Monthly Archives: July 2010

Open day delight…

Supporting Watford isn’t a perfect experience. Our beloved Vicarage Road has been a three sided building site for longer than I care to remember. We’ve spent and wasted a lot of money. We once signed Kerry Dixon and Micky Quinn. We hired Dave Bassett…

With continued uncertainty around who will own the football club and the ongoing financial constraints, it’s fair to say that all is not 100% rosy in the WD18 garden. If you look hard enough though, as in all aspects of life, you can find some positives.

 I have written before about the reassurance provided by the presence of Graham Taylor and Malky Mackay at our club. Both good, loyal men. Watford people. I have also spoken of my pride in the Academy and the clubs ability to bring through home grown players – a story that recently received national recognition in The Guardian (read it here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jul/17/england-world-cup-watford). It’s not just the big, well publicised projects that count though. It can be the little things that make the biggest difference.

On Saturday I was surrounded by little things, well, little people, as I took my daughter and nephew to the Watford FC open day in Bushey. I’ve never been to such an event before and had limited expectations. I guessed the worst that could happen was they’d get a picture with Harry the Hornet and would probably drop their overpriced ice cream on the floor. As it happened, my daughter was petrified of Harry and the ice creams were a bargain. Cheap Solero’s were far from the highlight though.

For the duration of the event, amongst the children, parents, burger vans and exhibits, were clusters of young, athletic men in smart tracksuits. Stopping whenever approached, signing autographs and smiling for photographs. For the entirety of this sunny Sunday afternoon the full Watford squad were face to face with their adoring young fans. For some it got better – modelling the new away kit for the first time alongside Aidy Mariappa and John Eustace, or participating in a game of football with Danny Graham, Scott Loach and Liam Henderson. Instead of watching their idols, youngsters were passing to them.

Now perhaps I’ve gone soft in my old age, or see the world through different eyes now that I’m a Dad, but I can’t be alone in thinking what a fantastic event this was. By giving supporters unlimited and unrestricted access to the players, those that visited were able to take away with them memories and souvenirs that they will treasure for a lifetime. Some will have scored a goal past Scott Loach. Some will have hugged John Eustace. Some will have pictures with Lloyd Doyley and footballs signed by Malky. Tangible, happy memories.

In an era when heroes, whether it be film stars, musicians or sports people seem to be further and further removed from the real world in which we inhabit, it was a joy to see our heroes bringing so much enjoyment to so many.

I don’t profess to know what goes on at other clubs, but I doubt many of those thousands of kids running around in Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal shirts have ever had a kick about with Wayne Rooney, Nikola Anelka or Cesc Fabregas. Well done to Watford for recognising and rewarding us – the fans, with a day to remember.

We’re Watford. We don’t have much, but we make the most of what we’ve got.

Keep the faith, stay positive and Come on You Horns!

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St Albans City 0 Watford 2 – In Pictures

Watford triumphed 2-0 over near Neighbours St Albans City at Clarence Park. For those of you that couldn’t make it, here’s what it looked like…

You can click on the picture to see a bigger version.

Enjoy!

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Involuntary reactions…

Right you lot. I’m going to be honest with you here. Bare my soul. You ready?

OK. So we all now know Luis Suarez. He is the Uruguay striker who by handling the ball on the line in the last minute of their Quarter Final clash with Ghana has become the embodiment evil. The man whose dastardly act dashed not just the hopes of a Nation, but those of an entire Continent. His hand didn’t prevent just a goal, but the continued development of African football.

Apparently.

Now, in common with most football fans I deplore cheating. Diving, faking injury, trying to get opposition players booked, crafty fouls and unseen shirt pulls. I hate it. I hate it all and am not shy in saying so. I’d be all in favour of six month bans for players caught diving. No half measures from me when it comes to the “dark arts”. It may therefore surprise you to learn that instead of joining in the increasingly embarrassing condemnation from anyone outside Montevideo, I’m here to stick up for Mr Suarez and his impromptu goalkeeping display.

