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)
Tears at tea-time
Report by Ben Soloway
Nothing about Monday's events seem clear, it's all just one colossal blur of emotion. Don't even try and tell me we're in the Premiership! I've tried telling myself for the past four days and whilst the heart is willing the mind is unable, unable to release itself from the realms of logical reality.
It seems that the only way I'm able to describe how I feel and the emotion and excitement of it all is by telling anyone who asks about Monday that "I cried!", as if to say that any event which brings a post-pubescent male to such a state must be an exceptional and life-shaping occurrence. It was all this and so much more besides!
I cried for the occasion and I cried for the players. In the ten days or so between beating Birmingham and our visit to Wemberlee, I had been concentrating on exactly that - Wemberlee. In my lust to savour an occasion which may never happen again as long as I live, in my desire to grasp every moment and draw it into my mind's eye, I had become oblivious to the football match around which the day was centred. So when the teams broke after the national anthem I found myself weeping. I mean Watford at bloody Wemberlee, Z-Cars at Wembley, Tommy bloody Mooney at bloody Wemberlee. I think you know what I'm talking about.
I cried because it was the culmination of years of disillusioned and irrational hope beyond hope. All the years, money, emotional as well as physical effort and finally my investment had paid a heavy dividend. Suddenly I understood why I'd been to Bloomfield Park, Gigg Lane, and the Priestfield among other complete piles of shite.... It was for this moment. Before I sat down, just in the seconds before kick-off, I allowed myself to be once again engulfed in the sea of yellow and red and the joyous flag waving of which I found myself a part.
I could not believe the sight. Each of the 38,000 red, yellow and black specs I could see around me seemed as excited and emotional as me.
As I took my seat I was struck by a dilemma. If we get to the Premiership we will most likely sell out the Vic every week. And, whilst I'm sure that many a young and impressionable fan's allegiance will have been tattooed on them for life by what they saw on Monday, there will have been equally as many who asked 'What happened to John Barnes?' or were wondering 'Don't Watford play all their games at Wembley then? - I mean I haven't been for a while but it looks the same to me'. There is no doubt that many of these people will come back to Watford next year. This is definitely a good thing, and maybe I'm just being too possessive. I mean, it's money the club won't sniff at and a good number of the new visitors the club will receive next term will undoubtedly become as hooked and obsessive as I am now. Of course, this is the thing, everybody starts somewhere, and the only way to become an addict is to be given a shot. So, hard as it will be, I fully intend to make an effort so that as many as possible of next year's crop won't abandon ship once the going gets tough, but instead strap on a syringe and join the ride.
Well, I say this, but having nearly ignored my exams totally as I approached them in a Wembley-induced trance, I find it on the painful side of difficult to accept that it is humanly possibly not to be entirely obsessed by the Golden Boys, and that to call yourself a fan you don't necessarily have to have gone to the McAlpine Stadium in the middle of the working week to watch your team get a 3-0 drubbing. I suppose what I'm really getting at is whether it is truly possible for the fact that Watford are in the Premiership to mean as much to someone who will turn up to watch Man Utd at the Vic next season and not return if we get relegated, or to someone who has stayed by their team's side during the lean years; and whether or not we should open our arms to these wanderers or get all possessive. I know what's rational and I know what's realistic but that is my dilemma.
After more tears at full time, having spent the whole of the period since Smart's goal thinking only 'Gillingham, bloody Gillingham' and, therefore denying myself any premature celebrations, we eventually made it home. We watched the end of the video and I, predictably by now, cried again.
At the pub later that night my brother's friend said to a Barnet supporting mate, "But I don't care we're in the Premiership, you're in the bloody third division". My stomach turned at this remark. To enjoy where we're going, we must all appreciate where we've come from. I loathe the day we forget that we don't belong in the Premiership. There's a difference between a Premiership club and a Premiership mentality...one is possible without the other! For now, we've got the better one.