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
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
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
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.