Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The death of hope

In the 15 minutes between the end of the first half of tonight’s game against Palace and the start of the second, all the hope drained out of me. It was the strangest thing. Like everyone else, I’d spent the first half leaping out of my seat every couple of minutes, clapping and singing and yelling and generally trying my damnedest to spur the Golden Boys on to glory.

And when none of it worked, something inside of me just gave up the ghost, in tacit acknowledgement that this was it. Those 45 minutes had been our chance to save our season, and we hadn’t taken it. I can’t pretend to have foreseen the second and third Palace goals, but they didn’t come as a surprise either.

It’s odd, because I’m normally a glass-half-full person when it comes to Watford, able to glimpse hope in the darkest hour. But during the second half tonight, I couldn’t even raise the energy to clap or shout. I wasn’t the only one, either. When Danny Graham scored our consolation goal, most of the people around me didn’t even stand up to celebrate. (I did, out of some kind of residual reflex.)

Maybe I’ll feel differently by the time the next home game rolls around. But right now, that feels like the defining game of our season.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Bees hate Hornets

My friend Stuart, who is a Brentford fan, sent me an email a few days ago headed ‘33 years of hurt’; apparently March 23rd, 1977 was the date of Brentford’s most recent victory over Watford.

This matters a lot to Stuart, who regards Watford as one of Brentford’s natural rivals. It’s not just the similarity in the town names and nicknames; when we both started watching football, in the mid-70s, Brentford and Watford played each other a lot as we both bounced around the bottom two divisions. Back then, they had the greater claim to being a big club, having spent some years in the First Division before World War Two, while we were still trying in vain to escape the Third Division (South).

Brentford’s ongoing inability to beat Watford is one reason they harbour a grudge against us. The other is the quality of the ex-Hornets who have subsequently pitched up at Griffin Park. To this day, I only have to mention the name Ian Bolton to send Stuart into a lather. Evidently GT extracted every drop of talent and effort from Bolton before selling him to the Bees, because the hapless figure Brentford fans remember bears no relation to the defensive colossus we hold dear to our hearts.

Since then, a steady stream of former Watford players have enjoyed (if that’s the right word) inauspicious spells at Brentford. They currently have Lionel Ainsworth and Toumani Diagouraga on loan (neither of them any closer to being the finished article than when they left us, by all accounts), while Steve Kabba has been shipped out on loan to Burton Albion. The only honourable exception to this dismal litany is Dean Holdsworth, who established himself as a goalscoring hero at Griffin Park.

So while we smugly patronise non-league Luton (and I confess I smiled as I typed that) and idly debate who we should now regard as our arch rivals, spare a thought for Brentford fans, who may well be secretly hoping our current struggles continue, and that they finally get a chance to end their 33-year wait for a win over Watford next season.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Commercial break

If you’re reading this, the chances are that you’re a Watford fan, which means that you may enjoy my new novel, First Time I Met The Blues.

The story starts in 1964, when three teenagers meet on the terraces at Vicarage Road. Bonding over their shared love of football and music, they form a blues band, and the novel charts their erratic progress over the next 25 years.

As the title suggests, the book is more concerned with music than football. But supporting Watford is a thread that runs through the central characters’ lives, to differing degrees – and that leads directly to a pivotal moment in the lives of one of them.

If you’re interested in finding out more, check out my other blog, First Time I Met The Blues, which also forms part of my website. And if you like the sound of it, please buy a copy while you’re there.

And that’s the end of the commercial break. Normal service (ie inconsequential ramblings about Watford and related matters) will resume shortly.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

These little town blues

Recently I’ve been dipping into The Book Of Watford, a lavish publication that my friend Stuart found in a second-hand shop and gave me for my birthday last year. Subtitled ‘A portrait of our town’, it’s a collection of historical photographs of Watford accompanied by extracts from the local papers, and it makes for fascinating reading.

But while the details of the evolution of the town are lovingly covered (with particular emphasis on roads and buildings), there are some glaring omissions. In the entire section on the 1960s, for instance, there’s only one mention of the local football team (a cup tie against Liverpool towards the end of the decade – and not even the most famous one, though admittedly that took place in 1970).

It doesn’t get any better in the 70s and 80s. I may be biased, but I was under the impression that Graham Taylor’s propulsion of the club from Division 4 to Division 1 helped to put Watford on the map, giving the town a recognisable identity to people who previously only knew it as the last town on the railway line before London, or the first major junction on the M1 heading north. At one point in the 80s, the local tourist board was even marketing weekend minibreaks in Watford, with a trip to Vicarage Road as the focal point.

But apart from a brief mention of the celebrations that followed the 1984 FA Cup final, all this goes unrecorded in the book, which seems quite bafflingy. I don’t think it’s just that I’m so wrapped up in my support for the Hornets that I’ve lost all sense of perspective. The fact is that, even when the team weren’t doing so well, 10,000-odd citizens of the town spent alternate Saturdays at Vicarage Road, their moods rising and falling with the fortunes of the team. How can you create a ‘portrait of our town’ and not take that into account?