It would seem somewhat wrong not to mention England's Rugby victory against the Aussies on the 22nd November. Johnny Wilkinson! Hurrah! I'm sure I wasn't the only one with just a passive interest in rugby sitting in front of the TV, if not cheering, at least supporting. And Kevin Muscat has been made to wear an England rugby shirt in training, surely the most satisfying aspect of our victory. But why I am I starting this article with this? Allow me to explain....
Since England won there's been a lot of correspondence about how the rugby team is far more professional and down to earth than their football counterparts. Admittedly I have no great caring for the current England side, generally all flashy cash and boring 1-0 wins. However I feel that attacking the football team is slightly unfair. For one, whilst watching the rugby I spotted several stamps, high tackles, etc. Now this may not be in the public eye as much as, say, the diving in football. However rugby isn't normally the most popular sport in the UK, and if it was I'm sure there'd be lots of media talk about getting rid of the "disgusting stamping in the game" and so on. It's also worth noting that rugby has only just turned professional and maybe in eighty years' time they'll be earning the sort of wages that footballers are. Mind you, if asked which team I prefer, I'd go for the rugby team every time.
Okay, let's get onto Watford matters, shall we? So how has November gone? Well, for me it has been hugely encouraging. In a month where I expected losses against Norwich, West Ham, Forest and Reading, to only have lost one of them is fantastic. Watford have played well, beating Norwich on their own turf, getting draws against Forest and the Hammers and only having lost to last minute goals against Preston and Reading makes a hugely successful month.
On the 1st, Watford faced a not very good Rotherham side. To only have won 1-0 was surprising, because as it with Bradford the previous month it could have been more. Still, three points in the bag and all that. Also on the same day Saracens beat Rotherham's rugby team...amusing, eh? Never say I'm not funny....
Next was a midweek game against Preston, who it seems we're never going to face on a weekend. Alas we also never win there and that was the case this time. Until the very last minutes I thought we might get a draw, until Preston substitute Pavel Abbott got their winner. Yet another late goal lost Watford points, in what is becoming a regular occurrence.
A game away at Forest marked the first of the "difficult games." Although Watford have done rather well at the City Ground in recent years I wasn't expecting much. However Watford came out of it with a 1-1 draw, a fair result, despite Forest's recent lack of form. Lee Cook scored his first Watford, if not career, goal.
On the 15th, Watford visited a Norwich side who hadn't lost at home all season and needed a win to secure a first place position. Add to this Premiership loanees Crouch, Huckerby and Harper (luckily two of them were suspended), Devlin and Hyde on international duty and a notorious streak of bad from at Carrow Road, securing a point wasn't at all likely. But Watford came away with their greatest result of the season so far, even managing to let a goal in and hold on, a very unusual occurrence in a Watford game. An extremely satisfying result, especially for the BWLers, who'd had a massive slanging match with Norwich fans.
Against West Ham, Watford did everything but score. On a slow, wet pitch Watford gave a marvellous second half performance. They simply tore West Ham to bits. I don't think I've seen a 0-0 with so much action. Well, I probably have, but I'm perfectly happy to lie.
An away trip to Reading rounded up the month for Watford. With a decent 1-1 draw on the cards yet again Watford threw it all away with yet another late goal. Of course the cross for the goal was about four inches over the by-line but it is rather worrying the way we seem to switch off once eighty minutes are gone.
My game tally was up one this month as I also attended a reserve game, my annual trip to see Watford reserves play their Southampton counterparts at the Saint's Staplewood training ground. This fixture is always enjoyable, whatever the result, and I'd recommend that every fan gets to at least one reserve game per season. You can hear the players shout (Lloyd Doyley sounds like Frank Bruno) and they pass within about one yard of you. There's also the chance to spot the stars of tomorrow, perhaps the most interesting that night being Gauthier Diafutua, who Nigel Gibbs likes to call "goat". Unfortunately on this occasion an extremely young Watford side (Joel Grant, one of the strikers, was younger than me, which depressed me somewhat) (You'll get used to it - Ed) lost 4-0 to a Saints side that included Tessem, Prutton and Ormerod amongst others.
Off the pitch, extension was the key word this month. Lenny Pidgeley has done extremely well again this month and his loan's extension to the end of the season bodes well for a permanent deal. Scott Fitzgerald has also reaped the rewards of an extended first team run by bagging himself a contract extension until 2006. Eight goals so far is way more than we could have expected from Fitzgerald, who although it may be hard to believe was playing non-league football in March.
The transfer of Marlon Harewood to West Ham induced a late month flurry of speculation about Forest signing Danny Webber. The loss of Webber, who has been playing well over the past few months, would have perhaps been too much for a Watford support that has lost the iconic Robbo and Johnno (Mr November in 2003 calendar, I might add). However we need not have worried, as Forest's favourite has always been another Marlon, in this case King.
The only other bit of significant sporting news this month is the Euro 2004 draw. In case you don't know, England have drawn France, Switzerland and Croatia. I'm confident that England can come out of this group but it may be more difficult that some may think. Switzerland won their group and Croatia always do rather well in the tournaments. And a loss to France seems pretty inevitable.
As for Watford, they are approaching the end of the difficult run, with only Sheffield United to go. Our confidence has been high and we've been playing some extremely satisfying football. We may be in the lower echelons of the league right now but I feel progress up the league is only inevitable. Playoffs, anyone?