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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
99/00: Reports:

FA Carling Premiership, 24/10/99
Watford
versus
Middlesbrough
 
"GET YER CHEQUEBOOK AHT!"
By Asher Peters

There were new things to enjoy. A nice Sky studio place taking up Vic End seats and a scarily lush picture on our shiny new big screen. I tried not to watch it as I'd have preferred the corners filled in with seats but it wasn't working. Though, as usual, they can't show any of the replays you really want to see, sitting very low down in the Rookery I found myself lazily referring to it every time the ball went down its end. I was pleased to see there were no adverts on it, although this is probably due to the marketing department overcharging interested parties. The highlights of Chelsea were far more welcome.

Despite this, though, Sunday felt retro. The welcome side of this was the return of clapping the opposition goalie when he came out; politeness still has a place at Watford, just about. The bad side was the return of Angry Man. The people who always used to shout "GET YOUR CHEQUEBOOK AHT, ROEDER!". The same voice but from different parts of the stand, a single irate entity apparently occupying several bodies. Early hesitancy was not enought to alert Angry Man, though. He allowed the latest, almost comical addition to The Season Of The Own Goal to pass uncriticised. A corner wasn't cleared, then Mark thought Brian had got it, Alec thought Mark might leave it... we are on telly every home game now so this jinx had better end soon.

Excessive negativity was not far round the corner, though, when Chamberlain ill-advisedly threw the ball out to Hyde on the edge of our area, and with nowhere to go he gave it away rather than hoof it. It was like slow-motion from then, the goal inevitable, like a procession in a playground game when three or four players break up field faced only by the weedy guy who didn't even want to be in goal.

'SORT THIS MESS AHT, TAYLA!' bellowed Angry Man, assuming that was something we'd practised on the training ground. I wondered if he blamed Taylor for that short backpass by Stuart Pearce against San Marino. The rain began to fall, misty sheets gathering on the goal frame and dripping off the crossbar. Smith was playing well, but we were shot-shy, just like the old days; tons of passing but no-one having a dig. At halftime I looked at the big screen. It had the badge superimposed on the pitch and then people pointing and laughing. Worth 700,000 of anyone's money.

Silent since the goal, the crowd began to pick up either side of the break, and Watford were suddenly playing like we thought we could - link-up play going right to the heart of the defence, Miller like a conductor, Smith willing to run at people, Wooter urgent and persistent and the rest of the midfield with an eye for the right pass, it became one of those times, like Tranmere last season, when we had to win. We had to and we were going to. When Smith scored, slightly reminiscent of his lucky effort against QPR but without the, well, luck, Angry Man had only the lack of subsequent killer touches to bemoan...which he did, persistently. His dream was to come true, though.

Middlesbrough, the tallest team I have ever seen (Juninho must dread the team photo), used long ball quite frequently now, not without justification given the score. However the crucial goal was prettier, if easier. Clint Easton, comfortably Angry Man's least favourite player, came on and played a few nice touches, as always looking as though he needs a little too much time. I'm not sure it was even him who gave the ball away to spark Boro's winning attack, but Angry Man had no doubt and suggested selling him, presumably as we could then afford the entire Brazilian squad (except Juninho, natch: players from England are always too expensive, unless we're selling them).

Some of us sang; the others went home. We'd deserved something and played some brilliant football, but were going into the bottom three, as of Monday night at least.

As we left it started to rain much more heavily - I hoped Angry Man had an umbrella.