The Watford Observer has been serialising the sixth installation in the Tales From The Vicarage series over the past four weeks.

Here, John Barnes introduces the Rocket Men book, detailing just why Steve Sherwood, Ian Bolton, Ross Jenkins and Luther Blissett were so crucial in Watford's ascension through the divisions.

I would not have missed my time at Watford – either for the success we enjoyed on the pitch or the people who helped to define me as a person – for all the world.

If I had my time again, I would not change a thing. We are all moulded as characters by certain passages in our lives, and I will always consider myself fortunate that I was recommended to Watford by a taxi driver who knew one of the club’s scouts.

I didn’t know that much about Watford, or their history, when I arrived at the club in 1981 and first set foot on the training ground at Stanmore. I had heard the whispers about a club on the rise, and they had already risen from obscurity to the second tier. But when I look back, it was a marvellous achievement that a core of players went all the way from the old Fourth Division to second in the League.

Steve Sherwood, Ross Jenkins, Luther Blissett and Ian Bolton’s places in Watford’s history are secure, but they were more than team-mates. They became my family. At 17 years old, I learned from the outset that each of them would always put the team above his individual talent or personal ambition to ensure we had each other’s backs.

Watford was the original family club, Graham Taylor was head of the family, and the team he built were like my brothers.

He took us to the heart of the local community, and the hearts of Watford supporters, like nobody else.

To go from one end of the football spectrum to indispensable players in the second-best team in the country was incredible.

English football’s landscape has changed so much in the last 30 years that their story is unlikely to be repeated elsewhere, so I am privileged to help recall and revisit it.

In modern football, there are examples of players who prosper on every step of the pyramid, but there are few parallels, if any, with the Watford side I joined.

Steve Sherwood was a quiet hero. Often it was Watford’s forwards who took the plaudits – and on one occasion I stole the headlines by scoring a hat-trick against Cardiff in the League Cup – but it was Steve who set us on the road to the quarter-finals by saving a penalty first; otherwise we would probably have fallen at the first hurdle.

Ian Bolton was known affectionately to his team-mates as ‘Webby’ because he walked out of the showers one day and one of the lads decided he looked like Captain Matt Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel.

As well as being a wonderfully clean striker of the ball he was also the perfect host. Every Friday night before a home game, a group of young players would go round his house to watch a video and his wife would make us a plate of chips.

As far as I’m concerned, Ross Jenkins was good enough to play for England – and he can count himself unlucky that he missed out on an international career because we were blessed with a decent crop of strikers.

And of course, Luther was a shining light. Coming from Jamaica like me, we instantly shared a cultural connection, and his mum’s goat curry was a highlight! His partnership with Ross was feared by defences all over the country, he paved the way for younger black players like myself to prosper, and at Watford we felt loved and respected.

Even when Manchester United came calling, Luther’s love for the club took him back to Vicarage Road after he had broadened his horizons at AC Milan.

When my father returned to Jamaica from his posting to London as a military attaché, my parents needed to know their teenage son would be in good hands, but they needn’t have worried.

I was lucky enough, and privileged, to stay behind in England, play my part in Watford’s incredible journey and count Steve, Ian, Ross and Luther as team-mates, friends and extended family.

When Graham Taylor passed away, the turnout of ex-players at his funeral spoke volumes for the high regard in which he was held.

There were so many familiar faces, generating the warmth and camaraderie of old times, that it felt like walking back into the dressing room 35 years ago. This book is a tribute to the great servants of Watford who played in all four divisions under Graham’s management, but effectively also to the boss himself. Graham Taylor was the Bill Shankly of Watford.

He revolutionised the club and he made the people happy. He conceived a perfect storm of cup shocks, attacking football and community spirit. And he assembled a very, very good team.

The memories I have of those times are stronger because of our achievements, and I was very fortunate that my football education at Vicarage Road provided such a sound platform for me to sustain the next chapter of my career at Liverpool.

Could a 17-year-old boy have gone straight into the first-team squad at Anfield, and handled the accolades of being a kid with star potential, without learning the ropes first? I doubt it very much.

I owe Graham, the players and the whole club a debt of gratitude. Watford brought me up the right way and helped to define me both as a footballer and as a person.

Order Rocket Men here or the complete Tales from the Vicarage series as a gift set here.