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)
The Hornets have landed
Report by Craig Thompson, South West Hornets
Alarm set for 6 am, the time we usually get up when travelling to watch the Hornets play, as me & Michelle are due to be picked up outside the house at 8. Our lift arrives bang on time and we set off, scarves hanging out of the windows. We hit the M32 and M4, a journey we don't usually look forward to but today is different, as this journey is the beginning of what we all know will be a fantastic day. Travelling along the M4, memories of past glory days come flooding back - too many to mention here. We chat about Wembley in 1984 and the wonderful memories of that day but this is 1999, fifteen years on, and we have a new set of players to be proud of, although we shall never forget those who wore the yellow shirt in Graham Taylor's first reign.
We arrive in Watford at 10 and park by the tube station. Already there are Hornets hanging around with their flags flying, greeting each other with handshakes and hugs. I notice Kevin Birdseye in the queue for tube tickets and decide to join it before it gets any longer. We meet up with some friends whose tickets we have and, at just gone 11, jump on the train that will take us and the many others to Wembley Park. Again, the memories from '84 come flooding back, and with the excitement building up, I can't wait to get there.
The tube pulls slowly into Wembley Park and there's Watford everywhere. I just can't believe what I'm seeing - thousands of Hornets making their way to see our beloved Golden Boys play at the most famous stadium in the world. Walking out of the station I overhear a couple of Bolton fans talking. "There's too much f***ing yellow around here," one grumbled, which was music to my ears!
We made our way to a pub and met up with some of the other SW Hornets but it's 11.30 and so we have to wait outside in the car park until it opens its doors at noon. Why are our licensing laws so archaic! Eventually the doors open, the sun starts shining through the clouds, the drinks begin to flow and the Watford fans start singing. This is fantastic, just what we've been waiting all these years for. There are a few Bolton fans in the pub, trying to compete but to no avail, and you just know that today is not going to be their day. We start to sing "Cheer up Lennie Lawrence", they reply with "Cheer up Alex Ferguson", which has us in fits of laughter. The banter was good natured all round, which is just what you would expect when Watford are about.
At about 1.30 pm we make our way to the stadium, and mingle with the thousands upon thousands of Watford fans walking down Wembley Way. An awesome sight, so many happy faces, all of them Watford. Surely Wembley has never seen such a colourful invasion of supporters! Words cannot describe how wonderful it was to witness this and today, more than ever, I'm so proud to be a Hornet.
It doesn't take long at all to get into the ground, and we make our way to our seats, up the thousands of steps into block 238. Our seats were perfect, right behind the goal about halfway up - Glen Calverley had come up trumps for us. The 45 minute build up quickly passed by, and before you knew it the Golden Boys were being led out of the tunnel by GT to the sound of a huge roar from the crowd. Wasn't our end fantastic - this is what football is all about, this is what we have lived for all those many, many years...we are Watford, we are at Wembley, and we want the whole world to know that Watford are back!
The game finally kicks off and Bolton come at us from the off. No-one around me seems too worried, because there is so much belief and faith in GT and the lads. We are all in this together and no-one is going to spoil our day. All the noise is coming from the Watford end, all the colour is in the Watford end, and come the 38th minute, all the celebrations are in the Watford end. Nicky Wright Wright Wright's wonder goal sparks off the wild celebrations - I hug everyone around me, I want to hug Nicky Wright, but instead I sing and sing "1-0 to the Golden Boys!"
Half time passes by quickly and before you can say "GT is God" the lads are back out and we're in the second half. The noise from our end is incredible - we are behind the Golden Boys every step of the way, whilst the Bolton fans seem to have already resigned themselves to another season in Division One. Time ticks by, the Golden Boys on the pitch are in control and no matter what the Bolton players try to do, they are never going to get past Alec Chamberlain and stick the ball in our net...this is our day!
Only a few minutes to go and you start to think to yourselves that the one goal has done the trick...not if Allan Smart has his way, though! Smartie came on as sub and, boy, did he make his mark on this game. His fantastic strike, from a perfect ball into his path by Kennedy, was right in front of us and we watched in awe as it flew into the back of the net. 2-0, Christ, we've bloody done it! We all went absolutely mental in the stands, hugs all round again, the Hornets have landed!
The final whistle went, cue mass celebrations, singing, flag waving and intense emotions for those of us who have stuck by Watford through all those dark years since we were last in the big time. Standing on the pitch at Fulham last season after we had won the Second Division Championship, I remember saying that it wouldn't get better than this for a long time. How wrong I was, and how glad I am that I was wrong! I feel so happy for Graham Taylor - he is the master tactician, the only one who can turn our club around again into a team we can all be very proud of. I'm very proud of every single player, not only those who played their hearts out on the Wembley turf, but every single one who took part in our rise from Division Two to the Premiership. GT, Luther, Kenny and Tom, we salute you!
The players milked every moment on the pitch afterwards, and how they deserved those special moments. GT waved and waved to all of us fans - this was his moment, and you could tell he was loving every minute of it, and rightly so. I'll never forget the tears of joy in Smartie's eyes which showed us all how much it means to him. He loves Watford, all the players love Watford and GT has installed that into them. GT loves Watford, we all love Watford and there's no other football club like it.
The time came when we finally had to leave the ground. We didn't want to and I could have stayed in there all night. We were amongst the last out, and caught the tail-end of the thousands of Hornets heading down Wembley Way towards the tube. I bumped into a few other Hornets I know, more hugs. I took one last look at those famous Twin Towers, took a few photos and then hung around until the Police finally let us into the tube station.
The journey back to Watford was strange, every carriage was packed with Watford fans and yet it was very quiet. I'm sure we were all still in shock and every single one of those people had a kind of stunned but happy look on their face.
Back in Watford, we cut through the park towards the High Street and the sound of car horns tooting filled the air. The High Street is packed with Hornets celebrating, and as we entered the Moon Under Water it was just as loud as Wembley! I can't tell you how long I've waited for this day, and I could have stayed in there for ever.
Thank you GT; thank you Nicky Wright and Allan Smart; thank you Alec Chamberlain, Darren Bazeley, Steve Palmer, Robert Page, Paul Robinson, Micah Hyde, Richard Johnson, Peter Kennedy, Michel Ngonge, Tommy Mooney, Alon Hazan, every single squad player and everyone involved with Watford Football Club. You will all be our heroes for ever more.