It's a long way from...NG7
Report by Brian Galpin
0600. Woke up without the aid of the alarm. Tense nervous headache, yer in the playoffs mate. Remembered IG's superstitious routine. Couldn't make any decisions about pants. Went into the spare room to converse with the WFC wallposter, touch Tommy's image in an attempt to will something, anything. Checked the oil, checked email, checked for me ticket, boy did I check that ticket.
0900. Here we go. Hornet buzzing on my left breast and scarf out the window. Bewildered early risers collecting their papers took me for a World Cup cricket fan. My headache transmigrated itself into my guts, would I have to stop at Leicester Forest East. Approached M1/M6 junction, enemy territory. There they are, down the M6 from Planet Reebok, giving me friendly waves (I think they were waves !). Northampton to Milton Keynes - toots from the occasional passing 'Ornet. Luton, up the rise over the hill, Hertfordshire.
1100. Watford Junction. Yooooo 'Orns. Red yellow black just about everywhere. 1968 shirts, 1984 hats, little table tennis styley bats that said "GOAL". Yellow Dreadlocks. Better eat something. Better buy a train ticket. The ticket office asks "where do you want to go?". As if. Paradise?
1145. Wembley Central. I remembered the scouse scally asking me before the game on the very same platform in 84, "Hey mate, givus your address so's I can stay wid youse for the Charity Shield".
1200. 300 yards down Wembley parade. "YOOOOOOOO 'ORNS" pulled me into the first pub. Up to the rafters with the faithful. We sang 'em all (even got in a "Oo it's a corner"), we did the Conga. Flags were paraded around the pub. Fans screamed into mobiles trying to get the atmosphere over to mates. Stand up if you're going up. We're on the road with Taylor's Army.
1400. Time for the showdown. Out the pub following the crowd blindly hoping I wasn't following a bootsale crowd. There it was, what we sing about in the shower, Wembley Stadium. I wandered around to my gate and joined a group up on the grass embankment to sing and chant until Old Bill thought it wasn't a good idea. YELLOOOOOWS. YELLOOOOOWS. YELLOOOOOWS as we went in.
1430. Top seat. Slightly to the right of the goal. Nice height, by the aisle so plenty of going mental space. Wembley looked smaller to me. I'd been positive all day, now I really was positive, really! It was manageble. IG said the game passed at astonishing speed. Too right, where did the first half an hour go?
Peter Kennedy's corner, deflected and Nick Wright thought "oh well, here goes", and boy did it. Bolton defenders leaping like Masai warriors, arms by their sides. The foreshortening delayed our reaction by the time it takes Linford to win three gold medals. Bedlam, absolute feckin bedlam in our end. THE 'ORNS ARE GOIN' UP. Ten minutes to half time, stay tight.
Halftime. Needed a drink badly and rehydrated with a coke. Needed to walk about. A fan approaches me and lifts his shirt to show me his Hornet tattoo as the one on my shirt. "Feck these mooses," he says "we're 'Orns". Meet someone from the ticket queue down the Vic the week before, we hug like brothers.
2nd Half. Seat 144 Row 17. We're attacking our end. Mooney shoots wide. Wright just can't make contact. Mooney header wide again. Ngonge bundled. They push for the equaliser. Alex superb, in control. If they get through Page and Palmer, Alex'll save us.
A break, ball pushed out wide to Kennedy, storming Scully-styley perfect cross, low ahead of a chasing defender. Allan Smart with fresh substitute's legs first to the ball. We are screaming BURY IT, SHOOT, SHOOT, GO ON, GO ON, GO ON.
Brings tears to my eyes now, mates, really does.
Ten minutes. Manchester United scored two in injury time. Manchester City did the same on this very pitch only 24 hours earlier. This was another Manchester club (though they'd not agree). Could they do it? Not a chance. The Premiership is OURS and yer not havin' it.
Mental Time. GT on the pitch. There really is only ONE GRAHAM TAYLOR. Alan Green reckons he's scared of Wembley, don't think so Alan. We're going bonkers everywhere I looked. It was difficult to take it in (still is). I was blissed out. The lads around the pitch. Going up for the Cup. We win a feckin' CUP!! Team photos. Ngonge through the stewards, cup on his head. WE ARE PREMIERSHIP, SAY WE ARE PREMIERSHIP. We did it. We did it without a whinging Trevor Francis, Mark McGee or, no doubt now, Colin Todd. "But we're the big 1st Divvy teams". Yeah, well you carry on playing first division stuff, lads, WE ARE PREMIERSHIP.
1800. Watford High Street. PARTY PARTY PARTY. We headed straight into town any way we could. In the Pond. In the pubs. Cars doing the High Street cruise, fans on the bonnets. Flags from windows. It happened in Manchester, Sunderland and Bradford, now it was our time to party. I remember falling out of a tree at some stage. Recognised someone from school but was too pissed to say "Hi remmber yoo". Magnificent day.
Every football club in the country should have one. It's so easy to pull a Red shirt on for instant success, but if you can wait it is the business. Oo Oo Who let the 'Orns out!
0300ish. Woke in the back on the van in Market Street. Gasping for water. And the thought that next season we're playing the European Champions TWICE.
Now for the real stuff.