The power of W
By Jeff Dell
From behind the bar of the pub on Croxley Green my brother would surreptitiously slip me free pints of beer. It's a few years ago now, but thanks mate, I appreciate it. I'm a bit sentimental about Watford really, and I'm reminded of all this by my visit to Simon the Social Worker who's moved to Croxley from West Watford. Tired of the noise, other people's walks home from the pub, the lack of parking and the sheer claustrophobia of it all.
On my way to his house I think of my time in Watford. Scottswood Road, early morning shifts at Dickinson's, saving up to go abroad, a bit of howsyafather in Whippendell Woods. My girlfriend's knickers getting stolen off our Marlborough Road washing line, a bit of a smoke at half time in the Vic with my brother, giggling, upsetting the bloke in front of us for finding humor where he and 11,000 others could see none. Laughing ourselves shitless on the terraces of Vicarage Road and choking on fried onions and hot tea. Young, innocent, happy. Balissimo.
Change in others disconcerts me. I went away so that I could distance myself from the familiar and grow a little, but how can I do this if the benchmark changes too. How can I measure the distance I've traveled if the starting line has moved? It's bloody outrageous actually. Take Simon for example. I depended on him living in West Watford and now it's directions over the telephone - right at the Two Bridges, past the parade of shops and hang a left somewhere. This hardly seems fair. Listen, I moved, I change. You stayed, you remain the same. But now everyone's at it - it's not reasonable and I want people to stop. This way, what with you changing as well, we might all have moved away. Or equally, we might all have stayed. And then where would we be? Do you get my point? We're thinking it's time to come home, but home's moved house and we don't know the address. Why didn't you warn me?
I was back on my summer break from Dhaka, visiting the oldies, the Club (may the lord have mercy on our goal) and a few buddies. I took the kids into the Club shop but they were a little disappointed. For which, read 'mightily pissed off'. Couldn't get clothes to fit them, the Wembley Play off Final still wasn't out on video, no old programmes to buy and not even a half decent car sticker. We won't even talk about the club shirts. Thankfully. We looked around the perimeter of the ground but couldn't get so much as a peep at the turf. Couldn't even clamber under the gates. Disappointing since we'd come a long way. I worry about Watford, I confess. The Club, I mean. I want them to do well. I've got the Watford Supporter's Association in Bangladesh to think of. I've had bloody T-shirts printed. A lot hinges on this season. I've raised the ante; I'm inviting ridicule. They have to do well, if only for me. And I know, I know... yes, I know! They will. Faith.
My kids are die-hard Watford fans, as you'd expect from boys with an Indian mum, born in New Zealand and West Ham and raised in Palestine and Bangladesh. We did 442 and When Saturday Comes, I indulged them with Shoot and Match - they are young, remember - and even agreed to take them to the West Ham ground, being in that part of town at the time.
In the many years I'd lived around its corner, I only went to West Ham a couple of times. It's not my club, I'm not their fan and I had other things to do. But if I lived there now, I might go. Well, when Watford weren't at home, I mean. I might go because of the generosity they showed my kids when we turned up unannounced and asked at reception if we could have a look at the ground. No problems at all, Sir, a young man showed us the dressing rooms, the physio room, and walked us down the tunnel the teams take at three minutes to three of a Saturday afternoon. I was Bobby Moore; my kids were Ian Wright. That's cool, I can handle it.
We headed up to Whitby, my kids angry that once again home leave didn't coincide with a football match. Whitby: Captain Cook, Dracula and the best fish and chips this side of Suez. And - what was this? By the newsagents, just by the bridge that links the two halves of town, there was a poster advertising Whitby versus Leeds, a testimonial for Paul Pitman, their long serving and high scoring number eleven. Paul's been the Northern League's leading goalscorer five times and has been Whitby's Player of the Year twice. His scoring is phenomenal - 364 goals from 451 appearances as of October last. And when he's not scoring goals for Whitby he's helping build the Jubilee line extension, which, as I type, is pushing up the value of my house in the East End on a daily basis. Top man, Paul!
With 1,400 or so others, we went along to Whitby's ground, happy to contribute a few quid to Paul Pitman's testimonial fund and enjoy a game of football. This is only the second match my kids have ever seen - Cambridge's defeat of Watford 1:0 was the only other, at about the same time last year. Leeds won 2:1. The referee played his part by inventing a penalty for Pitman - er, Whitby - towards the end of the game, thus offering our hero the opportunity to score on his big night. And the Leeds goalkeeper summed up a perfect evening by diving the wrong way in absurd fashion. I laughed so much I nearly crapped myself. Does it get better? Yes, it does. My son won a bottle of whisky at the half time raffle, which I, because of his tender years, was obliged to accept on his behalf. Oh football, hallowed is thy game.
After a week in Whitby we headed for London to prepare for the off to Dhaka. On our last morning I stood in the kitchen of our mate's house and listened to the LBC coverage of the Play off Final at Wembley on tape. I don't know who the commentators were - part of the price of living overseas - but their excitement and partisan support of Watford brought a tear to my eye. It may have been weeks late but I winced at Bolton's near misses and cheered the Watford goals as though they were live. I regretted not having been part of it. I should have come home. I should have been there.
Thank you Watford, West Ham and Whitby Town. (Woooohhhh, eerie, that's three Ws.) For those who want to know more about Whitby Town you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their web site on http://www.whitby-town-fc.co.uk For me, it's back to Dhaka and my responsibilities as President (for Life) of the Bangladesh Watford Supporters Association. Onerous maybe, and beyond most men certainly, but it's a price I'm prepared to pay. Come on yu-worns.