Enjoy the ride
By Pete Fincham
However disappointing a season this has proven to be, nothing can take away the memories of 31st May 1999. The Wembley win, the optimism that followed and the blind denial that we were not equipped to regularly test even the most mediocre of Premiership opposition, all have been unforgettable facets of the season. The support for Watford has been fantastic, even through the pointless weeks that rolled into months.
The drubbings we have received by the likes of Coventry, Wimbledon and even Wigan, the continuous put-downs by bitter pundits like Lineker, Marsh and Mullery, and the visits to the same places we have been to many times before, this time with the added Premiership surcharge to get in. These are the negatives.
But this has been a season full of new experiences; a chance to sample what the media circus suggests is the best, what the money men invest in and the armchair fool anally digests as gospel. The Premiership is a quality platform for football, but for the fan it is a strange combination of feelings.
On the one hand, we have visits to the wonderful stadia of Old Trafford, Anfield and The Stadium of Light. On the other, we visit Filbert Street, The Dell and Selhurst Park, all stadiums that should be condemned to destruction such are their terrible construction and facilities for away fans. So no great advantage to being in the Premier League there, then.
Well, what about witnessing the great players in action, like Beckham, Yorke, Owen and Shearer? Great players indeed, but witnessing the lumbering characters of Benali, Dreyer and Atherton gives some indication that all bar a few Premiership teams contain more than enough dross to merely hold their own in the Nationwide League.
The increased coverage of our team makes them easier to follow. But how many times can the media run the story of our injury problems, our lack of money to invest or vainly linking us with anyone aged over thirty and on a free transfer? The media coverage of Watford has been a patronising parade of page-filling nonsense, written by the uninformed for the uninterested. After all, how many people are genuinely interested in the misfortunes of Watford this season? I would guess very few, outside the Hertfordshire streets where the name Taylor means God, and the even fewer streets in Bedfordshire where Watford's lack of luck seems funny.
"Match of the Day", Premiership sticker albums and a short summer spell where people no longer laughed at you for being a Hornet form some of my good memories. But for the club, and the team I love, much more benefit has resulted from our brief stint with the elite.
Money has been forthcoming to strengthen the team far more than it ever would have, had we lost to Bolton in May. We now have the foundations in place to make sure the club is secure for the foreseeable future, and while Graham Taylor may be criticised for his refusal to play the big money game, those who watch our team and care for the future of the club realise that his prudent approach is definitely right.
If we are to be a yo-yo team, as is widely predicted by those who think it easier to get someone to do their thinking for them, then maybe the next time we rise, the football we play will be marginally more tolerable. The players will be more experienced, and with each promotion there will be even more money available to strengthen the side. After all, the desperate summer signings were never really going to save us.
So, while the good ship of Merchandise United pollutes the streets of Watford, consider this. Almost exactly two years before Ferguson's men visited Vicarage Road and won 3-2, we went 1-0 behind at home to AFC Bournemouth. Rest assured, in this unpredictable football world we will be playing both sides again at some point in the future. As a fan, you may as well enjoy the ride, whichever way it takes you.