Watford 'til I die
By Antony Flint
There are some games we can expect, and indeed need, to take something from in order to maintain our hard won Premier League status. In the same way there are also games that as faithful Hornets we can still dearly hope to get something from, but can also allow ourselves to simply enjoy and be proud that our beloved golden boys have earned the right to compete on the same stage, knowing that they will give their all, whatever the result.
Saturday was one of those games.
I was one of those fortunate enough to get a ticket for the United game and, though I don't want to turn this into a match report, can cheerfully tell you that we fought hard, never gave up and should feel no shame at losing 4-1. I'm not trying to devalue United's win, they did earn it, although the scoreline is perhaps a little flattering to their display. Neither will I bleat on and on about the referee being biased. This was United at home, you know that the decisions will go against you, and that the ref will allow lumps to be kicked out of Wooter, and then book him for no reason at all - this is the way of things, you can expect no luck at Old Trafford.
We did, however, win the moral battle. The 'home' fans, having made the long drive north from Surrey and Kent, were comprehensively outsung and outclassed by the travelling faithful, in an away display that was simply magnificent.
Beforehand, a Derby supporting friend had told me that the United crowd were quiet, and only cheered when they scored, and I couldn't believe that could be true. How can 53,000 home fans in one stadium be quiet? I was wrong. They don't chant. They have a fantastic stadium to sit in, far superior to anything I've been to, including Wembley, and arguably one of the best football teams in the world to support, yet they don't cheer. ("Nice ground, sh#t fans...") Even at 3-0 they couldn't raise a song ("4-3, we're gonna win 4-3..."), they couldn't even be goaded into it ("Come up from Surrey, you must have come up from Surrey..."). The one fan who would take us on had to do it single handed ("On your own, onyerownonyerownonyerown...") before being ejected by the police ("Cheerio, cheeriocheeriocheerio..."). Could it be that it's against the law for home fans to chant at Old Trafford? If Watford had just won the Premiership, Champions League and FA cup, would anybody be able to leave the Vic not knowing it, let alone let them get away with taking the p#ss all afternoon?
I think that is actually the root of their problem - a lack of pride and passion. Think about it. How can they really appreciate all that they have won when most of the supporters have never known anything other than trophies and titles. They support United because they win things. They only want to be part of it if they win things. Coming back from Manchester, we passed a car full of united 'supporting' kids who gave us the usual abuse about going down, just as we had from a group of kids in the car park earlier and, although first and foremost you've obviously got to put them straight on the matter, you can't help feeling sorry for them. How much fun can anything be if you always win and everything goes your way? Surely you can't fully appreciate the highs if you have no idea what the lows are like?
If United were relegated, how many of Saturday's 53,000 would buy a ticket to watch United with players the calibre of Devon White and Jamie Moralee play Walsall? How many kids across the country would pester their parents to buy the latest United kit if they'd finished mid-table in Divison 1? None, because they'd all be out buying the yellow, black and red colours of the latest European champions (well, I can dream).
Like other real supporters, Watford fans support Watford because it is their club, their dads took them to watch Watford when they were small and they fell in love with the club - warts and all. Unlike the silent majority at Manchester on Saturday, we've known failure, actually we've known complete and utter failure at some points (remember Trevor Senior?). The point is that Watford is our club, and wherever fate takes us in our lives Watford will always be our club. There are plenty of people who move away from the town, as I have, who have never considered supporting the team of their adopted home over the 'Orns for one second, who still have season tickets and spend considerable time and money travelling to the Vic whoever the game is against - because Watford is our club, we have history together.
Later in the journey we tuned in to Talkback Radio's football phone in with Gary Newbond (who any midlands-based Watford fans will know from Central TV's sports coverage to be an idiot of the highest order), and listened out for Hornet callers. Although most of the program was dominated by the Liverpool v Chelsea game there was one, Claire I think, who talked about the lack of atmosphere which Mr Newbond suggested was down to 'in fairness' it 'only' being Watford and when you're used to greater things, these matches can become a bit meaningless.
Well, Mr Newbond, you and the rest of the world can take mick if you want, but I and many others like me support our team and wear our colours precisely because they are our team, not because they are fashionable. I have never been to a meaningless Watford game, every one is important to us.
The fact that Watford are now in the Premiership and playing the likes of Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool week in, week out means more to me than a treble ever could do to the fairweather supporters that couldn't raise a cheer at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Why? Because I know I am, I'm sure I am, I'm Watford 'til I die.