Colin Lee: An evening with Elton John

Elton John tore up Colin Lee's one-year contract and gave him a three-year one. Photo: Georges Biard

Elton John tore up Colin Lee's one-year contract and gave him a three-year one. Photo: Georges Biard - Credit: Archant

My player/coach contract with Brentford ended June 1989. I decided that I would retire from playing due to injuries to concentrate on a career in coaching and management.

Negotiations on a coach's contract with Brentford didn't go as planned and the offer I was promised was not honoured.

Watford FC were very keen on securing my services so I decided to join Watford FC as their new youth team coach. In charge at the time was Steve Harrison assisted by Tom Walley.

The 1989/90 season became a very difficult season for Watford and in March 1990, Steve and Tom were relieved of their post and I was asked to take temporary charge of first team duties.

This was totally unexpected but I managed to guide the team to safety and near the end of the season I was told by the club secretary Eddie Plumley that the club wanted to offer me the job on a permanent basis.

In June 1990, my wife Lyn and I were invited to dinner at John Reid's house in Rickmansworth. John was Elton John's manager/agent at the time.

The evening was arranged for me to sign my one-year contract and for us to meet the chairman Elton John. Attending would be director Muff Winwood and his wife, Eddie Plumley and his wife and Elton and John Reid.

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My father-in-law dropped Lyn and I off at John Reid's house and after a welcoming drink, John Reid showed us around his estate which included his new swimming pool and tree-lined drive Elton had bought him for his birthday.

Elton arrived in his black attire and black baseball cap and was buzzing as his single Sacrifice had just reached number one in the singles chart.

We eventually sat down to dinner, Lyn sat next to Elton and we were served a wonderful meal and drank exceptional wine in coloured cut glass glasses. I remember the red wine was in litre bottles in silver coasters and tasted like nothing I had or have tasted since.

During the meal, John Reid asked me my date of birth and left the room coming back with two bottles of red wine - one 1955 and one 1957, which I still have. He gave me the wine as a gift, saying 1956 was a bad year for wine.

Lyn got on really well with Elton and discussed her favourite music and, of course, her favourite Elton John song.

Still sat at the table, Eddie Plumley addressed the evening and produced my contract which Elton asked to view. He erupted into a rage saying football management was difficult enough without being put under more pressure with a one-year contract and that any manager of his club while he was chairman, would not be offered a one-year deal.

He insisted Lyn and I followed him into the hallway to discuss my new contract. This was quite embarrassing at the time as we thought Elton was aware of the contract detail. Obviously not.

In the hallway I said I didn't want to take advantage of the evening but he insisted he wanted my view on what I thought was a fair deal.

After a while he insisted I had a three-year contract and would be paid the salary discussed. He also told me to go to the local Mercedes garage on Monday morning and buy a new car for my company car - I was driving a hired car at the time - and he would forward them a cheque signed by him to cover the full cost.

We went back into the room, where Elton ripped up the one-year contract and made his views clear on football managers' contracts. After everything settled down Elton left the room and suddenly we could hear him singing I Heard It Through The Grapevine, the song Lyn had told him was here favourite tamla motown song.

We made our way into the hallway where Elton sat at the piano and he then began singing Candle in the Wind, Lyn's favourite Elton John song.

The evening continued with an Elton John medley and more drinks.

I can remember Lyn moving to the music when her scarf flicked a vase near the door – the vase was quickly removed to a safer place being told it was Ming. Elton then sang Sacrifice which was magical and everyone applauded the finale.

He left and 10 minutes later phoned to make sure everyone enjoyed the evening. Lyn and I were chauffeur driven home and sat up in bed wondering if that had really happened - great memories.