Report by Matt Bunner
I suppose the first tingling and pangs of apprehension about the day
out at Wembley appeared in the early hours of Sunday morning because I
kept waking up thinking of Wembley; thinking of the colours; thinking
of the game; last minute winners; unimaginable ecstasy; the emotion of
the lap of honour; the camaraderie..... The aura of Wembley was
beginning to intrude on my life.
However, Sunday night I slept like a log that had taken sleeping
pills. That in itself was a good omen, because if I wasn't nervous
then the team wouldn't be and thus we should be on our way to the
Premiership! I'd already decided what I was going to wear a good few
days ago: blue trainers, black jeans, white T-shirt, Watford top,
Watford scarf and the piece-de-resistance, the large floppy black and
yellow hat. So what if I looked silly? I certainly wouldn't in amongst
the other 70,000 people in Wembley!
I left my flat at 9.00 to get to my Dad's place for 9.15. The plan was
to pick him up (seeing as he had the tickets!) and then use his Escort
to drive to the stadium to pick up the coaches set for the twin
towers. The only slight change in that plan was that we took my car
because I felt inside (a feeling!) that it was right to take mine! Dad
insisted on wearing a tie because he always does - even if the
temperature pops the end off the thermometer! We'd packed some
provisions for the day, namely a couple of cans of Coke, two pasties, two
pies, two packets of crisps and a few bits of chocolate; vital supplies
for the day as it turned out.
As we left Guildford, my car was decked with our two scarves draped
out of the window, flapping frantically in the wind, coupled with our
1984 Cup Final flag filling the back window. Nothing was on the radio
at that time in the morning, so I had to make do with Dad's mundane
rambling about this and that - I wasn't really concentrating on the
conversation as all good drivers channel all thoughts into driving!
Somewhat disappointingly I didn't see any Hornet fans on the A3 and
only about three on the M25 - were we too early for everyone? The one fan
I did see was a cute girl driving a dark blue F-reg Renault 5, but
that wasn't immediately obvious as she was devoid of colour; I only
knew she was a fan when she vehemently acknowledged our scarves! She
proceeded to tailgate us all the way to Junction 17 of M25 and then
waved as I cleared off the motorway.
The road into Watford brought more yellow, red and black people. The
Wembley 'thing' was starting to happen....... Just as I quipped to Dad
about seeing any houses decked in Hornet regalia, we saw one house
covered in Hornet gear!!! We saw some fans ambling towards to the tube
stations, to friends' houses, etc. It was 1984 all over again.
After parking the car, we walked to the Vic and were met with a few
more fans, as you may have expected! A lot had replica shirts on and
many had face-colours, silly hats, flags, the full works. Street
traders were flogging commemorative flags, scarves and hats that no
doubt had been printed 24 hours before, with some declaring, "Get yer
souvenir flags 'ere. Last few. Cmmon!". Last few?!?! There's about a hundred
in yer hand mate!
Some fans had popped in to the pub for a swift five or six before the game
started, but we decided, being considerate and responsible citizens
that we'd skip that malarkey and head for the quieter surroundings of
the coach and its queues! Fortunately there were bags of coaches,
except most looked as if they'd been stolen from the set of "On The Buses"!
Once on the coach, Dad told me that they weren't leaving until
11.30 (time now 10.35, I did wonder where everyone else was!), so I
thought to pass the time and to stop Dad talking me lobes off, I'd go
to the newsagents and purchase some rags to read up on the previews.
On the banger of 11.30 the coaches revved up and we were on our way to
Travelling to a game of such magnitude can almost be as fulfilling as
the game itself. The expectation when allowing yourself some
minutes to think about how the game is going to go, can we score, how
will be play, can we win on TV, how will I be feeling in a few hours can
lead to some butterfly moments. You almost wish that you can fall asleep
and wake up knowing that you've won, but in saying that, it would
detract heavily from the whole Wembley occasion!
Seeing the Watford coaches lavished in Golden Boys colours on a convoy
to the Twin Towers was a soothing sight to behold. Members of the public
in the town centre who had no intention of following the game gave us
the thumbs up, knowing that we were supporting their town and our club.
Most people seem to sense the joyous occasion and the celebration of
reaching Wembley - after all, Wembley doesn't come around every year for
a club of Watford's stature, so we all embraced it as almost a public
holiday within the bank holiday, determined to enjoy the day out and
treasure every moment come what may.
