The Reg Saphin Collection
(All original press photos and cuttings can be seen at the bottom of the page, courtesy of Jim Saphin)
Reg Saphin was 35 years old when he arrived at Watford, but surprisingly, his professional football career had only been established 6 years earlier, having been disrupted (if it had even started!) by the Second World War.
Reg himself suspected he may not have progressed to the pro game if the war hadn't taken place. In 2000 he told the Watford FC programme "The war took six years out of my footballing life, but then again, if it had not been for the war I would probably remained an amateur with Walthamstow Avenue,"
His introduction to League football was as a wartime goalkeeper with Brentford, while stationed as a Metropolitan Police officer. He later joined the Navy, based in Harwich, Essex, where local club Ipswich spotted him. Following appearances for the Town he was awarded a post-war contract.
After just three games during the 1945/46 season Saphin moved on to Queens Park Rangers, where he stayed for 4 seasons, mainly as back-up. His final season with the Hoops was his most successful, racking up 20 appearances after the usual incumbent, Reg Allen, was sold to Manchester United for a world record (goalkeeper) fee.
He made his debut in Watford colours in the first game of the 1951/52 season, a 3-2 away win at Shrewsbury Town, replacing the ageing legend Geoff Morton. Reg was unexpectedly dropped less than a month later when George Ephgrave was favoured by manager Haydn Green. Ephgrave promptly conceded 7 goals in his first game and Reg was restored after a further 3 got passed George in the next home game.
The goalkeeper place belonged to Reg until November 1952. Haydn Green was sacked and Len Goulden was about to replace him. Goulden accepted the job on the day of the away game at Norwich, where Watford conceded 5 goals, despite getting rave reviews for their overall performance.
Goulden took over and Saphin was replaced by another Watford legend, Dave Underwood. That would be it for Reg's Watford playing days, other than one further game (and clean sheet) against Coventry over a year later.
This wasn't Reg's last interaction with Watford, however. From the Watford programme interview; "I worked for Fishburns (in St. Albans Road) for some years but was invited back to take over the reserves. I had the job in the print and didn't want to lose it and football was not a very reliable employment. So they offered me part-time work, with the reserves and juniors. The last three years, up until 1963, I was with the juniors but was also sponge man for the reserves when we won that title and had crowds of up to 3,000 watching them, in 1959-60".
The final parting was not a happy one. New manager Bill McGarry cancelled Reg's wages over the summer without informing him; "I was not very pleased. I was no longer on the payroll, which he said was down to economies. I told him, as he hadn't had the courtesy of telling me, I was not interested in working for him. Jim Bonser, the chairman, came on (the phone). It was too late by then, so my association ended."
See Reg Saphin's profile on Watford FC Archive here.
Shown with thanks to Jim Saphin, son of Reg Saphin.