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FA Carling Premiership, 3/5/00
Leeds United
A satisfactory compromise
By Tim Pseudonym

If the many training courses I have attended over the years have taught me anything, it's that in commercial negotiations, you should always seek to attain a "win-win" position. A common ground where both buyer and seller leave the party reasonably happy with their lot. Where the seller has achieved a satisfactory selling price which the buyer is prepared to pay. Nice and simple.

This position is much harder to achieve of course when you're talking about something as emotive as football. Leeds and Watford have been in different divisions for much of the last twenty years and when I first "got together" with my wife in 1994, our ensuing relationship posed no problems to our respective footballing interests. She, thanks to her ex, had become an ardent Leeds fan and regularly travelled from Slough to Elland Road. She looked out for Watford results, I looked out for Leeds' and the only time our footballing paths crossed was in our mutual affection for Slough Town, our local team.

Kay and I had never had to contemplate football rivalry before. Fortunately, the distant memory of her ex had also resulted in a dampening of her enthusiasm to attend Elland Road. She came to home and away games with me on many occasions and, at eight and a half months pregnant, actually got wedged in the turnstiles the night of the postponed Oxford cup tie due to the size of the bump which was soon to become Tom.

Then, enter Graham Taylor and Tommy Mooney stage right. Enter Nicky Wright and Allan Smart stage left. Centre stage, Bolton at Wembley and all of a sudden our footballing paths were not just crossing, they were heading for each other like a couple of runaway steam trains in a Lassie movie.

She came to The Vic in October but sat with my Dad while I took up my usual Rookery seat. I cheered when Williams scored. I expect she cheered when Bridges and Kewell scored but, by the time we met up back at the car, passions had cooled and it was accepted that Watford were slightly unlucky to lose by the odd goal. Not much was said. Besides, if Kay has learnt anything about me this last five years, it's not to take the piss out of my team, particularly when they've just been beaten by hers. She still cringes with embarrasment at the thought of me berating a twelve-year old Tottenham fan and preceeding to lecture him as to why, because of GT, we would not get relegated in a bizarre Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch-esque incident in Staines High Street after he dared to utter the words "going down" on seeing my shirt.

Elland Road was different though. Her decision to sit with me rather than on her own with fellow Leeds fans was greeted by me with more than a slight concern. Abusing the referee is one thing, she's heard me do that on countless occasions, but abusing the opposition team when it's her team and she's sitting next to me is a different scenario altogether. How would we react to each other when the inevitable goals hit the back of either net? How would I react once we'd lost?

We drove up early, her in Leeds T-shirt, me in Watford shirt. Perfect harmony! We stopped in Sheffield for a spot of shopping and something to eat at the superb Meadowhall Centre, attracting odd looks from the locals for sporting our respective colours. Mind you, not as odd as the looks on the faces of confused Leeds fans as we arrived at Elland Road with both Leeds and Watford scarves in the back window of the car!

Walking around the Leeds superstore, the harmony persisted. I even consented to let her buy Tom a Leeds T-shirt, all the time knowing that he would never wear it when out with me and that, despite her efforts to convince me otherwise, I was thinking of Tommy Mooney when I suggested the name Tom in the delivery room. He, like me, will be Watford 'til he dies.

Digressing slightly, but if anyone wants to understand why Watford will always struggle to compete at this level, take a walk around the Leeds Superstore. Like being in Tesco's on Christmas Eve. They have Leeds United mountain bikes and we can't even stock a decent range of bloody t-shirts!

Inside the ground, we took our seats. She remained quiet, her Leeds T-shirt discretely covered by jumper and coat. She applauded with me when the teams came out, both of us knowing that she was not looking at the team in yellow. We both accepted that at full-time one of us was going to be disappointed. One of us would feel upset or cheated or angry or annoyed depending on the preceding ninety minutes. It never happened though. I'd forgotten. I'd forgotten about the scenario where both parties take away something that they're happy with. In a footballing context, this was that scenario. The ultimate win-win position and certainly a satisfactory compromise for Kay and I.

The three footballing points on offer went to Leeds and Kay was happy with that. I was not disappointed as the players had performed well, results are irrelevant to us and I'd rather Leeds qualified for Europe than the arrogant duo of Arsenal and Chelsea. In moral terms though, this was a landslide Watford victory of epic proportions. Larger than Old Trafford because there we expected it. At Elland Road, I certainly didn't.

Until Dele Adebola capitalised on a defensive cock-up (see, we used to make them last season as well!) at St. Andrews in May, Elland Road had been the loudest football ground I had ever stood in. Gary Penrice put us one up at half-time the year that Leeds were on their way to the old second division title. About eight minutes after the re-start, Leeds netted two in two minutes and as the second went in, the terrace beneath my feet physically shook with the noise. It was frightening. Ironic therefore that the seats in the lower tier of the south-east corner of Elland Road were on the same steps that had vibrated beneath my feet all those years before.

Unfortunately for Leeds, though, the crush barriers have been replaced by seats, the passion has been replaced with apathy, the voice boxes of some of the noisiest supporters I've ever heard have been removed and the atmosphere has been substituted with another overpowering tannoy system.

I won't give an account of the match as others will do it better. I won't go through a list of the songs either as others will do that, although "ARE WE MAKING TOO MUCH NOISE?" and "DID YOU WANT TO GET SOME SLEEP?" were real gems.

What I will say though is that last night, as an unchallenged fifteen minute chorus of "Elton John's Taylor-Made Army" rang around Elland Road, I felt prouder than ever to be a Watford supporter.

Three points to Leeds. Pride to Watford. A win-win scenario out of a defeat and, for Kay and I, a satisfactory compromise.