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02/03: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 17/08/02, 3pm
Franchise FC
By Colin Wiggins

That felt so good! Incandescent rage, screeched inarticulate insults of which the only intelligible words are 'linesman' and 'cretin'. Seconds later, following that numbing sense of deflation that comes with a late equalizer.... rapture. I have no idea who it was that set up Allan Nielsen to blast his winning volley into the Rookery End net but I can still see it in slow motion. It's one of those goals I'll never forget, not just because it was a late winner but because of what the goal stood for.

I've got my club back. Last season, Wimbledon's equaliser would have been the end of it. After the match we'd have listened to a manager bleating about being unlucky. A group of players in yellow shirts, some not interested, some demoralised, would have walked off to near silence. This season...passion, spirit, determination, pride, never say die. The spectacle of virtually the whole Watford side, mouths gaping, eyes bulging with blank incredulity, watching the big screen replay of a goal that was at least a mile offside, was (with hindsight) actually very funny. They stared in stunned disbelief towards the touchline, like punch drunk boxers. Robbo looked as if he was trying to do an impression of the Troll from Harry Potter. Every last one of them looked as if he wanted to brain the idiot with the flag. Then they thought they'd win the game instead. That desire shown by everyone on Saturday was simply not there last year, as we waited for the players to 'gel' whilst we were being sniped at from a management team that sneered at the achievements of the past.

When Vialli was sacked I wrote in anger, venting my rage at the board. But now they've got it right. It takes courage to admit to mistakes, especially big ones, but they've stood up and done it. Watford FC is in a mess but are now on the way out of it. The club, the new manager and the supporters are all together. Despite what we are constantly told, football is a sport not a business. Sporting values can prevail, as AFC Wimbledon so brilliantly demonstrate.

Yes, we still have a rickety old stand but one day the Graham Taylor Stand WILL be built there. Of course, we all know that this won't be for a few years yet but when it is opened I will look back to that moment when I knew for sure that the recovery had started. Cheers to Allan Neilsen, a cracking goal, loaded with rich, rich symbolism.