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96/97: Juniors:

FA Youth Cup 4th Round, 15/2/97
Manchester United 1(1)
Watford 1(0)

Randy or p!ssed
Report by Dan Exeter

I should have been doing many things on Saturday. I could have gone window-shopping in town, thinking of ways to spend money I haven't got on things I don't want, or I could have stayed at home and worked on my dissertation (if anyone's got any blinding insights into the link between the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement in America then I'd love to hear from you). Or indeed, like one certain prominent and erstwhile member of the list (you know who you are), I could have stayed in bed.

But no. That would be too easy. I had to find a football match, and with the juniors a mere hour's train trip away, especially at a ground as prestigious and big as Old Trafford, I couldn't resist, especially with my Man Utd supporting friend Jen urging me along. Manchester Picadilly was strangely full of Coventry fans (on their way to Blackburn I later realised) but the expected horde of Hornets looked like it would fail to materialise. And yet, the first Watford fans I saw were on the tram. Okay, that only made three of us, but it was a start. To actually get to OT and find that there were in fact a good few hundred Hornets buzzing around (sorry, it was a pun I couldn't resist) made me feel better, especially as there was no segregation, and the fact that the home crowd was not the 10 or 20 thousand I'd been lead to expect but a mere 3 or 4 meant that we could make a real difference in terms of atmosphere and noise.

The game itself, well in all honesty we were lucky. We didn't seem to settle down until the second half, when we were one down after an admittedly reasonably good goal by their No 9, who like the rest of the team spent most of the afternoon strutting about like David Beckham. Colin Pluck (I'll have to take Don and Kate's word on this one, I couldn't see myself) scored from a free-kick, just about the first time I'd seen Watford (any of the teams) score from a set-piece for about a hundred years.

Lamentably, I can't even say with certainty who our team were. I recognised the Gift and Wardie of course, as I'd seen them for the first team, but none of the rest. Our confusion was epitomised by the tale of the Johnsons, Andy and Chris. We were convinced that Andy started, wearing the No 4 shirt, and that Chris came on for someone else in the second half, wearing No 12. Unfortunately, the Watford bench (whom we were right next to) kept on shouting instructions to the No 12 with the name Andy. Deciding to sort this out once and for all, when the No 12 came over to take a throw-in, I stood up and shouted 'Oi Johnno, are you Andy or are you Chris?'. He chose not to reply. Just as well really, as Jen's mum thought I'd said 'Are you randy or are you pissed?' God knows how she'd have responded if he'd replied 'Andy' to my question...eventually, we all compromised on calling the pair of them 'Johnno'.

Overrall the youngsters did quite well. They didn't have the same flair and technique as the Utd kids (but then what did you expect) and as usual the Watford players never seemed to win the balls in tackles, but they kept playing and working, and the No 4, whichever Johnno he was, looked versatile, playing as sweeper, central midfield and even up front on occasion. Gifton however never seemed to be really in it. Basically alone up front, I don't know whether he was tired or he considers himself 'above' the youth team but he couldn't really make an impact. This is not a criticism; I'm sure he could do with a rest, but if it is an attitude problem then it needs to be sorted, and soon. The No 7, 'Jonah' to all and sundry, reminded me (depressingly) of Colin Simpson, while Ward and Pluck at the back were magnificent. Cave and Boyce in the full-back positions seemed to be the ones most affected by the occasion although I don't even know if full-back is their natural position. We can certainly beat Man Utd at the replay, as when we did settle down, bring the ball down and play we caused them problems, and to get into the quarter-finals past Man Utd would be a magnificent achievement for the kids and a sign of encouragement for the future, especially as three of them have already made their debuts.