So I finally got to go to my first home game of the season yesterday. Just like every season since 1970, my excitement mounted as I traced the familiar route over the railway bridge, along Cardiff Road and up Occupation Road, past the allotments.
Inside the ground, nothing much seems to have changed. There’s a big banner at the back of the Vicarage Road stand, and the half-finished block in the south-west corner has been blocked up in such a way as to suggest it might actually get finished at some point. That’s about it.
There was certainly a bigger crowd than you’d expect for a regular league game against Charlton (I’ve rarely seen the Rous so full), and I was expecting more atmosphere, what with the much-heralded founding of The 1881. I thought there were going to be giant flags, constant noise, new songs? True, a persistent drumbeat and attempts to keep the singing going wafted over from the south-west corner of the Rookery, but it hardly turned the Vic into a cauldron of noise. Early days, I suppose.
To be fair, the action on the pitch was hardly conducive to a great atmosphere. It’s early days for the team as well; it still has the look of a group of players who are getting to know each other, with occasional flashes of genius punctuating long passages of ponderous passing. It was the same at this stage last season, of course, and we know how that turned out, so I’m not overly concerned yet. At least we didn’t lose.
Just to put the tin lid on a rather disappointing day, my Official Favourite Player (for the 23rd season running, or something of the sort), Lloyd Doyley, wasn’t even playing – presumably rested after his international exertions, rather than dropped, which would be madness. One day I’m going to have to pick a new favourite player, but let’s not hope it’s for a few more seasons yet. On the evidence of yesterday, we still need his speed and nous at the back.