Not an armchair fan
By Richard Holmes
I have just watched our wonderful result against Burnley, some three thousand miles away from 'The Vic'. And I am not an armchair fan. I left the shores of England for a three year stay in the USA, after our Premiership season ended (that wasn't the reason I left!). Although I really miss watching the games and going to the pub afterwards, the overall benefits of living here outweigh being at home. So far.
However, this weekend was a little different. The Quarter Finals of the FA Cup, and a really good chance of progressing. A full stadium which I knew would be eighty percent yellow. I spent the week before desperately scanning the TV guide and their websites to see if we would be on. I found out on Thursday that we would....but it would be on Monday afternoon, some thirty-two hours after the game finished. My two choices: find out the result as soon as it happens, or wait and watch it 'kinda live'. I had to go for the latter. If I had known the score - and we lost - would I be able to sit through it, and hence give up my chance to see us on TV?
I went away for the weekend. I had to. I woke up early on Sunday morning, to see that it was twenty minutes before kick-off. I was thinking of my friends and family in the ground. The tension and excitement. The pride I felt as I put my Watford shirt on. I spent the day in beautiful sunshine, walking around a couple of old towns (in American terms!). Not five minutes went by without thinking "what are we doing?", "it's half-time now", etc, etc. I went around a stunning state park and sat on a picturesque beach. Not five minutes went by...(you get the picture).
The game. Luckily it is Spring Break here, so I could sneak off home for a couple of hours. Pangs of homesickness came over me as the teams walked out to the sea of yellow. I'm not sure I have ever seen so many balloons on the pitch before.
I was on the edge of my 'lazyboy' seat (the ones you normally tip back on) for ninety-three minutes. The first ten minutes I was so nervous, that I thought about phoning home, or logging into the Internet, just to put myself out of my misery.
Half-time lucky chocolate - none. Two visits to the bathroom (sorry, bog!). A coke (no beer - I had to go back to work).
The game was not pretty - it was never going to be - and I wonder how an American would have perceived it (I'll have to look hard to find one who watched!). I was very impressed with Gayle at the back, and I remember Helguson, Robbo, Hyde, etc. We were the better side and certainly showed some flashes of skill, which looked tricky on that pitch (what happened to the lush green grass?). But I had watched Burnley demolish Fulham, and was particularly anxious about Gareth Taylor and any crosses or corners.
The first goal I was up and jumping (what must the neighbours have thought - sports here do not generate this kind of passion). I had a horrible thought that it had been disallowed, as there didn't seem like a loud cheer. It seems that the TV companies here turn the crowd noise down for football. But it wasn't, and I was running around the room. However, this began an even more anxious time. Obviously the second goal, and more jumping up and down helped. But even the last ten minutes - and extra four (where did that come from?) - when we were 2-0 up and Burnley had given up (I have been a Watford fan for too long and have seen too many games when we have hung on - or not) kept me on the edge of the lazyboy.
I will check prices for flights home in the middle of April, and, don't quote me on this - if there is a war, people won't want to fly, and prices will come down....