Position: On "T'interweb", as they say in the north
From: Ig's office
To: The great fanzine vault in the sky - Value immeasurable - August 2006
Career stats: Twelve years of pure genius (Hang on, I thought you were talking about us! - Ed)
It was: The best
Is it really almost twelve years since BSaD burst onto our monitors to keep us abreast with developments at Vicarage Road? Looking back at 1994 from today's viewpoint is interesting stuff: Glenn Roeder was in charge of Watford, and in the midst of his one good season, while Craig Ramage and Andy Hessenthaler were inspiring the golden boys on the pitch. East 17 were at number one in the charts, John Major was still in power, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres had been jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and nobody had heard of the Spice Girls, Celebrity Love Island, myspace or Wayne Rooney.
Back then, in the wake if the ground breaking "Mud, Sweat and Beers" and "The Yellow Experience", all we had to provide an alternative view on events at the Vic was dear old "Clap Your Hands, Stamp Your Feet". The new fangled internet thing was just starting to take off, though, and just after the Watford Mailing List was started in a quiet part of South Africa, something else quite different was stirring in a drum 'n' bass filled flat somewhere in Brighton. "Blind, Stupid and Desperate" was about to go on-line.
As with all good things, it was a slow start. The first match report was a long forgotten two-nil win over Portsmouth on Boxing Day of that year. Records show the afore-mentioned Ramage scored the first goal that day and on loan Neil Shipperley added a tidy finish to double the score. Cub reporter and editor of the new on-line fanzine, Ian Grant, would surely have waxed lyrical over the game, but the report has long since disappeared from view. "Good thing too!" comments Ig himself when asked about his fledgling efforts, for as with all new fanzines, quality control's not top of the agenda when things get started.
From little acorns grow solid oaks, and BSaD started to flourish as more and more people got hooked up to the 'net. A steady stream of articles, a healthy number of contributors, and the first additions to the famous list of translations of "If I had the wings of a sparrow" began filtering through. Come the 1997/98 season and a transformation of fortunes as GT returned and led the club to the top of Division Two. A significant date in the season was October 4th as Watford ran riot at Luton. That day, amidst jubilant scenes at Kenilworth Road, Ian Grant met Matt Rowson for the first time. Matt, a sometime CYHSYF contributor, had already provided an article or two and two weeks later his first match preview appeared before a home game against Millwall.
That game ended in defeat, but the victorious partnership between Rowson's entertaining previews and Grant's superb reports began right there. United in the desire to see Watford do well and a healthy dislike of Ashley Ward, the writing styles of the two began to compliment one another. Both have always had the ability to express the emotions we all felt from watching the team, this gave BSaD the personal touch that made it compulsive reading. Every read brought to mind an image of Rowson sat at a desk, scratching his head as he reads message board after message board in order to work out what formation next Saturday's opponents might play, or of Grant, green bag over shoulder, sat in his seat in the Rookery scribbling notes while stuffing lucky chocolate down his gob. They also both have a wonderful sense of whimsy as well, and some of their best work sees them going off at ever increasing tangents before discussing the matter at hand. No subject too dull, from Matt's new sofa to Ig's wisdom teeth and various points in between.
Later that season "The Luddite Edition" brought Ig and Matt's work blinking into the daylight. It first came to my notice at this point, as one of a thousand promotional paper aeroplanes produced to advertise the fanzine's first paper edition whistled past my ear while sitting in the Vicarage Road end. Typically for BSaD, always with one eye on the wider footballing world, the profits went to struggling clubs like Oxford, Wealdstone and even Luton. Results on the pitch continued with the Second Division title and a blast through Division One the following season, during which a match report from the league win at Birmingham drew high praise from high places as BSaD received a message from Graham Taylor himself to say that it had been posted on the players' noticeboard "just to let them know how responsible they are for all of the emotions that our supporters go through". As a Mooney-inspired Watford rampaged into the play-offs and beyond, Matt and Ig chronicled the lot and it stands to this day as a written reminder of the fun we had on the first trip to the promised land of the Premiership (not, not, etc).
