I remember reading a review of Lionel Birnie and Alan Cozzi's "Four Seasons" in a national magazine, bemoaning the lack of appeal to the non-Watford fan. Well, no shit, Sherlock. One might as well criticise Shakespeare for lack of empathy with schoolchildren in twenty-first century Harlow.
The question in my mind regarding "Team Shirts to Ticket Stubs" before seeing the book, however, was more along the lines of who, even amongst Watford fans, could really be attracted to this? The anoraks amongst us, surely, will be sharply familiar with all of this stuff, the rest will scarcely be interested.
Nick Davidson could have compiled a thoroughly dry, charmless book here. An organised, well-catalogued index of bric-a-brac would have been almost totally valueless. Fortunately, this creation is completely bonkers.
There are warnings as early as the Introduction of what is to come, from the muddled implications of the originally mooted title "The Contents of a Supporter's Loft" to the endearingly honest concession that history is "refracted" through the pages that follow. And then you're into it, a wonderfully chaotic avalanche of memories and images that are impossible to finger through without a smile.
Memories of games... line-ups, videos, anecdotes, specific events... are very special, and the meat and drink of football nostalgia. This book is the equivalent of blinking, shaking your head and looking at the landscape whistling past rather than just focusing on the signposts directing your route.
A consistently strong feature is the dominance of images over words...timeless photographs documenting the club's history, hand-in-hand with team shirts, tickets, and match programmes. The book's unusual and distinctive cover is also a big plus. Even the major flaw, an occasional lapse of attention to detail which sees Malcolm Poskett labelled as Mick Henderson, and misreports Watford's 1983 5-2 win over Luton Town, for example, sort of fits. The jumbledness of memory makes precisely such mistakes, and the disorganised feel to the book which sees a lax approach to chronological sequence and an image of a "Watford 7 Southampton 1" commemorative biro distractedly deposited after the Author's note at the back of the book is consistent with this.
Flicking through the pages of "Team Shirts to Ticket Stubs" is a bit like washing your hair with a new shampoo for the first time...invigorating and surprising. Non-Watford fans won't go for it, of course, but their choice of football clubs already reveals a singular lack of taste....
"Team Shirts to Ticket Stubs" is available from the World of Watford in the Harlequin shopping centre. Call 01923 229859 for more details.