competition; defeat to Manchester City in the 2019 FA Cup Final cost them a place in the Europa League.
Kaiserslautern’s recent history has been uneven; after this game, they did not play in Europe again until winning the German Cup in 1990 – the following season they were Bundesliga champions, and were regularly at the top end of the table until their surprise relegation in 1996. They then enjoyed a resurgence, winning the 1997-98 Bundesliga in their first season after promotion and reaching the Champions League quarter-finals the following year. After a UEFA Cup semi-final in 2001, Kaiserslautern were relegated in 2006, returning to the top flight in 2010 only to be demoted again in 2011-12. Their subsequent decline led to them falling to the third division of German football for the first time in 2018.