My 10-year-old niece was staying with us at the weekend, and I took her to the Huddersfield game – her first football match.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those ‘cute things kids say’ pieces: Susie sat silent throughout, to such an extent that I occasionally worried she might have frozen to death without me noticing. Nor am I about to expound on the insights gained from seeing the game from the perspective of a newcomer. Like I say, she barely spoke a word, so I’m none the wiser as to what Championship football looks like through a child’s eyes.
No, the main thing I wanted to say is that I simultaneously envy and pity her. Envy, because she witnessed a far higher standard of football at her first game than I did back in 1970, when I somehow managed to fall in love with a Watford team scuffling around at the bottom of the old Second Division. And as for that goal, I hope I managed to convey to Susie just how lucky she was to be there to witness it. She could watch football for the next 10 years and not see anything half as good.
But that may also be a reason to pity her a little. In football, as in life in general, good things are more enjoyable when you’ve had to go through some dross to get to them. For me, the Golden Era of Watford was all the more special because I’d watched us spiral downwards through the divisions. A fan who came on board in 1977 will have had a very different experience of watching the Hornets (though they got their payback in the late 80s and early 90s).
For the record, Susie assured me afterwards that she really enjoyed the match. (And she took the bitter cold in her stride; my teeth were chattering by the start of the second half, while she never even bothered zipping her coat up properly.) Maybe she’ll become a regular at the Vic, maybe she’ll never go again. Either way, I’m glad she got to see something a bit special.