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02/03: Reports:

F.A. Cup Semi-Final, 13/04/03, 4.30pm
I let myself down...
By Rory Jiwani

An apology:

'I would like to apologise to all fellow Watford supporters for losing the plot when Southampton scored their second goal on Sunday. Instead of defiantly standing up, shouting louder and demanding greater efforts from the team, I slumped in my seat and cried my eyes out. I let you all down and, more than that, I let myself down....'

To be honest, I'm not sure what came over me. Maybe it was a flashback to 1984 and that dubious goal by Andy Gray (the difference is that I was six then and I'm twenty-five now, so should really have grown out of that sort of thing). Maybe I'd wanted us to get to the final so badly that I just couldn't handle the fact that we were almost certainly out. Or maybe it was because the lads had done us so proud in the match and throughout the competition that it was sad to go out in that fashion.

The fact is the team had done so unbelievably well to get there. And when they got to Villa Park they genuinely believed they could win and gave everything. Okay, some players did not play as well as they could have done but, as supporters, we really could not ask for anything more. Especially considering the plight of the club this season.

At a Supporters Trust meeting this season, future accounts were discussed. Unsurprisingly, the projected monies related to Cup competitions were based on one match in the League Cup and one in the FA Cup. If anyone in that room had even suggested that we would get to the Semis of the FA Cup, the men in white coats would have arrived soon after.

One thing I would say about the match itself was that it was eerily reminiscent of our one season in the Premiership. Plenty of spirit and endeavour but lacking in that vital end product required at this level. We had possession but never fully capitalised on it and when we slipped up at the back, we were ruthlessly punished. You could argue that we got a raw deal as far as the referee was concerned and we did not get the luck when it mattered but Southampton just had a bit too much for us.

The other thing about Sunday was the difference made by the return of a certain player from injury. Marcus Gayle has made the incredible transformation from underachieving striker to the best centre-half outside the Premiership. Well, have you seen anyone better this year? James Beattie has given Premiership defenders a torrid time this season, yet Gayle kept him out of the game. And he scored the goal that, at least, gave the Saints a nervy last few minutes. There are a few contenders for "Player of the Season" but I think I may have to plump for him.

Finally, all credit to Ray Lewington. Over the course of the season he has proved himself worthy of his appointment and put the heart back into the club. Compared to some of the anodyne performances in the Vialli era, Watford now play with real passion and the crowd has reflected that. We outsung Southampton for most of the game and the atmosphere around the club compared to twelve months ago is just so positive. Let's just say it's great to be a Watford fan again.

Thanks, lads.