The most brilliant thing
Report by Ian Grant
We've only gone and bloody done it! We've only gone and bloody done it!
If you care, then this is for you. If you froze your privates off at Torquay in the Auto
Windscreen Shield, then this is for you. If you kept the faith when it seemed that nothing but
oblivion awaited us, then this is for you. If you're one of the hundreds of exiles, physically far afield but
heart forever abandoned in the lost property at Vicarage Road, then this is for you. If you're
as helplessly in love with this wonderful team as I am, then this is for you. Victory at Wembley, Watford
in the Premiership. For all of us.
For Graham Taylor, more than anyone. Just the seven promotions, just the greatest goddamn manager
in English club football. One of numerous shatteringly emotional moments from yesterday: watching
through a fog of tears as the architect of all this utter madness strolled across the Wembley pitch, trophy in hand, with a
grin too wide for his face, waving to the fans, taking in the celebrations. Victory at Wembley, GT in the Premiership.
He's back. We owe him everything.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, we're going to take memories of yesterday with us. More than
that, the sensational run-in that made it all possible is now instant folklore - Mooney's
goals at Port Vale and elsewhere, Chamberlain's saves at Birmingham, Johnson's performance against Grimsby, Page and
Palmer's performances against bloody everyone. In twenty years' time, this stuff will
be as revered as anything in the whole of the club's history. We're living through it, we'll
have so many stories to tell. This is our legacy.
The last ten years are not to be relegated to footnote status, though. Dennis Bailey's winner
at Peterborough may no longer be my favourite Watford goal ever - replaced by either Nicky Wright
or Allan Smart, depending on which one I happen to be daydreaming about at the time - but those barren
years are still important. They represent not only what we came from but what we are. Watford in
the Premiership, back where we don't belong to trash a few reputations and bloody a few
aristocratic noses. If you support anyone outside the elite, then this is for you.
Too much to take in, let alone find suitable words for. Before kickoff, Wembley was full to the brim with disbelief - impossible
to comprehend what we were about to do, no amount of pinching and deep breathing could
make it seem any more real.
Loiter in Wembley Way for an hour, still unable to understand that this is anything other
than a tourist trip. Get into the ground, feel numb with incomprehension. Find our (superb) seats, gather jumbled thoughts, look down, and
there's Tommy flippin' Mooney warming up on the most famous turf in the world. Look across, and there's a sea of yellow, red and black to support
a team that was concentrating on little else but consolidation last August. Go downstairs for a
pee, and the noise is almost panic-inducing - as if, by deafening ourselves, we might make
the experience more tangible. Wonder if the players are any less bewildered, fear the
very real possibility of another complete non-performance at Wembley.
My God, we were magnificent.
It was a performance that graced Wembley. Nick Wright was genius, his stunning goal mere icing
on an already ample cake, the life and soul of a team that didn't just rise to the occasion
but seemed to revel in it. Richard Johnson - and there's a player who's about to claim his rightful
place, at the heart of a Premiership side - put in a display so huge that it was probably visible from outer space. Robert Page
and Steve Palmer were staggering again, no way past them in a second half that saw Bolton grow
frustrated and eventually impotent. The rest were only superb.
Bolton should've scored first - a blasted shot just wide from a tight angle, Gudjohnson
missing from six yards after Robinson's error in dealing with a long ball, Chamberlain
saving brilliantly from Gudjohnson after Elliott's free kick had been deflected into his path. But
the first half hour, in which the favourites settled quicker, did not prove to be decisive.
The time went by in a terrifying, surreal flash; no opportunity to savour the occasion.
Mooney went close with a header from a Kennedy free kick, Johnson had a header cleared. And then we scored....
...and Nick Wright's name will never be forgotten in Watford. What a goal, what a time
to score it. Kennedy's corner half-cleared by a defender...the ball dropping over Wright's head...
no thought of anything but an over-ambitious goal attempt...the perfectly executed overhead kick...we were
behind it all the way, on our feet as it cleared the defenders on the line...looping into the top
corner...the roar telling Wright that it had gone in...bloody mayhem all around...the most
Sitting in Wembley stadium bellowing "One-nil to the Golden Boys". I think that
was the moment when realisation struck home, the first real spine-shiver of the day.
And we did so much more than hang onto the lead. From that point on, every Watford player
was keener and hungrier than his Bolton counterpart - for one of the most crucial halves
in the club's history, we were right at the peak of our game. For all Bolton's possession,
it ought to have been all over long before Smart's late strike - time and again, the
pressure from the midfield forced errors and we streamed forward on the break.
Micah Hyde was foiled by Banks' swift advance as early as the fourth minute; Johnson and
Ngonge were both blocked by desperate tackles after Mooney had attacked down the left; Mooney
headed wide after terrific play from Hyde at the right corner flag; Wright was only a foot
away from connecting with Mooney's low cross after yet another devastatingly swift break.
Best of all in the seventy-eighth minute, the kind of glorious football that no Watford fan could've
dreamt was possible on such a tense day. A Johnno masterpiece, intercepting Gardner's cross inside the Watford box
to massive acclaim and sweeping a majestic, visionary pass over fifty yards to Wright on the wing. A
quick look up and a slide-rule pass to find Kennedy sprinting up in support. The only thing
missing was the finish as his shot whistled wide.
But it didn't matter. Finally, we made one of these vicious counter-attacks pay. It's
all a blur, Kennedy rampaging through on the left, Smart arriving in the middle to slam
the ball into the bottom corner, the rest is the biggest roar I've ever heard and floods of tears and screaming "YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!" and
forgetting to breathe and losing it completely and the most intensely emotional few seconds of
my entire life.
The final whistle followed after four minutes of injury time, during which a Man City-style
comeback was never on the cards. Watford songs ringing around Wembley, each word bringing fresh
tears to my eyes...never been happier, never will be...players in ecstatic embrace, still
a long way from realising the extent of their achievement and still having time to comfort
shattered opponents...the trophy presentation, GT taking the walk up the steps to a deafening, massively
heartfelt chorus of "There's only one Graham Taylor" and taking the bow that's
been long overdue...endless tours of the touchline...wanting this to last forever...hugs replacing handshakes...Tommy Mooney, hands
on head, staring at the delirium in the stands and clearly trying, and failing, to make it sink
in...moments of quiet contemplation, knowing that every precious millisecond was to
be treasured like gold-dust...the players eventually leaving, waving farewell....
...And streaming out through the gates, pausing for a moment at the top of the steps to
look down Wembley Way at the yellow, red and black river...more hugs, more smiles, more tears...looking
up and seeing the Twin Towers, and it slowly starts to make sense...endless attempts to organise
pubs and transport...more hugs, more smiles, more tears as familiar faces appear from the chaos....
...And to the pub...more hugs, more smiles, beers replace tears...last train back to
Brighton...grotesque hangover, don't care....
The chance of ultimate possibility. Sorted.