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FA Carling Premiership, 11/3/00
Newcastle United
In memory of a good friend and loyal Hornet...
Martin Paerse
By Peter Wilson

Newcastle away will unfortunately bring back some bad memories - not all to do with football.

The first and last time I went to watch the Horns up in Newcastle was during the reign of Kevin Keegan as Newcastle manager. The Geordies were flying that year as they were heading towards the Premier League. We lost 2-0, in no small way due to the Geordie centre-back stamping on Paul Furlong's ankle which led to him being subbed and Gerald Lavin (remember him?) being sent off for two bookable offences.

Four of us drove up to Tyneside - an early 7.30 departure from Bushey meant that we arrived at the ground by 1pm. Rather than go to the pub, we went straight into the ground. The Watford end was beginning to fill but by 1.30 the Gallowgate end was crammed with the home supporters. Harry Enfield had being making jokes on Friday Night Live about Geordies wearing t-shirts in minus 10°C temperatures, smoking tabs etc. and was absolutely correct. It was bloody freezing and all the Geordies were either wearing t-shirts or replica kits. How they do it heaven only knows.

Kick-off and lo and behold it started raining. It wasn't heavy rain, but an incessant drizzle and didn't stop. I had a coat on and probably two or three layers underneath and by 4pm was soaked to the skin. The game itself was not particularly memorable other than for the Furlong injury and Lavin's stupidity - kicking the ball away at a throw in and not retreating ten yards. All this occurred in the first half - so at best it was going to be a rearguard effort - alas it was not to be.

However, the day was marred by one of my friends Martin Paerse being ill. At half-time he went to go and get a pie but didn't return until twenty minutes into the second-half. For Martin, a die-hard Hornet, not to see every kick and tackle was very strange. It turned out that Martin had collapsed and had been treated by the St John's people - but when he rejoined us it was obvious he was not very well and it had nothing to do with eating a dodgy Geordie pie.

Unbeknown to us, Martin had Leukaemia. Within a week or two of the Newcastle game Martin was diagnosed with the disease. After a lengthy period of treatment, including Chemotherapy, Martin passed on, aged only twenty-two. He lived and breathed Watford Football Club and continued watching the Hornets until a couple of weeks before his death - loyal to the end.

He was a good mate and would often badger me to go to the away games. As I don't drive, Martin would give me a lift to matches. He really twisted my arm and I remember going to see Watford win 1-0 away to Cambridge with the Golden Boys being massively outclassed and sneaking an amazing win. However that is in the past, but at least it is a good memory.

As I said at the start, Newcastle away brings back some bad memories.