I tried to start a chant once. As you probably won’t be surprised to learn, it didn’t go well.
It was January 2011, Watford were away at Cardiff and there’s a possibility the day had not been without a shandy or two. The home side, flying at the top of the Championship at the time, were three goals up by half time and things were looking bleak. A conversation with Jon, my From the Rookery End podcast co-host, gave rise to the idea that singing was the best option.
So we tried.
To the tune of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” we stood up and started bellowing “Martin Taylor, Martin Taylor get your head on it…” It flowed perfectly, but with hindsight it was never going to make it as a terrace classic.
Why am I reliving this embarrassing tale? It’s a reminder and an illustration as to just how difficult it can be to make a tangible difference to the atmosphere at football.
When Watford lost to Crystal Palace in the 2013/14 Play-Off Final, the result wasn’t the most disappointing thing. We were (thankfully correctly!) pretty confident we’d get promotion in the coming years, so were over the defeat quickly. It was the complete lack of atmosphere that left many of a Hornets persuasion feeling flat. So flat in fact, that a group of determined supporters vowed to make a change and “The 1881” was born. This ever growing band of dedicated supporters has steadily improved the match day atmosphere at Vicarage Road, raising funds to purchase surfer flags and banners, running coaches to away games whilst all the while supporting the team as vociferously as possible. There’s no denying that whilst it isn’t yet La Bombonero, thanks to these guys, Vicarage Road is bouncing again.
This was never more evident than during the recent game against Arsenal. Quique Sanchez Flores’ name was being sung on a seemingly never ending loop, whilst the home fans bobbed up and down in support of their team. Thanks to TV scheduling, it was an early evening game and the first of the new campaign under lights – always a special occasion. Those watching on TV will hopefully have noticed the atmosphere, but will also have registered something else. Part way though the 2nd half and in the midst of the non-stop chanting, lights started to pop up throughout the stadium. In a seemingly spontaneous outburst, Vicarage Road was lit up by thousands of supporters using the flashlight function on their smartphones.
I can’t say I’ve ever seen it before (although I’m told it’s been done) and I have to admit I was mildly nonplussed by the whole thing. That said, it all felt like part of the fun, part of the atmosphere part of the moment. Since the game some Watford supporters have made their feelings on the display known, suggesting that such gestures are best left at a Coldplay gig. Perhaps they are right, but it’s important to remember that whilst the atmosphere can be improved by hard work, determination and effort (another hat tip to The 1881), sometimes, like football itself, there are no explanations or rationale, it just is what it is. Enjoy it.
Just don’t come running to me when your phone battery dies.
Come on You Horns.