You see, what poor old Luis did wasn’t calculated. It wasn’t a cold, measured decision, considered and undertaken having weighed up the pros and cons of his actions. It was a reaction. An instantaneous reaction. And you know what? I’d have undoubtedly done the same.

We’ve all been there. Your girlfriend is driving the car and is approaching a queue of traffic at a roundabout. The last car in the line is getting closer whilst she is clearly more focussed on Cheryl Cole’s forgetfulness when it comes to malaria tablets. You can’t help it – as you hurtle towards disaster, your foot leaps to an imaginary brake in the passenger footwell. An involuntary reaction.

Alan Green begins commentating on the radio. You turn the radio off. An involuntary reaction. Your boss is away for the afternoon. You surf the Internet and plan a long lunch. An involuntary reaction. You learn Stuart Atwell is set to officiate your football match. Your head sinks into your hands. An involuntary reaction. Some of our actions occur too quickly and too naturally for us to do anything about. As Star Trek fans would no doubt delight in telling us – resistance is futile.

I have struggled to imagine the situation that would involve me taking part in a World Cup Quarter Final, but despite this I’m pretty sure that if I found myself in that position, I’d have reacted the same. My reason for being on the goal line would already be established and clear in my mind. To stop the opposition scoring. Mission received and understood. The next thing I know, the ball is heading towards the back of the net. I realise I can’t stop it with my head and this is where the involuntary reaction kicks in. Before I know it, I’ve swatted the ball to safety, I’ve been red carded and Ghana have a kick to progress.   

If I were to criticise Luis Suarez, it would be for his abysmal haircut (or lack of it) and his ill advised celebrations in the tunnel area after Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty. I’m sure he regrets it too, especially as his fist pumping reaction was replayed ad nauseum across the Worlds TV networks. Still, at least it should make it clear to him how daft his hair looks.

Tonight Suarez is banned and will be joining us in watching the first Semi Final of the 2010 World Cup. Should Holland progress, many will deem it justice served and will dismiss Uruguay as South American cheats who eventually got what they deserved. Should they progress, whoever they play in the Final, the spotlight will be firmly back on Luis Suarez – in my opinion for all the wrong reasons.

Unlike the enemy of African football Luis Suarez, I will never have the chance to represent my Country at the World Cup. We do have one thing in common though. We both have involuntary reactions.

Cut the man some slack.

Having discussed these thoughts with friends over the weekend, it was suggested that in instances such as this, when a certain goal is denied by an illegal act, a penalty goal could be awarded. I’m inclined to agree. Whilst a penalty kick affords a fabulous opportunity to score, as we saw last week, it isn’t a goal until it hits the back of the net…

What, dear reader, do you think?

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The law of being average

It’s taken me the best part of a week, but I’ve finally worked out how I feel about England’s abrupt and let’s face it, humiliating, exit from the World Cup.

Those who watched the game with me on Sunday will have been treated to the mildly comical yet largely disturbing spectacle of me furiously striking the TV with my flip-flop whilst turning the air blue with my rather choice opinions on the horror show that was unfolding before our eyes. For these poor souls (and indeed their neighbours) it may be a surprise to learn that my over riding emotion isn’t anger.

Regular readers of this blog and those who I sit with at Watford will be aware that I’m not always the most optimistic of souls. I’m still nervy when we’re 3-0 up with 30 seconds to go for heavens sake. Therefore, if asked to bet, I’m sure my fellow Hornets would wager that I predicted an England defeat, allowing me a well deserved and self congratulatory pat on the back. But no, I don’t feel vindicated or smug either.

I’ll tell you how I feel.

Indifferent.

I had an inkling that something wasn’t right in my relationship with the England team long before the tournament began.

