Well that was a turn up for the books!
My beloved Watford FC beat Liverpool FC 3-0 yesterday way beyond everyones wildest dreams, including mine. Watford at the kick-off being last but one in the Premier League and Liverpool top of the league with a lead of twenty two points above the second club and on an unbeaten run of forty four games. We are now fourth from bottom so onward and upward.
Watford and I go back a long way, 77 years in fact. I was actually born about one mile from the ground, in King Street Hospital. I didn’t start supporting Watford immediately though, there was a war on, yes I was a war baby. I think the first game I saw was in the mid 1950’s. At that time Watford were wearing a blue and white kit. Its a bit blurry but I think the occasion was when I was in the West Herts Battalion, Boys Brigade Band and we were the pre-match entertainment.
From my mid teens and until my mid twenties I was an avid racing cyclist with Watford Roads Cycling Club. This was very time consuming, racing at weekends all over the country and midweek locally. Like Watford FC I made it through the ranks over the years from a junior to first category amateur. At the time Britain only had two full time professional cyclists racing abroad, Brian Robinson and Tommy Simpson. There was no professional system as there is now. You only got prizes for winning races, money was not allowed. It was mainly an amateur sport in the UK. The only time you saw cycling on the TV then was in the annual Sportsview Personality Of The Year show and it was limited to about five minutes of blurry TV from the Tour de France.
It was therefore a long time from my first visit to until about the mid 1970’s before I next visted Vicarage Road. I started going with my younger brother Bruce who at one time had been a ballboy at Watford. He still has a season ticket every year. Watford were then in the Fourth Division and by then, wearing amber and black. Things first began to look up for Watford in 1977 when Elton John became chairman and appointed Graham Taylor as manager. Elton John threw loads of money into the club and it progressed rapidly through the leagues until 1982. They had made it to Division One and in their first season there finished as runners up in the league to, of all clubs, Liverpool !!
A couple of years after that Graham Taylor resigned and Watford dropped back down to the Second Division, later to become The Championship when The Premier League was formed. In 1998 Watford were promoted the Premier league for one season only then went back down the Championship after one tough season.
In 2012 the ownership of the club changed and in 2015 it was back to the Premier League where we have managed to hang on until now. Things aren’t looking too promising at the moment but while there is life there is hope.
So as you can see, I was never a glory hunter following teams I have no association with just because they are successful. I have been a devoted and proud fan through thick and thin and theres been quite a lot of thin over the years. I was a regular season ticket holder and followed games home and away until we got back into the Premier league when the prices shot up dramatically. It began to get too expensive for us, as by now my wife had been hooked by the the Hornet bug. When she was young and living in Putney her brother used to take her to see Wimbledon FC, the original ‘Dons’ and still should be. At the time they were a non league team so you can see she is well used to adversity, excitement and disappointment. She obviously took to Watford very easily given this background, probably why she took to me too ?
It’s a hundred mile round trip up and down the M1 from my home in north Buckinghamshire to Vicarage Road. Sometimes when we were making a wet and wintery trudge back to the car after another game we had lost again I wondered why on earth we did it. I thought, well they didn’t come and see me when I wasn’t very well so why should I come and visit them. First of all we cut out going to away games, then when I retired and became a poor old pensioner I invested in Sky TV and followed the club from the comfort of our sofa.
There are clubs nearer to me such as L***n who’s name should never be mentioned by a Watford fan and only referred to as ‘The Scum’, I think the feeling is mutual so I have no shame in admitting this. Northampton Town are the nearest club to me. Also quite close are MK Dons but in my opinion they owe their football league status to some very dubious circumstances and dodgy dealing. Not only that but they hi-jacked the Wimbledon nickname. The revived AFC Wimbledon cannot legally call themselves The Dons anymore. Watford however is my football home, my roots. True football supporters will know this feeling I am sure.
I spend my Saturday afternoons now watching my three grandsons play for Olney Rugby Club when I can, about a quarter of a mile from my home. I always have my phone to hand for live match updates from Watford though. Two grandsons have made it to the first team at a very young age, having progressed through the years from tiny tots right through to big burly boys, the third won’t be far behind I am sure when he is old enough.
So, a big shout of “Come on you ‘Orns” and we can make it and survive. We have a very good manager now in Nigel Pearson who took over just before Christmas and things are looking more promising after a very poor start under the previous manager. I think he could well be the clubs next Graham Taylor, who lives long in the memory and fondness of Watford FC fans and supporters. However if we dont survive I will still be proud to call myself a Watford supporter.