This post was originally published in the Watford vs Swansea Matchday programme on 28th September 2010.
Watford’s recent 6-1 win at Millwall equalled the Hornets best away result of all time. History was made and From The Rookery End’s Mike Parkin missed it. Read on for his excuse…
There are rare occasions when it isn’t worth thinking about going to the football, let alone mentioning it. Saturday 18th September was one such day. So, while Watford were kicking off against Millwall at the New Den, I was ordering my starter in a local pub, as I joined in celebrating my Mother in Law’s 60th birthday. Even with my famed negotiating skills, this was an engagement I was never going to get out of.
I’ll be honest with you, as 3pm rolled round, I wasn’t unduly upset. I’ve been to Millwall on a number of occasions, including a Coca-Cola Cup encounter on a wet Tuesday night, so feel satisfied that I have flown the Watford flag sufficiently to give Bermondsey a swerve for a couple of seasons. On top of that, it was a nice day, the food was tasty and I was in good company. As time rolled past, what was an enjoyable day turned into a truly magnificent one as my phone told me of Watford goal, after Watford goal after Watford goal…
I, like many other Watford fans, stayed up that night to watch the avalanche of goals on the BBC’s ‘Football League Show’. Predictably, the coverage was minimal, with as per usual, more time apportioned to the so called bigger clubs. However, as I watched the goals flying in and the fans celebrating it wasn’t the poor coverage that annoyed me. It was the fact I wasn’t there.
Being a football fan is largely about bragging rights. My team beat your team. My team has better players than your team. My club has more fans than your club. I was there when…Except on this occasion, I wasn’t.
Around 1,000 Hornets made the journey that day. A band of hardy souls, travelling more in hope than expectation, but oh how they were rewarded. Not only did they witness a thumping great win, but they were also recipients of something far more important, something irreplaceable and magical. A little nugget that they can share with those that were at Vicarage Road to see us turn over Southampton 7-1 in the League Cup after losing the first leg 0-4. Something they now have in common with the travelling fans who were at Turf Moor when a Chopra inspired Watford battered Burnely 7-4. They have the memories. They have the knowledge that they were there to see it live. The lucky swines.
Not that I’m bitter of course. I have my fair share of memories, indelibly marked on my minds eye, scenes that give me goosebumps whenever I replay them in my head. Beating Cantona and league Champions Leeds at Vicarage Road. Nicky Wright and Alan Smart at Wembley. The away leg of the play offs at Crystal Palace. Shivering on the terraces at Oakwell whilst watching us beat Barnsley on a cold Tuesday night, having bunked off school for the afternoon. All treasured memories, some historically significant, some not, but I’m proud to say I was there for each of them.
My favourite such memory? Well that came in the glamorous surroundings of Peterborough’s ramshackle London Road in 1994. Both clubs were in the midst of an awful relegation scrap and defeat for either team would almost certainly seal their fate. Luckily, in what was an extraordinary match, Watford ran out 4-3 winners and a couple of thousand Watford fans celebrated safety. If a better atmosphere has ever been generated at a Watford game – I want to know about it.
Of course such memorable games are vastly outweighed by the duff ones. Games where you can’t remember the opposition, much less the scorers or what the atmosphere was like. Despite this unavoidable fact, you have in your hand a matchday programme. The chances are, you are sat at Vicarage Road waiting to watch Watford take on Swansea in what could well be a very ordinary game. You are here though, that’s the important thing and you never know. This could be another of those magical occasions after which you can proudly proclaim – I was there.
COME ON YOU HORNS!