When the team captain Rio Ferdinand returned home injured in early June, my initial thought wasn’t of the negative impact it would have on the team. It was a sense of relief. Relief that if England did win the World Cup, that plank wouldn’t be the man to receive the trophy on our nation’s behalf. My mind then started to wander. I pictured the players going up one by one to receive their medals and take their turn with the trophy. I imagined John Terry holding aloft the biggest prize in world football. It left me cold. Then, and I couldn’t help it, my minds eye treated me to the sight of Ashley Cole, grinning like a maniac, part of only the second ever England team to win a trophy. I was almost sick. Twice.

I felt slightly less inclined to self harm as I imagined the rest of the team enjoying their moment of glory, but the damage was done. It was now clear to me. There can now be no mistaking it -I just don’t like the England team.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some honest, decent chaps among them. David James is an ex-Watford player so by default he’s a top man. James Milner seems like an alright bloke and Peter Crouch comes across as genuine and very funny. I like him. As a squad though, they stink. Unapproachable, cocky, ill educated, brash and worst of all – pretty bloody average at football.

This generation of footballers is, through no real fault of their own, the furthest removed from both fans and reality. Their astronomic salaries and superstar status mean that through necessity they are to some degree forced to retreat into a world where nothing is too expensive and everything is done for you. I understand this and don’t have a problem with it. If I earned 150k a week I’d buy a big house and would hire someone to operate the Sky remote for me too. Similarly, if I was famous, I’d try and keep myself to myself – signing autographs is fine, but not 24 hours a day.

However.

Having been afforded this status you occasionally have to back it up with action. Prove that you’re worth it. Or at least try.

Off the field this has already proved too much for a number of our ‘heroes’. Rio Ferdinand felt he didn’t have to do a drugs test because “He had a lot on”. John Terry felt it was appropriate to hire out his private Wembley box – a privilege bestowed on each England captain – for personal gain. Rooney badmouthing England fans who have saved for four years only to be treated to one of the worst performances in living memory. Ashley Cole, well Ashley Cole clearly won’t stop until everyone in the whole world can’t stand the site of him. The list goes on. No matter though. We’re football fans. We’ll excuse most things. As long as you give us something to shout about on the pitch.

In all fairness, most weeks, our club players rarely let us down. The England players play well for their star-studded clubs, whilst we lower league fans usually go home safe in the knowledge that our team may be crap, but at least they try. Why then do none of us get any satisfaction from watching England?

It’s simple. The England football team is average. Our players are supported at club level by far superior team mates, allowing them to believe their own hype and inflated worth. Some of them are good, the majority are average. No better no worse. We usually qualify for the Quarter Finals and rarely look likely to go any further. So it has been, and so it shall ever be. And that’s fine. We turn up, we do our bit, we work hard, we bluster and we battle until we are inevitably undone by better players or a penalty shootout. We go out, as expected way before the Final but with heads held high. As English football fans we’re fine with that.

Or at least we were. You see, I can handle supporting an average team. Crikey, as a Watford fan I can handle supporting a less than average team. What is harder, much harder, is supporting an average team for which you have no affinity. I just have no relationship with this England team. As players they don’t mean anything to me. Some of the reasons for this aren’t the players fault. Many of them are.

So it’s come to this. During this World Cup I watched England. I didn’t support them. Of course I wanted them to win. I cheered when they scored, I groaned when they conceded – as a sports fan it’s in my DNA, it’s hardwired into me. I didn’t invest any emotional energy in them though. And you know what? I don’t think any of them did either.

So, what happens now? By way of an apology, I’d love all those England fans that travelled to South Africa to get free tickets to the next England game – a home friendly with Hungary. The perfect opportunity for those who invested not only emotionally but financially to have their say. The sound of 80,000 heartfelt boos and catcalls may be a wake up call for some, an insight as to what real people actually think of them and their antics.

I doubt it though. After all, what do we matter? As Gary Neville so tellingly once said; “The fans are important, but they aren’t the be all and end all”.

Well. We will see Gary. We will see.

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