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02/03: Review:
"Cardiff awaits the brave"
By Martin Patching
First published in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette, 10/04/03

In the build up to the FA Cup Semi-Final The Hornets earn two successive away wins. Saturdays amazing goalfest at Turf Moor was followed up with a more workmanlike 1-0 victory at Selhurst Park. Both wins left Watford's manager Ray Lewington beaming with pride.

Ray fielded two almost entirely different starting line-ups as the players competed for their places in the Villa Park showdown. Only two players, Gavin Mahon and Wayne Brown, appeared for the full 180 minutes.

Loan signing Michael Chopra's tally of four against Burnley could have been six or seven as the youngster demolished Stan Ternant's team with relish. Although failing to make the score sheet, Tommy Smith produced a fine display and I feel Tommy will make the starting line-up alongside the England Under-20 International striker.

Other team news relates to centre-back Marcus Gayle. "Marcus has improved in the last week and is not out of the picture," Ray Lewington said following Tuesday night's win.

Striker Heidar Helguson, sporting a cropped blond haircut, appeared for the last twenty minutes against Palace to prove his fitness following a short lay off. The competition for places is intense - "I would rather it be this way, instead of having to look around for players to play," Ray Lewington commented. Ray is very pleased with his squad and they go into the Semi-Final with a great chance.

Homegrown striker Jason Norville is also a player bang in form at the right time. Jason hit his first senior goal in Watford colours against Sheffield Wednesday. Shortly after coming on as a second half substitute at Burnley, Jason set up Michael Chopra's fourth goal and once again produced a skilful display at Selhurst Park in the second half on Tuesday night.

The Burnley result goes into the record books as one of Watford's finest hours, the most extraordinary game I have ever seen. Throughout the ninety minutes, both teams attacked with almost every effort on target resulting in a goal. Defensive coaches may have picked the game to pieces, but as far as entertainment goes it surpassed all the great games. As this week's flashback suggests, always expect the unexpected in football.

Good luck to the team on Sunday. We are all behind you and also very proud.

Have a great day. Cardiff awaits the brave.

A bit for BSaD:
The flashback above highlights one of the many highpoints in a football career. Watford 7 Southampton, top of the old First Division, 1. Surreal at the time, even more so with the passing of time.

Burnley 4 Watford 7? What a pleasure, were you there? I doubt it! I understand why, saving shillings for the Semi-Final party? It is not cheap, this away game malarkey, is it? I have been very fortunate over the last couple of seasons, my work with Simon Oxley of B.B.C. Three Counties Radio has enabled me to travel the length and breadth of our great country in style (I use the word loosely). I love the travel, England, the chats, new people, the strange things I spot on the way. Whilst cruising into deepest Lancashire on Saturday morning, a huge sign proclamed "WWW.JOBS IN ROCHDALE.CO.UK". With a glance and a raised eyebrow Simon and I agreed to agree, "I think not!" The previous sign stating "BURY LEISURE" paled into insignificance. In Wolverhampton, I found myself taken by the sign on a church door which offered "WE ARE OPEN ON SUNDAYS". I wish to remind readers that I did ask for a transfer from Molineux (not for that reason, however).

Onto Turf Moor and last season there was a distinct lack of the "sarnie and a brew" associated with our Coronation Street friends. We parked, purchased the finest chips, pie and gravy available. The price was around ten shillings, but when I produced a 2 coin, the lady serving called for help from the back. "Ay that's legal luv," the Burnley boy assured us all. Into the pressroom and to my amazement they've had a facelift. Plush, tidy, rented out through the week to local schools, very commendable.

For a club who recently released their best player and fans favourite, Glen Little, is it a good move? Certainly, the local and national press guys felt so as they helped themselves to the FREE pie and peas served up by our voluptuous host.

After my second helping, the penny, or coin, dropped as SKY TV's local correspondent announced "the pie tasting night went great lads, they've chosen t'same one as last year lads". This monumentous event was covered by football's owners! I do watch Corrie, on occasions; I do remember Bob Lord (do you?). Bob was the outspoken chairman at Burnley for many years (similar in stature to the landlord at Rovers Return, who also, coincidentally, produced pies). Are you getting my thread now? NO? Okay.

Prior to the FA Cup Quarter-Final, the present day Burnley chairman puts his pie to one side, phones his counterpart at Vicarage Road and it maybe went somewhat like this..."We've bin strugglin of late lad, what wit mad cow an fut n mouth an al that lad, an as fot 'umans, tha nose who a mean Graham lad, them players, they want money, money fort kikin ball. Hows tha fancy sharin tpot frt quarter final lad? I say, tha no it makes sense lad, I say, it makes sense." Maths? I wasn't too bad at school. However in pub retail, I became more aware of the "give-aways". Burnley's share of the Quarter-Final tie, in the main, will be squandered on free pies and other sundries. Glen Little has been loaned to Reading against his, and his manager's wishes, resulting in a drop in season ticket revenue for next term. Mistakes.

I had intended to preview the Semi-Final. Of course, I remember the 7-1 at Vicarage Road. An unforgettable occasion, even for the forgetful (me). I also remember the away defeat at The Dell, 4-0, annihilated!

The following day coincided with Watford's carnival week. As one, the players stood in the town centre, up by the pond, juggling footballs and signing autographs (embarrasing stuff considering what happened the previous evening). If anything, Graham Taylor's guile, and the support of the fans, earned the extra time win over the Saints. We, the players, riding the waves for others.

Villa Park and Semi-Finals? I shed my tears in the "home team" dressing room after Arsenal had beaten Wolves in 197something. Words can describe the dressing room despair, however at this late hour I cannot muster them. Having scored the winning goal against Crystal Palace to put Wolves in the Semi-Final, I found myself on the substitutes' bench for the big game. Of course, football was different in the seventies and I asked for a transfer because I felt let down. Wolves were losing 2-0 in the Semi-Final when I appeared as a second half substitute, hit the crossbar with my first touch (a Pat Rice story for another day), but The Gunners held on.

The build up was erotic, the game an event, the post-match...well...well...nothing...empty is the only word to fill a void of heartbreak.

The Wolves directors and chairmen held a party, should we win or lose. The latter occured and as I left the lukewarm affair, I was confronted by one of the few former Wolves chairman yet to have a stand named after him. Mr Harry Marshell asked "Well, who do you think will want to sign you, Martin?"

"More clubs than will wish to have you as a chairman," came my reply.

I remain the same.

Wales is fine in May!

See you there.


In the charts:
Tainted Love by Soft Cell

Football League Cup 2nd round, 2nd leg
Watford 7 Southampton 1
Team: Steele. Henderson, Bolton, Sims, Jackett. Blissett, Patching, Train, Rostron. Jenkins, Poskett.
Sub: Callaghan
Scorers: Bolton, Jenkins, Train, Patching, Poskett (2) and Callaghan.
Att: 15,992

Reproduced courtesy of Gazette Newspapers