Sunday, 27 April 2008

Must we throw this filth at our kids?

On my way to the game yesterday, I found myself walking along Liverpool Road and up Occupation Road behind a man and his young son. From the questions the boy was asking, it was clear that this was his very first football match. For instance, he asked if there would be commentary, like on the telly, and his dad had to explain that no, there wouldn’t, but they would announce the names of goalscorers and substitutes.

Mind you, dad was clearly far from an expert himself: when his son asked what time the match kicked off, he answered with a rather hesitant “Three o’clock – at least, I think so.” Apparently he’d only been to two football matches before: a Bristol derby when he was a student in that city, and a Liverpool v Everton FA Cup final at Wembley which ended in a draw, which must therefore have been the 1989 final.

The main question going through my head at this stage was: why now? Why break an 18-year gap between matches with Watford v Scunthorpe? Dad wasn’t dressed smartly enough for one of the corporate hospitality areas, so they were presumably attending as paying punters. And it seemed unlikely they were armchair Hornets who’d finally decided to see a match in person, especially as dad reeled off a list of all the replica shirts the boy owned, which included those of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

In contrast, after the match, the main question that occurred to me was: would either of them ever return to Vicarage Road? Why would anyone want to sit through another 90 minutes of the tentative, unimaginative football currently served up by Aidy’s team, unless (like me) they had years of emotional investment in the club?

Then again, my first game at Vicarage Road was in 1970, a season when we only won six games and scored 18 goals at home. From there it got steadily worse, with two relegations in the next four seasons - but somehow it didn’t matter to me, and I was still there when GT arrived to make everything better.

So maybe that innocent little six-year-old won’t have been put off by the shower of shite he witnessed yesterday. As for me, I just want the season to be over now.

Monday, 7 April 2008

The joy of bets

The HornetsBet link is one of the better features of the official site – which, let’s face it, no one would bother with if it wasn’t for the occasional snippet of genuine news lurking among the marketing messages.

I usually have a few punts before each home game, betting a maximum of five quid on various items, at anything between one pound and two pounds fifty a time. First goalscorer is one of my more successful categories, as the odds are so crudely calculated (not surprisingly, since the Bet365 site as a whole carries odds for a bewildering variety of sporting possibilities). Strikers get the shortest odds, then wingers, central midfielders, centre-backs and finally full-backs – okay, it’s slightly more complicated than that, but not a lot. So if your side has a regular penalty taker who doesn’t play up front, for instance, the odds on him getting the first goal will be longer than they should be.

In Watford’s case, this means that Danny Shittu is usually a decent 16-1 to score the first goal in a game, despite his record this year; ditto John-Joe O’Toole, who looks to have more goals in him than most Hornets midfielders of recent years.

Since I’m putting on such small amounts, it’s barely worth betting on anything where the odds are shorter than 10-1. I often have a punt on a slightly unlikely score - usually 3-1 (NB: I never, ever bet against Watford), since we’ve won a few games by that score this season - and sometimes I try one of the ‘Match specials’, things like ‘Watford to score a penalty’ (actually, I don’t think I’ve ever put money on that) or ‘Watford to win from behind’.

And finally, just for fun, I usually do a ‘Scorecast’, where you have to predict not only the first goalscorer, but also the final score. It’s a bit like a horse racing accumulator, and just as unlikely to come off. So if I could work out why, when I sat down to place my bets on Saturday morning, I selected ‘Nathan Ellington’ and ‘Watford win 2-1’ from the dropdown menus - what mystical force was influencing my mouse hand, what powerful visions of the future I was subconsciously channelling – I’d gladly tell you. The truth is, it seemed as likely as any other eventuality in this topsy-turvy season, and as a result I’m now £35 richer.

PS: Well, you didn’t expect me to write about the actual match, did you?