Sunday, 18 September 2011

And the winner is…

Having just entered the competition on Lionel Birnie’s website to choose my top 10 post-war Watford wins, it seemed like a good idea to try to narrow it down to a personal top five:

 5) Watford 1 Liverpool 0, FA Cup 6th Round, 21/2/70
The game that effectively turned me into a Watford fan. Up to that point, I vaguely supported Spurs, simply because my best friend did. (I should point out that I was only seven at the time.) I wasn’t even aware that there was a team in my local area until I saw the front-page story in the Watford Observer about the forthcoming FA Cup quarter-final against Liverpool. Dad wouldn’t take me, but once Watford had won, I was hooked enough to be upset when we got thrashed by Chelsea in the semis. I made my first visit to Vicarage Road the next season, and that was that.

4) Manchester United 1 Watford 2, League Cup 3rd Round, 4/10/78
Another seminal cup tie that I didn’t attend. But I managed to avoid hearing the score (it was much easier in those days) so that I could watch the highlights on Sportsnight without knowing the result. I can still remember my elation as Luther scored the two goals that launched him as a true Hornet hero, and the tension as I prayed that we could hold on. We did, and the feeling that Graham Taylor was creating something really special was starting to grow.

3) Watford 8 Sunderland 0, 1st Division, 25/9/82
This result (still astonishing nearly 30 years later) had much the same effect. Watford had started their first season in the top flight well, with four wins out of six, but this score made the country sit up and take notice. With four goals for Luther, two for Ross and two for Cally, it serves as the examplar of every demolition of unsuspecting opponents GT’s team unleashed in those glorious years. It was also the last game I went to before leaving for university – not a bad send-off.

2) Watford 2 Bolton Wanderers 0, 1st Division Play-off Final, 31/5/99
I’ve written about the personal significance of this game elsewhere, so let’s just celebrate the achievement of Aidy Boothroyd’s team in building a late run to the play-offs that culminated in what was actually a fairly comfortable win over a Bolton team that never really turned up. Nicky Wright’s overhead kick is the best goal I can remember a Watford player scoring in a high-pressure game, while Allan Smart’s second relieved that pressure in the most glorious, cathartic way imaginable.

1) Watford 7 Southampton 1, League Cup 2nd Round, 2nd Leg, 2/9/80
Again, I’ve already noted this as my most memorable game, all the more so for coming a week after we’d succumbed 4-0 in the away leg. If I ever forge a career as a motivation speaker (which is highly unlikely, frankly), I will use this tie as a prime example of the importance of not accepting the inevitability of failure when things go against you initially. And yet the same team lost heavily again in the 5th Round of the League Cup that season, 5-0 in a replay at Coventry (who were, admittedly, a 1st Division club at the time), as if to remind us that they were only human after all.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A house full of hornets

The guys from From The Rookery End are currently on a mission to identify 100 objects that define Watford FC. Their quest reminded me that I’ve been meaning to compile an inventory of all the Watford-related objects in my house – so here it is, room by room.

4 coffee mugs
  • A white one mug with yellow stripes, with the old ‘angry hornet’ logo on one side. Early 70s?
  • A black one, originally with gold and red trim, probably from the 80s. The gold has all washed off
  • A yellow 1992-92 Official Centenary mug listing that season’s fixtures in red and black lettering. In this case, it’s the red that has faded to near invisibility
  • A mug depicting Watford strips through the ages, which my Mum bought me last Christmas from a stall in Watford Market
1 beer tankard

3 replica shirts
  • The classic long-sleeved yellow shirt from the early 70s, when I started watching Watford
  • A yellow home shirt with the CTX logo and a red stripe down the right, from the late 90s
  • A white away shirt with the Phones4U logo, from a couple of seasons later
These don’t get worn much; I’m not one of those who puts a replica shirt on over their sweater in the dead of winter, so they only get an outing when it is actually warm enough to wear a flimsy short-sleeved shirt. Oh, and none of them has got a name or number on the back.

2 scarves (striped)

2 bobble hats (striped)

1 BSaD 10th anniversary T-shirt

1 pair of football shorts
Red, naturally. Not worn for many years.

1 tie
Black with narrow red and yellow bands. I can’t imagine when I’ll ever wear this.

1 pair of cufflinks
Worn at my wedding.

1 flag
Given out free at a game during Aidy Boothroyd’s reign; his signature adorns the bottom right-hand corner.

1 clock
Shaped like the club badge, complete with moose. Another of Mum’s purchases in the market.

1 plaque
About 4in square, with a reflective surface. One of the oldest items in my collection, and almost certainly the most pointless.

1 ashtray
Also pointless, as I don’t smoke and never have. Another of Mum’s Christmas presents.

1 framed photograph
Depicting Nick Wright’s goal in the play-off final against Bolton, and mounted with my ticket from the game.

1 water bottle
Given away at a home game a few years ago, adorned with the slogan ‘Watford ’til I’m dry’. I actually use this quite often, whenever I go on a long walk.

1 fragment of Vicarage Road terrace
Encased in perspex. Number 436 of a limited edition of 500.

1 key fob

2 videos
  • The Golden Boys – a compilation of clips of Watford on TV from 1969 to 1992, ie the days when these things were quite rare
  • … And Finally – the complete play-off final against Bolton from 1999. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually watched this
15 books
I’m not going to list them all here – a topic for a separate post, I think.

12 seasons’ worth of programmes
The other 28 seasons’ worth are in my Mum’s attic.

A pile of fanzines

Sundry badges and pens