So then. I’m back.
Having missed the Palace, Rovers and Charlton games (holidaying in the South of France) I made my home debut against Darlington.
This was something of a strange experience for me. Those of you who read my ramblings towards the end of last season will know that me and football weren’t really getting on. So much so in fact that the last entry on this blog was on 19th April. On that day I severed ties with the game for the summer.
It really all had got too much. Watford were woeful, England were worse and the Premiership was (is) full of some of the most unpleasant people on earth (hi Ashley. Send my love to Cheryl. You tw*t.). So, I began a trial separation. It was quite nice really. I watched some cricket, I played some cricket. I kept half an eye on the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland and I played some half decent golf. I watched the Olympics and discovered that I quite liked pursuit cycling. I went on holiday. I even did some gardening. Lots and lots of stuff that didn’t involve football.
So, when it came to the Darlington game, it was all a bit alien. The first time I had thought about Watford for a good couple of months was when I attempted to go through the turnstiles ahead of the game.
I say attempted because, this being Watford, the end of our trial separation just had to have a hitch. The ticket office had failed to activate my and about 3,000 other season cards, necessitating a lengthy queue at the ticket office to collect a paper ticket. Welcome back to Watford!
Anyway I got in, and the game began. It followed the formula we have come to expect from these games – we play a weakened side against a lower league side. Both sides cancel each other out, with us looking marginally the stronger. We score, they score (late) and there is extra time. The fitness levels and presence of a few experienced players finally tells, and we win through. Just.
It wasn’t a great spectacle, but my brother and I agreed that our reserve side beating a first team, albeit a lower league first team, could only be a good thing. That’s right ladies and gents, a good thing. I could feel something I hadn’t felt for ages. Enthusiasm.
Ipswich next. And I am definitely back. In the week leading up to the game I am checking websites, reading fans forums, and generally looking forward to it. I am taking my 7 year old nephew who had specifically requested a trip to see Watford as his birthday present (quite remarkable as his only previous visit was the 1-2 reverse against Bristol City last season). The promise of another young Hornet in the family only adds to the feel good factor.
Game day is sunny and all is well. The ground is full (in the areas that aren’t unsafe for human inhabitants) and there is a big away following, adding to the atmosphere. Z-Cars kicks in and I am definitely, definitely back. Football is brilliant. Mart Poom’s second minute clearance isn’t however, and Ipswich are ahead.
This is an important moment for me. I’m not sure how I am going to react. I sit there for a while, staring at the Ipswich fans cheering and laughing in equal measure. I think about texting my brother (he is in the Rookery, I’m in the Rous) with some sarcastic comment about great starts. Then it dawns on me. I’m OK. There is a long way to go, and we can turn it around. We can still win this. Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen, we can now add optimism to the new-found enthusiasm.
I’m delighted. You see, at the end of last season I thought I might have completely fallen out of love with Watford. Maybe even the game as a whole. A couple of minutes after Ipswich went ahead I realised that I am still head over heels.
The Ipswich fans serenaded us with an array of chants that were both amusing and aggravating in equal measure – “one-nil to the football team” (that one is presumably on loan from the oh so stylish WBA, currently struggling to score in the Premier League) and the even more laughable “we’re just too good for you” rang out from the Vicarage Road End.
The rest of course is history. Late winner + Ipswich fans and their daft chants + sunny Saturday evening + Watford FC = happiness. Brilliant. I make no excuses or apologies for my feelings and subsequent rants last season, and I stand by them. I don’t think I have enjoyed a season less. It was horrible. I really thought it may have been over. I thought I was going to be one of those blokes who “used to go to Vicarage Road a lot when I was younger, but you know, I just stopped going really…” It turns out I’m not.
Bring it on!