Thursday, 11 February 2010

Is half a game worse than no game at all?

For the first time that I can remember, I missed a Watford goal – two of them, in fact – on Tuesday, having only arrived at half-time. Not my fault, but the result of one of those hugely frustrating cock-ups that only the British railway system seems capable of, which meant that I spent the best part of an hour on an overcrowded train at Euston, waiting for it to leave. I won’t bore you with the details.

Having arrived at Watford Junction at 8.15 and run/power-walked to the Vic just in time to hear the half-time whistle, I then had to sit through a second half that made a mockery of the effort I’d made to witness it.

I was going to write that this was the first time I’d ever missed the entire first half of a football match, but then I remembered that it wasn’t quite true. Back in the late 80s I went Interrailing with my friend Andy, and we spent a hectic (and sweltering) August day in Munich: Dachau concentration camp in the morning, the obligatory visit to a beer hall in the evening, and in between, what else but a trip to the Olympic Stadium to watch Bayern Munich in action. (I’m sure the city has some fine museums, galleries and historic buildings, but we only had one day and you’ve got to get your priorities right.)

It was a cunning plan, and I thought I’d cracked it when I consulted a tube map and found there was a station right by the ground. True, there was an asterisk leading to a note that said ‘only open on matchdays’, but that was no problem; this was a matchday, wasn’t it?

I don’t know if I misread the map, or if there was some exception to the rule I wasn’t aware of. I just remember the train ending its journey at the station before the one we wanted and the conductor turfing us off. Okay, we’ll get a bus, we thought – except that there weren’t any due at the stop outside the station for hours. The whole area was deserted, in fact, as only German towns can be on Saturday afternoons, when the shops close and everyone stays at home.

And so we ended up walking to the Olympic Stadium, through a vast residential area that was originally the 1972 Olympic Village, arriving – yes – in time to see the second half of the match (though we still had to pay the full ticket price,). I can’t remember who Bayern were playing, but I do remember that the inside of the stadium was unlike any I’d been in before and since –and that the 45 minutes of football I saw that day was a damn sight more entertaining than the second half against Bristol City.

Next time I’ll be getting an earlier train, that’s for sure.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

This is getting ridiculous

Having finally seen (and thoroughly enjoyed) my first Watford game since mid-December last night, I was disappointed to hear that the Palace match on Saturday 13th has had to be postponed because of their continued involvement in the FA Cup.

It can’t be helped, I suppose, but it does mean that Watford’s first home game on a Saturday afternoon in 2010 will be on February 27th - which is, quite frankly, ridiculous. I enjoy midweek games, but they are a bit of a chore to get to and from, especially in the depths of winter. Then there’s the inevitably smaller attendance for midweek games (I’m sure Sheffield United would have brought more fans down on a weekend), which hits the club’s bank balance at a time when every penny counts.

I’ve just worked out that of our 17 remaining league games, a maximum of five will take place on a Saturday afternoon at Vicarage Road - and that’s assuming that none get moved for TV. Like I said, ridiculous.