As relegation dawned, BSaD were in the vanguard of attempts to go back to the Nationwide with smiles on our faces. The atmosphere at Middlesbrough for the last away game of our first Premiership season was partly their doing. Balloons were dished out, beers were handed to stewards and BSaD produced kazoos a-plenty to entertain the crowd. Some may have scoffed at the idea of celebrating relegation, but one thing has always shone through in Ig and Matt's writing... football's a hobby and to be enjoyed. Winning's nice, but having fun's just as important. Those in the spirit at Middlesbrough seemed to agree.
The following year, links between the various fanzines began to strengthen. By now, BSaD was covering events on the pitch so well that the paper fanzines were struggling to keep up. "The Yellow Experience" had returned during the Premiership season, while CYHSYF had started to wane after twelve long years of its own. Together with the short-lived "All Watford All Lovin' It" and BsaD's on-line competitor "Big Watford Love", all five fanzines decided to honour Taylor, who'd just announced his retirement. With Ig and Matt's input to the fore, the first fruits of collaboration appeared in the shape of "There's only one Graham Taylor". Its raging success, with almost two thousand copies sold and all profits donated to the Peace Hospice, led to CYHSYF and TYE merging to form "look at the stars". As AWAL and BWL fell by the wayside, and with Ig, Matt and several other contributors appearing regularly in print, BSaD and "look at the stars" complimented each other perfectly.
Leading from the front once more, BSaD showed its fighting side in 2001 by helping Wimbledon fans with their ill-fated fight to keep their club in London. Black balloons were handed out as a live TV game between the clubs was chosen to demonstrate against the proposed move to Milton Keynes. When Watford's own future was plunged into doubt the following year, BSaD showed these qualities once again. With the newly formed Watford Supporters Trust in need of funds to help the club in its hour of need, BSaD and "look at the stars", together with Sarah Jones from the Watford Museum, collaborated once more and after a hectic month's work produced "You Are My Watford", a mighty book with over two hundred articles on why Watford FC is so special. The book raised over £5000 for the cause.
Over the last couple of years, BSad has continued to provide the same stream of excellent writing. National acclaim has come, and its reputation has even spread to other clubs, whose fans regularly comment on the fair minded reporting of their games with Watford and contributed in large numbers to Matt's excellent season previews and surveys. BSaD's also upset a few along the way. Among those to take exception to articles were Watford's former commercial manager James McLaughlin, and former Watford players Jason Drysdale and Mick Quinn. The latter even quoted Ig's hilarious "Hall of Arse" article on the porky centre forward's pie-filled stint at Watford in his autobiography. Last year, a memorable spat with Data Co about using match fixtures on the site provided the spark for yet more rallying from Ig and Matt.
As these last few years have played out, and Aidy Boothroyd has taken us on another ride to the top tier of English football, other writers have written more and more of the reports and previews, which gives us a clue as to why Ig and Matt have decided to call it a day. Life is taking both in a different direction, and anyway, who was it that said all good things must come to an end? When the Beatles spilt up, John Lennon said that the fans would always have the records, and as a result the Beatles would always exist. Ig, Matt and the many others who've played a part in this wonderful thing have left us all with something to look back on. BSaD will remain on-line to act as a vault of memories, magical and painful, for Watford fans everywhere to dip into. That's the silver lining on this particular cloud.
From "Colin Who", to "Gone But Not Forgotten", "Thing of the Week", "It's a long way to...", cartoons, tributes and famous victories, BSaD is nothing short of a joy. Be they exiles in far flung places, students in universities all over the land, office workers sneaking a peek during quiet moments at work, Watford fans from all over the place have logged on to read the views of Ig and Matt for many years. There is no doubt at all that BSaD's demise will leave a huge hole. And that, in many ways, is the best tribute one can pay a fanzine. It mattered. It made a difference. It was and is a bloody good read.
And it will be missed.