The most exciting game of the season
By Matt Rowson
"'Course, you've got to fancy Watford and Bradford to struggle. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll favour the underdogs every time but, like, it's just a different league, the Premiership, innit? I mean it's not like they play Manchester United and that in the Nationwide is it? 'Course, if you ask me United and Arsenal should be exempt from playing Watford and Bradford.... I mean, what with all that fixture congestion and that, it's hardly worth it is it? That David Mellor ought to do something about it or something.
I mean, you look at the names... how many of that lot have you heard of? Gareth Whalley? Richard Johnson? Andy O'Brien? Don't make me laugh. Tell you what, I'd like to see Paul Robinson come up against someone quality like David Beckham, then we'd see something. Bloody 'ell. I mean, you've got to fancy United to get a cricket score or something haven'tcha?
I mean, that Graham Taylor, yeah? Now I'd be the first to admit that he's a decent lower division manager, right? But he showed at England, he just hasn't got what it takes to be a top-flight manager like Ruud Gullit and Bryan Robson and that. He should just stick to the lower divisions, where he belongs. Still, Turnip Taylor eh? Hur hur hur hur. Bet they get a few songs out of that.
And, like, Bradford. I mean, Bradford? In the PREM-I-ER LEAGUE? It's a disgrace that they were promoted at all, what with so many quality sides in Division 1 an' that, like Wolves and Fulham an' that. There should be a law against..."
Bang. You're dead. Hooray.
That's the good thing about imaginary wankers, they always get what's coming to them....
Watford versus Bradford City, then. A Premiership fixture. A little quiz for you.
Will Saturday's game be :
a) Watford's easiest home fixture of the season
b) Bradford's easiest away fixture of the season
c) A bloody humungous party
If you answered anything but (c), go and headbutt the wall for half an hour, then try again. You'll get there eventually.
Watford against Bradford in the Premiership is awesome. Tremendous. All the more so given that when the sides last met at the Vic almost exactly a year ago, nobody can have envisaged that both would be celebrating promotion come May. Now both sides are taking on the might of the Premiership and being both written off and patronised in equal measure. None of which should matter a jot this weekend.
If City do go down, it won't be through lack of experience. The starting line-up on Saturday had an average age of 30, and with Dean Saunders and Stuart McCall still to make the first eleven that figure could rise still higher.
In goal is the portly Gary Walsh, the source of much hilarity with his pie-throwing antics last season. His backup is Matt Clarke, released from Sheffield Wednesday this summer.
Right-back is likely to be Gunnar Halle, recently recalled to the Norwegian squad at the age of 34. Should City struggle this season, Halle's experiences defying the drop with Oldham will serve them well. Another option is Scotsman Stephen Wright.
On the left against Middlesbrough was the transfer-listed Wayne Jacobs, although this berth is surely destined to Andy Myers, England U21 cap and linked with the Hornets before his summer move from Chelsea.
In the middle, the opening Saturday saw David Wetherall, at £1.4m the most expensive of the summer arrivals, partnered with the veteran ex-Luton stopper John Dreyer, who defied his advancing years with a fine performance. Youngster Andy O'Brien is also an option at the back, although at the Riverside he appears to have been employed as a marker in midfield. Ex-Crewe defender Ashley Westwood is another possibility... his suspension expires in time to face us. Meanwhile Jamaican cap Darren Moore, on his way out in search of a more lucrative contract, has been linked with West Ham.
In midfield, that perennial battler Neil Redfearn, hoping to escape relegation from the Prem at the third time of asking. Described by Arsène Wenger as "the dirtiest player in the Premiership" last season, Watford fans will prefer to remember him for his devastating free-kicks, including a famous occasion where he scored with Watford's first touch of the match against Newcastle.
Alongside him, Gareth Whalley, another ex-Crewe man, is a ball-player, and has been called up to the Irish squad. Peter Beagrie on the left is another experienced player, a little unfairly more noted for his somersaults than his football. Still, if you play for Everton you get what you deserve.
The Bantams have injury problems in the middle at the moment with Stuart McCall and wide-men Jamie Lawrence and Lee Sharpe all out. The latter will certainly not be fit for Saturday.
At the Riverside on the opening day, City fielded a 4-5-1 formation with gnarled striker Dean Windass wide on the right, thus leaving the leggy Lee Mills alone up front. Other possible partners for Mills include Robbie Blake, though he is yet another on a wages strop and reputedly on his way to Coventry, and Dean Saunders. Intriguingly, Saunders £12,000/week wages are double what Blake is said to be asking, and rather make a mockery of City's "little club" status, even if he did arrive on a free.
Isaiah Rankin, the pacey former Arsenal reserve, is also currently injured, and faces the Peter Beadle obstacle of extra payments being due to Arsenal if he makes many more starts.
Watford against City then. Not likely to be the main match on "Match of the Day" in the evening, but what the hell. Watford's easiest home game of the season? Unlikely. Bradford's easiest away trip? Doubtful. The most exciting game of the season? Almost definitely.
We are Premier League.