I was hungover to high heaven after seeing Metallica at the O2 the night before (one of the teenage habits that I don’t seem to be able to break) and was entirely reliant on a lift from a mate. He was late, so I was late.
Sauntering up to Vicarage Road 10 minutes after kick off was an interesting experience. There were fans clearly on their way to the game, clearly late, yet clearly not bothered. Instead of rushing to the game little pockets of supporters slowly shuffled towards Vicarage Road, preferring to stop and fill up on take away food and confectionery – some even stopping to read the paper.
As we walked down Occupation Road 12 minutes into the game the other thing that struck us was the dirth of sound. There was definitely a game on – we could hear the ref’s whistle and the shouts of the players – but nothing from the fans. This is no great suprise, we all know Vicarage Road is hardly a seething pit of partisan support, but this really did seem strangely subdued.
When we got into the ground, settled down and got the team news from my brother, the reason for the apathy became clear. The East Stand is shut, and with no-one in it our quaint reminder of yester-year is an increased eyesore. On top of that, there is the building work in the corner of the Rookery. With no idea of when or if that project will be finished, the ground provides a fairly depressing spectacle. But the thing that really struck me about this game, and the state of our team/squad, was the subs bench.
Loach, Mariappa, Ainsworth, Bangura, Hoskins. There was something about this list of names that put me in mind of some of the distinctly average Watford teams throughout the 90s (obvious exceptions excluded). I was immediately put in mind of players like Peter Beadle, Colin Pluck, Gerard Lavin, Dominic Ludden. Journeymen. Like those ex players, none of our subs for this game are going to change a game. They are all honest players, and I am not entirely displeased that they are Watford players, but they aren’t exactly inspirational and this is the best we have at the moment.
It’s all a bit comfortable I suppose. No-one really expects us to challenge for promotion, and we should have enough quality to stay in the division, but apart from staying in the Championship, it is hard to see any other realistic goals.
Admittedly the treatment room is now at bursting point, and one could argue that an entirely fit squad would be an interesting proposition – hopefully time will tell. For now however though, I think everyone is in neutral. We all turn up at the games because, well, that’s what we do. I don’t think anyone really expects anything.
In a way, that kind of sums up why supporting Watford can be good fun. When expectation levels are low (non-existant?!) things can happen. When our little club starts thinking it deserves or is entitled to success, then things go a bit wonky. Just look at last season – the expectation was poisonous and it made sure that last year was utterly ghastly. Already this year we have had the fun and games of the Ipswich game, and have beaten a decent side in Charlton. We have also been beaten by a rubbish Plymouth side – who knows what will happen on Saturday against Reading…
As we left the Plymouth game the feeling was that everyone was pretty much as apathetic as they were at the start. We had lost, but we hadn’t played that badly. There is a long way to go in the season, and we’ll play worse and win (according to Aidy at any rate). Not a great night’s entertainment, but not the worst, so home to bed before we do it all again on Saturday.
With only one fit striker available to us, it will be tough, but funny things happen when you least expect it, especially at Watford…