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Watford 0 Crystal Palace 2 – 19/04/08

Monday 21 April 2008 by
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I have been a Watford supporter since I was old enough to understand what football is. I have been a season ticket holder since not long after that.

Watford are a big part of my life, and will remain to be so – whatever happens, Premier League or Blue Square Premier League, I’ll be there.

I wasn’t there on Saturday though. I’ve had enough for this season. I’m not sure what that makes me – perhaps I haven’t got the stomach for the fight any more, perhaps I am getting older, perhaps I am conscious that I could spend more time with my girlfriend, or paying attention to the work that needs doing to my house.

I don’t think it is any of those to be honest.

I had a moment of clarity during the week. I realised that I wasn’t looking forward to going to the game. I just didn’t want to do that walk to the ground that I have done however many hundreds of thousand times before. I just couldn’t see myself enjoying it.

Now I know supporting your team is about supporting your team through thick and thin – being there for the good and the bad – yada yada yada. Well I have been there for both the good and the bad, but this season seems to have transgressed into some sort of baffling twilight zone. It isn’t bad because we are fifth in the league, and still in with a (vague) chance of promotion, but it isn’t good because, well, it just isn’t, is it?

Whatever it is, being at Vicarage Road this season has largely been an unenjoyable experience.

In the main, I enjoy my club being up there with the chasing pack. I enjoy us being “contenders”. I’m not so sure I like what it has done to some of our supporters though.

Boothroyd’s got to go“, “He’s taken us as far as he can“, and of course, my personal favourite “He’s lost the dressing room“.

All these phrases come tumbling out of fan’s mouths, with varying degrees of intelligibility but increasing frequency and volume.

Yes, Boothroyd has spent money that no other Watford manager has had. But there is money in the game that the game has never had. Yes, we had a good start and were 9 points clear, but hey ho – other people have been up there and blown it too. At least we were up there and fighting. In with a chance. Yes, the football isn’t going to win the Arsene Wenger style award, but hey, we are Watford fans – apart from pretty isolated pockets, when has it ever been anything else?

Perhaps we have a right to expect more, perhaps we don’t. There are some that argue without ambition and indeed expectation, we may as well give up. What I am certain of is that people deserve time to get it right.

Adrian Boothroyd is a new manager. Not just new to us, but new to the job. He is bound to find it hard, and unfortunately that has been all to obvious at times but in the cold light of day, he hasn’t done too badly has he.

Season 1 – kept Watford up.
Season 2 – Watford promoted.
Season 3 – the Premier League. Tough, but not embarassed.
Season 4 – who knows, but it looks like another top six finish.

On top of that, during his tenure he has had the unenviable/impossible task of replacing 4 of our most important, influential and valuable players – Marlon King, Hameur Bouazza, Adam Johnson and Ashley Young. Did anyone see Ashley Young play against Birmingham on Sunday? How do you replace that?

Boothroyd has spent more than any other Watford manager. Yes. But he has also achieved more than all but one manager already. Perhaps he deserves the chance to have another crack at it? OK, so we haven’t won anything this year, no cup Semi Final, no championship. Last time I checked, Arsenal aren’t going to win anything either. Does this mean Arsene Wenger has taken Arsenal “as far as he can”?

My point is, while I agree we should be aspiring to be as good as we can, and aiming to be an established Premiership team, the expectation among fans seems to have manifested itself in some sort of impatient, poisonous desire for everything to be good, and for it to be good right now.

Players and management are berated in equal measure for misplaced passes, for not playing the ball on the floor, and in the same breath for not “getting rid of it”. For not bringing a substitute on, and then for bringing him on to late. That substitute is then subject to abuse too, just for good measure.

Like I said, I haven’t enjoyed the football this season. Whatever way you look at it, you couldn’t describe it as awe inspiring. I can see the bigger picture though. Building a team, a successful team takes time. Look at Fergie at Man United. What had he won in the time that Boothroyd has been at Watford?  Not much. What has he won now?

So, the combination of the angry, impatient and perhaps ill informed anger of the home fans and the prospect of another Neil Warnock side running rings round us at home meant that I gave myself the afternoon off.

Of course all I did at home was pace the lounge and fret. I had Three Counties radio on. I turned it off. I had Soccer Saturday on. I turned it off. I had beach cricket from Australia on, and quite enjoyed that for a while, but turned that off too. You see, you can’t escape. That’s what football does to you, it consumes you. It’s irrational and it’s daft, but it’s the way it is.

I’ve renewed my season ticket already, and I’ll be there next year, excited and full of hope. Again. I just hope everyone learns something over the coming summer months, and we all come back stronger and better. We’ll all enjoy it much more then.

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