This post was originally published on Saturday 1st January 2011 in the Watford vs Portsmouth Matchday programme
Mike Parkin of the ‘From the Rookery End’ podcast is having a crisis. Is he too old to support Watford?
Well, that’s that for another year then. After the seemingly eternal build up, the big day has been and gone and we’re all left wondering what all the fuss was about. Having said that, with a two year old daughter in tow it is a bit easier to get excited about Christmas. Admittedly she wasn’t really sure about what she was opening (apart from her prized cuddly Harry Hornet of course – ‘oooooohhh Harry! Harry! Harry!’ but the look on her face as she tore open her presents will live with me for a long time.
There was of course a time when I too saw Christmas as something other than an excuse for too much to eat and drink. As a youngster I loved the whole spectacle. The lights, the decorations, the Christmas TV, the time off school, the sight of my Dad getting rip roaring drunk and of course there was the presents. I had my fair share of great gifts. A Commodore 64 (Kids, ask your Dad, or even your Grandad!), a mini snooker table, a book about Greek mythology, which inexplicably, I loved. My best present of all time though? Easy…
It was 1987 and I was ten. I can’t remember anything else about that particular Christmas apart from this one present. It’s something that I still own and treasure to this day. It’s something that evokes such memories, such happiness, such excitement. What was this wonder-present? It was a Watford Football Club calendar. Nothing too special about that – I’m guessing a few of you got one this year. This one was special though. As I removed it from it’s wrapping I noticed a mish mash of squiggles and writing on the front page. Surely Mum hadn’t got me a used calendar? Closer inspection revealed the truth. It had been signed. By the entire Watford first team.
It was almost too much for my youthful mind to comprehend. I had in my hand an object that had previously been held by my heroes. Some of the autographs were even personalised. I couldn’t believe it. I looked to my beaming Mum for an explanation. It turned out she had been at the Hornets Shop and the team were training at Vicarage Road that day, allowing her to get Messrs Coton, McClelland, Jackett, Blissett et al to scribble their names on my present.
Forward-wind to the present day and in reflecting on the first six ‘From the Rookery end’ podcasts I got to thinking about the interview we conducted with goalkeeper Scott Loach. It was my first visit to London Colney and the first time I’d be meeting any of the current crop of players. I confided in co-presenters Jason and Jon that I was ‘a bit nervous’. With hindsight, it wasn’t nerves, it was excitement. Scott Loach wasn’t even born when I ripped open that Christmas present back in 1987, yet here I was, just as excited about meeting him as I was when seeing the words ‘To Mike, best wishes, Brian Talbot’ on the front of my calendar.
Initially I was pleased that my love for football had remained intact to such an extent. There aren’t many hobbies that appeal just as much when you are 33 as they did when you were 10. There was however another issue to deal with. Here was I, a grown man, full of nervous energy about meeting a bloke who is over ten years younger than me. I thought about this for a while. Of course, it isn’t just Loach that is over a decade younger than me. The majority of team and probably the coaching team aren’t old enough to remember Grange Hill or the days when a Snickers was called a Marathon. Did I feel strange about this? Is it a bit odd that I hold this younger generation of whippersnappers in such high regard?
For me, the answer is no. Just as my autographed Christmas present excited me, football excites me. Watching Watford excites me and if people have the ability to continually instil such passionate and enjoyment, then whatever their age – they must be talented. It’s a dark day when you can’t appreciate talent, so my conscience is clear. If you see a bloke who looks like he is old enough to know better celebrating a goal like a ten year old, well, that’s probably me.
Come on you Horns!