Division 1 Playoff Final, 31/5/99
Team: Chamberlain, Bazeley, Kennedy, Page, Palmer, Robinson, Ngonge, Hyde, Mooney, Johnson, Wright
Subs: Hazan (for Wright), Day, Smart (for Ngonge)
Scorers: Wright (38), Smart (89)
Bolton Wanderers 0(0)
Report by Adam Isaacs
Sport does funny things to you. There is nothing else that can conjure up so many impossibly powerful, tear-inducing images so often, and Monday provided another one.
Cast your mind back to the 1992 Olympics. In the semi-final of the 400 metres, Derek Redmond pulls a hamstring. Having worked towards this moment for the last four years, he is not going to give up on it. Hobbling round, long after the other competitors have finished, Redmond makes his way determinedly towards the line. As he rounds the bend, he is joined by his father. Leaning on his shoulder, they make it, father and son, to the line. That image, more than any other, has the power to reduce me to tears. It does so even as I type this.
But there is now another, equally powerful image. It is just before 5pm on Monday 31 May 1999. Watford have just beaten Bolton 2-0. 37,000 Watford fans have turned Wembley into a sea of yellow, red and black ecstasy. Walking over to the fans is the scorer of the second goal, Allan Smart. Five minutes before he had rushed to the same spot, sunk to his kness and been engulfed by his team mates. Now he is standing, sobbing uncontrollably, saluting the fans who had been such a key part of the team's success. He was saluting me as he sobbed, as I sobbed and saluted him. I may have been five hundred miles away, but as I watched the pictures, this was an image of how much we fans meant to the team that means so much to us. Heart, passion, commitment, Allan Smart in that moment encapsulated all that I love about WFC. The enormity of the achievement started to think about dawning, before being washed away by sheer emotion, the sheer inchoate joy. Allan Smart could not take it all in, and shared what it felt like with us.
Derek Redmond never won an Olympic medal. Watford may never win the Premiership. Both for me will be remembered for embodying the best about sport (and life) there is. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.