A new year has begun, but the situation for Watford fans is pretty much the same as it has been ever since the Pozzos arrived. Essentially, we are the footballing equivalent of a lovesick teenager, desperate to win over the object of our affection – glamorous, certainly, but not completely unobtainable. In theory, at least.
Seen in this light, the play-off final against Palace was the school end-of-year dance where she arrived as our date, but left with someone else. Last season she wasn’t really interested, despite a few promising moments. And this year we’re back on the rollercoaster, hope alternating with despair.
So the Wolves game last week was that day you bump into her in the street in the rain, can’t think of anything to say, and end up looking wet and foolish. The Cardiff game a few days later was the school trip where, after a slow start, you remember how to be clever and charming and she laughs at your jokes (four times), and suddenly all is right with the world again.
(To extend this simile into the near future, the FA Cup tie against Chelsea on Sunday is the posh dance where you’ve somehow been paired with the richest and most beautiful girl in school, and which is almost certain to end in your complete humiliation.)
Like any lovelorn sixth-former, we spend our spare time agonising over the details that might make all the difference. Should we wear our snazziest shirt to the party on Saturday night, or the smart but understated one? 3-5-2 or 4-3-3? Go all out to impress her or play it cool? Vydra or Ighalo? Decisions, decisions.
Ultimately, all we can do is keep up the pursuit, hoping that the stars will align and we will achieve our heart’s desire. And, just to complicate matters, there’s a dark suspicion at the back of our minds that if we do succeed, the reality won’t live up to the anticipation – but let’s pursue that thought another day. New Year’s Day is nothing if not a time to be hopeful.