Back to my roots
By Paul Goodyear
I was reluctant to put finger to keyboard at first to do this article, being somewhat ashamed of my behaviour over the last ten years, but then I thought "bugger it, it's got to be done". So here it is.
I was born in Watford some twenty-six years ago and have subsequently supported them all my life. From the age of twelve through to sixteen, I regularly attended games with my dad and brother (we lived in Bracknell, so my dad was a necessity in getting to games), standing in the family terrace and generally being over-awed by the size of the crowd, the size of the stadium (I was only a young lad) and the size of Luther Blissett.
I witnessed some great games and was privileged to witness the rise of one of my (still) all time favourite players, John Barnes. One of my outstanding memories of him was his free kick against Liverpool in the FA Cup in a replay we eventually lost 1-2. I learnt an important footballing lesson that night - Liverpool always get penalties when they need them, even when it's plainly bloody obvious to everybody else they shouldn't have.
However, my Vicarage Road utopia was about to take a nosedive. The reason? I left school.
Now, this may sound like a strange reason to stop going to footie, but consider these three facts -
1) I was earning crap money.
2) I was working Saturdays.
3) My Dad became self-employed which led to longer working hours - hence no midweek games.
So, it was with heavy heart that I became a 'radio' supporter. I would avidly listen whilst working on a Saturday, but it just wasn't the same. Watford were relegated within a couple of seasons and I, criminally, turned my back.
I still watched them when they were on the box (which meant they invariably lost) and even ventured from Bracknell to Elm Park, Reading to watch them play in the Coca-Cola Cup (they won 2-0). They then found themselves languishing at the bottom of the First Division (or was it still the Second) and after about their tenth manager, Graham Taylor returned. He, of course, couldn't stave off the inevitable in a truly forgettable season and Watford were relegated.
Still I turned a blind eye and Watford's first season for a long time in the lower reaches of the league finished with mid-table obscurity. Then, last season - POW!! (for want of a better word). Watford stormed to an almost unassailable position at the top of the league and suddenly, I perked up. Then, in fine tradition, they almost blew it. Almost. Their nerve held and they were crowned Division Two champions after a fine win at Fulham and Bristol City's defeat at Preston.
And then it finally happened. After years in the wilderness, unable to bring myself to return to my birthplace, I made the choice. I had to go back. Unfortunately, Watford were playing Portsmouth on the first day of the new season, so I actually didn't. I went to Portsmouth instead.
For the first half, I questioned my sanity. There seemed to be little in the way of attacking ideas and Portsmouth took a deserved lead. The second half was considerably better but with just over ten minutes remaining I thought "what the hell, at least I caught the sun" and made to leave. Just as my arse left the seat, I looked up and witnessed one of the most comical own goals I have ever seen. Jason Lee then scored and, hey!, my first game in years and a win to boot. Needless to say, I have since been hooked. (Second time round.)
Upon my return to the Vic, I was gobsmacked by how much it had changed since I had last been there. The family enclosure is still there though and this for some perverse reason cheered me even more, although I realise this must change soon. The Bradford game was a tight affair but we won 1-0 and so to Bristol. ( I admit to missing the Worthington Cup games and following reports on BSaD, it seems like this may have been a small mercy.) The Bristol game won over all my doubts and fears in an emphatic 4-1 win. My guilt started shouting at me as fans all around shouted something about a 'banner' and 'up your arse' to the strangely quiet City fans. I was not at the season before's game and therefore not party to the general 'lauding it' over the Bristol fans.
Having now attended all home league games with the exception of the 2-0 defeat by Wolves ( I was in Devon on business - stupid bloody night for a football match anyway) and only missing the away games at Huddersfield and Sunderland and witnessing the game of the season so far at Bolton, I feel my guilt has been put to bed. And there it can bloody well stay. For good.