Sunday, 26 April 2015

10 reasons why it’s great to be a Hornet

I’m sure I’m not the only Watford fan who is still utterly incapable of calm, dispassionate analysis of our season or the implications of yesterday’s results for the club’s future. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I keep spontaneously breaking into a rendition of ‘Tommie Hoban’s having a party...’ and finding myself grinning stupidly at inappropriate moments.

Still, I had to mark the moment somehow, so here’s my list of 10 reasons why it’s great to be a Hornet right now:

1) The Pozzo family...
2) ... thanks to whom we finally have a proper four-sided ground again, complete with stands rightly named after the two people who did more than anything to establish the Watford FC we know and love today
3) We’ve got Lloydinho...
4) ... and, possibly more importantly for the outcome of this season, Troydeeneyo
5) The 1881, who’ve achieved the improbable feat of making Vicarage Road a cauldron of noise
6) The many and varied media channels that comment on and support the Hornets, all of them unfailingly classy and intelligent: the Watford Observer’s simultaneously passionate and objective reports, the brilliant From The Rookery End podcast, the always shrewd and witty BHappy blogs, the ever-growing archive of Watford lore that is the Tales From The Vicarage series of books, plus other bloggers and tweeters too numerous to mention
7) Goals galore. While Chelsea fans watch their team bore their way to the Premier League title, we’ve seen lots and lots and lots of fabulous goals this season. And I write as someone who missed the home win against Blackpool
8) Slav. A different kind of manager, and exactly what we needed this season. Focused, intelligent and fearless. Deserves a shot at the big time
9) We will hopefully never again have to play our supposed rivals from a horrible town in Bedfordshire that I can’t bring myself to name, who are currently, and deservedly, marooned in League Two
10 Last, but most certainly not least... We are going up, I said we are going up!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Approaching the bell

Most track and field events are fairly easy for the casual viewer to appreciate. All the track races up to and including 1500m are over in less than four minutes, while each individual jump or throw is self-contained; even if you don’t see the whole competition, success and failure are usually easy to tell apart.

The 10,000m, though, is more of an acquired taste: 25 laps of the track in which nothing much seems to happen until the very end. Indeed, unless you attend an athletics meeting in the flesh, you’re unlikely to get the chance to watch an entire race from start to finish; TV producers tend to show the start and finish, filling in the dull middle laps by covering the field events. You can often see the 10,000m runners in the background, on their way to completing yet another circuit of the track.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. I reckon a 10,000m race has a lot in common with this season in the Championship. After a blanket start, a few runners soon drop off the back of the pack, clearly destined to be lapped (relegated). The rest trail round and round the track in a long line in which the exact order changes regularly. More are gradually dropped as the relentless pace takes its toll. Meanwhile, at the front, the big guns take it in turns to lead, focusing on being in the right position at the business end of the race.

And when the end is finally in sight, with 600m or so to go, the strongest runners slip into a higher gear and sprint the final lap, trusting that they’ve got enough in the tank to hold off the opposition. Mo Farah is the modern master of the sprint finish, of course, taking off as if turbocharged. In the big races in recent years, no one has been able to stay with him.

I won’t spell out all the parallels with the Championship season. The point is that the runners in this particular race are approaching the bell that signals the final lap. The pack is down to eight – though a couple of those are barely clinging on to their hopes of automatic promotion – and this weekend’s fixtures are the equivalent of one of those periodic surges when the leaders try to shape off the weaker runners. The question is, are we Mo Farah (or at least one of the Ethiopians and Kenyans who invariably win silver and bronze behind him)?

No one knows how this race is going to end. But if we’re still in the leading pack on Monday night, we’ll have given ourselves the best possible chance of going up automatically. C’mon you ’Orns!