The Merseyside hoodoo is broken
By Pete Bradshaw
Anfield, August 99. It's a hell of a long way from the Abbey Stadium, August
98. It was also a hell of a long time since I'd been there last time with
the Hornets to see them lose 3-1 to two penalties from Neal and the
obligatory Rush goal. Ah! Rush and Neal - what straightforward names - none
of your Hyppia, Titi Camara or Rigobert Song there. Those are names that
take some learning....
Unfortunately the Liverpool players didn't seem to have learnt the names
either. They also seemed not to know all of their team-mates faces or
certainly their playing positions or tactics. Someone once said that
football is eleven men against eleven. This seemed to be eleven men against a team of
eleven. A big difference there.
Had intended to make Bradford my first game having been in Turkey until the
10th, but the ticket office weren't selling tickets for that game on general
sale when I called in on my way back from Stansted. So I got Liverpool ones
Left Dorset at 8.00 (well, actually on the 8.10 Sandbanks chain ferry).
Lovely summer sunshine but breezy - would we really get thunderstorms later
in the day? Stopped off at Solihull Tesco to fill up (the car, me and my
son) and then nipped through the black country to avoid the queues on the
M6. Unfortunately they're building a Dudley by-pass so we got stuck in
traffic but it was brilliant to be able to wave nonchalantly at WBA and
Portsmouth supporters (the latter going to Wolves). Drove past Molineux
and reflected on how quick our rise to fame has been - only a few years
previously we got stuffed 3-0 there with Kerry Dixon leading the line! Now
we were a division higher than them - and two higher than Stoke I mused as
we passed the Potteries.
Crawled through Merseyside traffic and got a great parking spot in Liverpool
4 - not an omen for the game, I hoped. "There's the ground, Dad!", my
Liverpool-mad son said. He's been to many a Watford game but isn't quite
converted to the Hornet cause yet. I was quite impressed that he recognised
Anfield from about three square metres of grey ironwork but there you go -
fanatic. I was also impressed that he supported Watford today - there's hope
yet then (his yellow and red halves shirt was a nice touch I thought... a
Galatasaray one I bought in a market in Side, Turkey).
Stopped by the Hillsborough memorial and gates for pictures (we bought a
disposable camera in one of the aforementioned thunderstorms) and then
passed through turnstile N into a really impressive 'foyer' with bars, loos
etc. This is a first-class stadium. "It's smaller than I thought, dad, and
squarer". I know what he means - after all his last game had been at
Pre-match banter - would Alec chamberlain be here? Micah and Robbo are -
will they play? Some fellow Hornets fans didn't recognise Dominic Foley.
Most Liverpool fans, and players, didn't recognise anyone.
The match kicks off. Someone behind me does the "3.05 and all's well"
routine. Nervous or what? But the noise was tremendous. How is it that three thousand
appear to outsing forty thousand? It's always the way with Watford away fans... There
was Fowler, there was Berger - even my so-called Liverpool fan son couldn't
name many of the others - now we know why they have names on shirts....
Liverpool - pass, pass, pass, pass... Watford block, pass, lose the second
ball... (repeat until worried).
Des Lyttle - our man with Premiership experience - oh dear, no wonder Forest
went down. He even seemed to slide faster than he could run.
Chris Day started nervously but got better and by the end was a hero - well
done that man. The rest of the team were tremendous. Robbo, Page and
Williams - all rocks in defence. Palmer (what a revelation back in
midfield), Hyde, Kennedy and Johnno - started to find time in midfield to
win the ball, stop and think and then pass - we're learning fast in this
league... Mooney and Michel - keen upfront with Ngonge especially seeming to
find his feet.
Free kick on the right - Kennedy floats it over... Page/Williams scramble ball
to Mooney - 1-0 - walking in a Mooney wonderland. He may not last long in
this league but you can't take it away from him - he's scored in every
division. We had other chances, they had more but it was just one of those
days when we weren't going to be breached.
Liverpool players clearly had class but no idea what to do with it. We're
not short of classy players either - Williams, Hyde, Page, Robbo and Johnno
in particular - and we knew what our plan was. It will be interesting to see
what happens when Nick Wright's back to run at people and I can't help
thinking that we miss an attacking/overlapping right back....
Still 1-0, great day, all over the radio and TV - pundits eating their
words - how sweet. The Merseyside hoodoo is broken - let's make it a double
The journey back seemed much shorter but 566 miles in day is a bit much -
thank you ticket office for not being able to sell me Bradford tickets -
this is a memory to cherish forever - mind you, my son had to buy a Liverpool
flag for his bedroom wall...