Former England footballer Luther Blissett DL (Deputy Lord-Lieutenant for Hertfordshire) has been made a freeman of the borough of Watford in recognition of his charity work and fight against racism. For over 40 years, he has been strongly involved with the community, championing many projects across the town and tirelessly giving his time and support to local people.
Scoring 186 goals in 503 games for Watford, over three spells between 1975 and 1993, he has been involved in countless community projects. Mayor Peter Taylor says of him: "If anyone deserves to have the honour of freedom of the borough, it is Luther Blissett."
Overwhelmed by the honour, Luther, 63, said: "From the age of 17, I played for Watford FC, I was their first full England cap and won a golden boot for Europe," he said.
“But what made that time even more special was our town and the wonderful golden-hearted people in it. My football family right here in Watford.”
Scoring a hat-trick on his England debut, Luther, who also played for AC Milan, became the fourth person to currently have the freedom of the borough honour, joining former Watford chairman Sir Elton John. Recipients of the honour are held by the council and people of the borough.
The man who mentored Liverpool legend John Barnes during his early career, Blissett's community involvements include making Watford a dementia-friendly town by promoting Golden Memories, a reminiscence programme for people living with low to moderate dementia and their carers at Watford Football Club. Since the Covid pandemic he has also worked with the town's mayor to promote various appeals, including raising awareness about prostate cancer, and fundraising for the Watford & Three Rivers Trust.
The council said: “Luther has also become a leading figure in the fight against racism - not just in football but within the whole community in Watford". The first Black footballer to score a hat-trick for the English national team, he became involved with the Show Racism the Red Card charity in the late 1990s, when he was assistant manager to Graham Taylor OBE at Watford.
Blissett said: "I was taught by The Boss, (Graham Taylor), that the debt you owe people for supporting you as a footballer cannot be measured.
“He brought us up to understand that everything we did was for the local community, from when we stepped over that white line to enjoy the privilege of playing a match - to the way we conducted ourselves. So, to receive this honour as he did, to follow in the footsteps of that great man and manager who did so much for our town and our football club is simply a dream come true.”
THE has officially become a Freeman of the Borough of Watford. Watford legend and former England striker and local hero Luther Blissett was bestowed the honour recently.
Blissett joins Watford’s life president Sir Elton John and the club’s greatest ever manager, the late Graham Taylor, in receiving the award, along with current recipients Norman and Mavis Tyrwhitt.
For over 40 years, Blissett has been strongly involved with the community, championing many projects across the town and tirelessly giving his time and support to local people. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, he has organised and been involved with a multitude of fundraising events such as the Mayor’s virtual Big Bold Community Quiz for the Covid Appeal, which has raised nearly £200,000.
Many local charities and families have benefitted from his name and his time, as he worked to rally fans and obtain donations to organise food deliveries, baby products and provide care packs for NHS and Peace Hospice staff. On top of this, his personal time was spent making thousands of phone calls and visits to football fans in need of a kind word or deed.
Elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor said: “If anyone deserves to have the honour of Freedom of the Borough, it is Luther Blissett. Over many years Luther has been involved in countless community events and projects. He is a Watford legend both on and off the pitch.
“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic he has worked with me to raise funds for local charities, he’s co-hosted the Big Bold Community Quiz and taken part in raffles, auctions and a host of other activities all aimed at supporting the Watford community.
“He has also worked with a number of other local charities including supporting Veterans in Watford and Hertfordshire, raising awareness about Prostate Cancer and done so much to help make Watford a more dementia-friendly place. This is very well-deserved recognition for his years of service.”
Blissett holds the Watford club record for the most appearances (415) and most goals (158). The Watford icon was key in the early development of Barnes when the latter arrived at the club in 1981 after arriving from Jamaica.