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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
04/05: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 11/12/04, 3.00pm
Watford
versus
Wolverhampton Wanderers
 
Coded messages
By Pete Bradshaw

I didn't go....

14 August 1954. All Saints' Church South Oxhey. The wedding of Mr Eric Stanley Ronald Bradshaw and Miss Josephine Ellen Withers.

Needless to say, I wasn't there. I'm not that old. But my parents' wedding was undoubtedly a joyous occasion, despite the impoverished surroundings of the post-war London County Council estate and its functional parish church.

Fifty years later and a Golden Wedding celebration. Not in August, that would have been too conventional. But in December. My brother and his family down from Langley Park, County Durham (home of Sir Bobby Robson, ex England manager). A weekend away in the Peak District tucked away on a farm in the extreme east of Staffordshire.

One hundred and fifty miles away, another golden celebration. The faithful come to Vicarage Road. To see another ex-England manager and his new found charges. Wolves. Memories of past games come flooding back. Foremost is the 5-0 win at Molyneux. Mo Johnston hat trick. Kenny Jackett imperious. The cup win, 3-0 against all the odds. And then more recent times. Kerry Dixon fumbling around. Kevin Phillips scoring a late equaliser in a game in which we were outplayed.

Not quite like the 1950s, but certainly of a different era, this Saturday. We went to Ashbourne for lunch and shopping. No radio to hand. No way of knowing what was going on. In the market we hear the unmistakeable sound local radio. "Last season Derby beat Forest by four goals to two. This season another emphatic victory by three goals to nil." It must be nice to have emphatic victories in the league.

A text message. Ah yes, I'd forgotten that. "H 1 0." The coded message brings a smile to my face. Another "Dyche out, Devlin, Ards in."

Another, "1 1." I suppose Olafinjana would be a bit much for predictive text.

A third "HT 1 1. We're being totally outplayed." My heart sinks. Totally outplayed again, I think. After West Ham and bits of the Leeds game, we're being taken apart by Glenn Hoddle's Wolves. That hurts. And with no Dyche either he missed the game at Crewe, I seem to recall.... We go back to the farm.

I await the final score. Nothing. There is no signal here. Just like the old days. We have no way of knowing the score. I'd missed "Final Score" or whatever they call that thing with Ray Stubbs. I'd missed Sports Report, or whatever they call that thing on Radio Five Live. I couldn't get the scores from Division Two, or whatever they call it, on my WAP phone. For reasons that pass me by I can't bring myself to look at the teletext. Somehow I want this grief to be private, I guess. Not something to share with all the family. I go upstairs. Maybe the signal is stronger.

Eventually, at about 9.20 the message comes through."FT 1 1, much better second half, MoM Richard Lee." Phew. Another draw maybe, but not a defeat and only twenty-one points left to get. Six wins, anyone?

Sunday evening, I arrive back home. Look at the Watford FC website and see that Ray is somewhat disappointed. Look a BSaD and see nothing. Oh well, I'm sure someone will do a report on Monday. I could give Lee 4* on the basis of my text messages but would be stumped beyond that.

It is very odd missing games when you've so little communication with the outside world. Back in the days when I first started watching Watford, away games were a mystery only partially cleared up by the Sports Echo report. Now I usually feel part of the game even if I'm not there. Paradoxically this mass media makes me feel more part of the club, makes me want to go to games more. I suppose that might be why attendances are up since ten years ago. After all, who'd want to stay at home and "listen" to a series of draws, when we who go know that the team are playing much better than that.

One final thing. I should thank London County Council for re-housing my mother's family after the war. They had always lived within a Paul Furlong volley of Loftus Road (or a Chris Day goal kick of White City). I could easily have been a Hoop and not a Horn. When she married my Dad back in '54, and they decided to settle in Watford, my future was cast. As I walked round Ashbourne on Saturday, all my memories were golden.