The non-football stuff *
By Mike Peter
Another game, another season. Here we go again! To be honest, I wasn't at all looking forward to the drive up from New Forest home. It was boiling and I was sweaty and covered in salt. If I baked anymore, I might turn into a pretzel, something all in all I wouldn't particularly like. Thankfully I had forgotten all about the air conditioning in my new car and so drifted into a deep sleep and therefore missed the, erm, beautiful scenery off the M3 which I'm so used to.
Parking in Holywell, we started up to the ground, indulging in the jealous looks from other fans as they saw me step out from the luxurious Astra. "Yeah, it's nice, isn't it? No, ah, don't force the door." Okay, maybe they weren't trying to force the door. There were no jealous looks. There were a couple of people sitting on a step who might have looked at me though.
We slipped through our Lower Rous turnstiles and down to the steps to our new seats. Mmm, they seem all right. No stupid whiny kid who screams if we don't play Brazil style football and win 29-0.
After arriving surprisingly early, I took the chance to observe the changes to the ground. Nice fence in the Vic Road end. Much better than that black netting stuff, which frankly, couldn't stop an ancient goat with a dangerously weak bladder from attacking all those Horns who sit in the Vic. All we needs now is couple of watch towers, a few machine gun turrets and some vicious Alsatians for the Luton game!
Oh, they've stripped the Gene Kelly stand of all its seats. It seems it's now the exclusive property of one steward who'll soon have the amazing opportunity of wearing the singularly most embarrassing piece of rainwear since, well, ever. It'll have sunk in by now. Where is the Gene Kelly stand, you ask? Well, it's a hilarious in-joke in my family. Well, my Dad anyway. Ho ho ho. Great. Yeah. Move on!
Finally, the teams come out. Hmmm, no "Z-Cars". Despite my disappointment, I was still able to survey the latest fashion disasters. Dominic Foley, it seems, has decided to dye his blonde hair...blonde. And rather badly at that. It now looks like that tray from primary school art classes where you mixed every single colour paint to see what it looked like. The goalkeeping kit has changed. Green again. It clashes very badly with the Toshiba logo. Kit@ (Where the club decided Kit wasn't snazzy enough and randomly pressed a button on a keyboard - a bit like Liberty X) may be trying to go back to the grass roots of goalkeeper tops but have ended up with what looks like the grass roots of my compost bin.
So the game begins. Slowly I drift to my programme. They honestly should put a little time-lock on those things so I can't open them during the game. I always end up seeing more of "Ray's Way" (?) than the football. Turns out Matt Langston is trying an "Alex from Big Brother", hairstyle-wise. I was wondering whether Alex would have sunk so low as to do that Domestos advert. Now I know! It's Matt Langston! He obviously realised he'd never get onto TV with Watford.
So to half-time. Maybe my seat wasn't as good as I had first imagined. I know I'd made a resolution to get fit during the summer but I didn't expect to be doing squat-thrusts at a game, jumping in and out of my seat as hundreds of kids career past me. If this continues I'll start taking it seriously, screaming "Come on Mike, keep your heart rate up!" as I jump from seat for the fiftieth time in five minutes.
Back to the game. As I listen to my Uncle mouth off about Jamie Hand (or "Him in the green boots.") my eyes wander over to the main stand. If everything had gone to plan, it would have been a pile of rubble by now. However it was still there, menacingly staring back at me.
To avoid its gaze, I turned to the programme. Turns out Harry's is over-eighteens only. There go my plans for before Saturday's game. I travel a two hundred mile round trip for every home game and I'm not allowed to use the facilities. Call yourself a family club? Hah! I know there are laws but make an area where drink isn't served, like in almost all pubs and bars, so children can come in! Or at least teenagers. Perhaps just me. Tim Shaw, expect a letter, you ugly goon.
More bad news. Stupid whiny kid may be no more but there's someone new in my footballing world of pain. Incredibly stupid kid. "Come on Galli!" he screams at Marcus Gayle, seconds after he's asked his Dad who's left in the summer and been answered with "Well, Filippo Galli, Ramon Vega...." I mentally turn my ears off and watch Paolo Vernazza step onto the field sporting a hairstyle which surely must be withheld by some sort of hair net when he's sleeping.
We're now entering the last five minutes. Suddenly there's a thunder of seats. People all around us are streaming down the steps and to the exits. Now, I've sat in the Rous Stand for a while and I know we've got a bit of a reputation for being early leavers. Before I sort of dismissed it. Sure people exited, but not that many. I used to sit in seats behind someone who might have been Matt Bentote and next to some woman who ate Twixes and never said a word. We never left early. I was angry.
Incredibly stupid kid turns to his father and declares "Can't we go now Dad? They're not going to score." This after Cox had planted a header just past the post and Watford were looking more dangerous than anytime previously. Before I had put his lack of brain power down to being a new boy in the crowd, he looked pretty young, so I made allowances (I couldn't say Gerard Lavin). This was just plain stupid. How anyone can find the insides of a car more interesting than even the worst Watford game is beyond me.
The final whistle blew and I made my way towards the now not-very-accessible exit. The logical thing to do would be too open an exit on both ends of the stand, but no! So I was now caught at the back of the crowd pushing towards one small exit. A small toddler, carried by his father, engaged me in conversation. "I'm going home," he said. It was a feeling I shared.
Back to the miraculously un-stolen car and after a quick stop off at Tesco it was back down the M3, discussing Neal Ardley, the absence of Nick Wright from the team photo and how Villa are going, to put it nicely, to do "not very well" this season. Eight months of this rubbish? Heaven.
* Alternatively entitled "Things I do at a football match - self indulgent rubbish by Michael Peter Esq".