Sunday, 11 November 2012

Best. Awayday. Ever.

One of the benefits of being married to a Yorkshire lass is that I get to lord it over Leeds fans. My other half comes from Ossett, a few miles south of Leeds, and many of her male relatives and her friends’ husbands support United – and fortuitously, for much of the 10 years that we’ve been together, Watford have outperformed Leeds for what is probably the only prolonged such period in football history. The Championship Play-off Final in Cardiff was a particular highlight, obviously, but opportunities for smugness keep on coming.

For the last three seasons I’ve made the trip to Elland Road in the company of Richard, the husband of one of my wife’s oldest friends and a long-suffering Leeds fan. Having watched his first game in 1967, he’s witnessed plenty of glory in his time, but has nothing but contempt for the current regime, and refuses to put money in Ken Bates’s pocket by going to games – other than my annual visit, bless him. Two years ago we saw a 2-2 draw (with the Hornets only minutes away from an unlikely win), and last season we won 2-0.

But nothing could have prepared me (or Richard) for yesterday’s match, one of the most extraordinarily action-packed games I’ve ever seen. You’ll have seen the match reports, so I won’t run through the litany of incidents here. The point I want to make it is that the identity of the opposition made it exquisitely enjoyable – it just wouldn’t have been so much fun if that had happened to Derby, say, or Ipswich. Now I’m looking forward to dropping the result into the conversation at forthcoming family parties. Winning 6-1 is all very well – but it’s the opportunity to gloat that makes it special.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

Before the game yesterday, I popped into the Red Lion to have a chat with Lionel Birnie about Tales from the Vicarage, which he was selling there. The place was rammed with Hornets fans watching the Man U-Arsenal game on TV, and when I went to get us a couple of drinks, I found the queue at the bar was three deep.

After a few minutes, I spotted a precious couple of feet of space at the bar opening up, and used the technique (known to all Englishmen) of angling my shoulder into a narrow gap in order to ease the rest of my body through and claim the space.

Then a voice came from behind me: “If you don’t mind, I think I was in front of you.” The man didn’t sound aggressive, more irritated, but in any case I quickly stepped back and made way for him, apologising as I did so.

A moment or two later, he turned round. “I’m sorry mate, I didn’t mean to have a go at you,” he said. I assured him that it was okay, and that he was quite within his rights to say what he did. These things happened in busy pubs.

But that wasn’t the end of it. After a couple more minutes (I told you they were busy), he turned round again. “Look, you go in front of me. I shouldn’t have said that.” I told him again that it was fine, but he insisted, so I took advantage of the offer, assuring him that I’d be quick, as I was only getting two pints.

I dare say similar scenes were being enacted in pre-match pubs elsewhere in the country at the same time, but it struck me later that this trivial incident tells you a lot about Watford fans. We are, essentially, nice people who want to get on with everyone and don’t like upsetting others. It might mean that Vicarage Road is anything but a scary place for opposing teams, but, on the whole, I think it’s a good thing.