Saturday, 12 June 2010

Random World Cup memories no.1

Watching Jay Demerit playing for the USA against England just now reminded me of the first time I ever saw a Watford player in the World Cup.

It was the summer of 1982 and I was living in a village in (West) Germany called Rüchheim, just outside Ludwigshafen, where I was supposedly perfecting my German, prior to going to university, by working in a printing works. (All that really happened was that I acquired a Rhineland accent, which is roughly the equivalent of a nice middle-class boy from Berlin coming to the UK and learning to speak English like Noddy Holder.) It was a miserable, lonely few months for a teenager who’d never spent more than a fortnight away from home before, but at least the owners of the house where I was boarding allowed me to watch their TV occasionally.

It wasn’t an offer I took them up on very often (if you’ve ever seen German television, you’ll understand why), but when the World Cup rolled around I was grateful. Which is how I came to be watching when Northern Ireland played Spain in a fateful group match. And when Gerry Armstrong scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game, I practically leapt out of my seat. “Der spielt für meine Mannschaft - für Watford!” I gibbered, flabbergasted at seeing a Watford player not only appearing in the World Cup (and I’m pretty sure he was the first one ever to do so), but playing a leading role there. I spent the rest of the match trying to explain to my baffled hosts why I was so excited.

Since then I’ve seen John Barnes come within a whisker of putting England level against Argentina (‘hand of god’ notwithstanding), but apart from that, Watford-related World Cup highlights have been thin on the ground. The funny thing is, I can’t remember a single goal Gerry Armstrong scored for Watford, even though I must have seen plenty of them.

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