On joining the M1 the first coaches we saw were those from the Reebok
Stadium, lightly sprinkled in blue and white; in fact the M1 was awash
with blue, white, yellow, red and black!! There were some light hearted
moments between the two sets of coaches, each gesticulating that the
other is a 'poor team' and 'you're staying down'. The Bolton fans did
seem a trifle more nervous than our supporters - perhaps they looked in
the bottom of their tea-cups this morning to see that the leaves had
It wasn't long before we saw the bright, yet dirty, white of the famous
twin towers, raising a light-hearted cheer from coach. The Wembley
occasion thus was raised another notch. We passed hoards of Wanderers
fans on the way into the stadium - most disconcerting when you consider
that two teams were playing that day - but eventually we saw loads of
Hornets fans once we'd circled into our allotted parking bay. They
seemed to be a hell of a lot of people at the stadium considering it was
only 12.30 and yet on reflection, it was only right that all these
people should grasp as much of the atmosphere and occasion as they
My first port of call after alighting was the loo - the coach didn't
have one and thank God we weren't really stuck in traffic. As exiting
the loo, the sun appeared from behind a cloud (the weather was dull and
overcast a few hours earlier) and suddenly all the Watford colours
seemed to piercing through, nudging you on the shoulder and saying,
"Ere, take a look at me".
So what do you for a few hours to kill time? Take a walk around the
stadium, take in the atmosphere, look and wonder at the attire that some of fans
had taken time to create, sing a few "Youuuuuuu Ornnnnnnnnns!", try and
pick out people you know. People who were there can relate to this! By
this time I'd realised that the WML were meeting at 1 pm at the Olympic
Gallery, only to find that it was 1.20, so I did a quick dash (through
1000's of fans you realise!) only to find hundreds of fans milling
around at the proposed meeting place (as it turned out I was too late
and just caught the end of it). Still, next time, eh?
By this time the doors were open and after they, the Wembley stewards,
had confiscated the oh-so-dangerous plastic bottle top off our plastic
bottle, we took our seat in the famous stadium (B126, R16, S46-47).
There were noticeably more Hornet fans in the ground (stadium?) than
Trotters fans and the atmosphere was starting to build - it wasn't a
tense atmosphere, it was one of joyous expectation. I mean, I had
strangers smiling at me, telling me "It's great isn't it?", or, "This is
unbelievable, brilliant!". I could only nod in agreement. If I could
feel it, then surely the players would too.
Looking at the stadium, it does need to be upgraded. The seats are
pleasant, if a bit small and yet there are areas that have wooden
foundations and the canopy looked like corrugated plastic from B&Q. It
looked smallish, but when you consider that it houses nearly 80,000 and
thus is nearly three times the capacity of St. Andrews it makes you wonder
why it wasn't called the Tardis. However, you just can't help but be in
awe of the history that Wembley exhibits. It commands respect and you do
feel humble in its presence - for the football fraternity, the stadium
is Heaven on Earth.
Pre-match entertain on the splendid pitch was in the form of an Under Elevens
competition between the youths of Bolton and Watford. Bolton won 1-0
with a goal not too dissimilar to that 'scored' by Adebola at St.
Andrews a couple of week ago. The standard of football from these kids
was, in a word, excellent. They have been given excellent schooling and
I've no doubt that some will make the grade.
It's ten minutes before three and the players are just about to come on
the pitch. The stadium is nearly full, with some gaps in the Bolton end
and either side of the half-way line, presumably where the most
expensive seats were. I think I caught a glimpse of the WML banner next
to the royal box just as the players took to the pitch in a blaze of
fireworks and music.
I still can't believe that I'm here at Wembley, watching Watford - it
doesn't cross my mind that the winners go to the Premiership. When
you've been in Div 2 for a couple of years, Premiership stuff is the
Holy Grail that is only viewed from afar - on a different planet maybe
- it just doesn't happen to you, does it???
The teams are hailed over the tannoy, the ref is ready, I'm ready and
we're about to start a quest for glory.....
The game itself was carried along on a tide of emotion generated
primarily by the magnificent singing of our end, coupled with the
majesty of the occasion. The sun was now almost a permanent fixture on
the pitch, but it only illuminated the good start that Bolton made. They
forced some earlier corners which had Watford twitching nervously as
Hyde managed to sweep the ball clear from the six yard area as all
players stood in a frozen manner gazing solidly at the ball. We found it
hard going in the first fifteen minutes, perhaps nervous and a little
unaccustomed as opposed to Bolton who had played under the spotlight
here several times. Sure, we did a lot of harassing and chasing but
Bolton were creating most of the opportunities. Firstly Taylor was
expertly found and was a yard ahead of Page, but the youth (!) of Page
forced him into a shot from the edge of the area that was dealt
comfortably by Chamberlain. Later in the half, Page cut out a ball
destined for Chamberlain from under the nose of Gudjohnson straight
into the path of Michael Johansen and under pressure from the diving
body of Robinson, he arrowed the shot past the post. At the Bolton end
Mooney had a speculative volleyed effort from the left edge of the area
that sailed a good mile over and Wright ran at the defence to no avail.
The singing from the Watford end was incessant. Multiple renditions of
"Derrrrr, de de derrrrrr...etc Watford!" and "EJTMA!" echoed around the
stadium, overhauling the minimal efforts from the Bolton end. They did
start a "Stand up if you're...", but that was soon hijacked by our good
selves. There was still a warm, confident, ebullient feeling coming from
the crowd - we could have become quiet due to the good start Bolton had
made, but this is where we proved our 'extra man' as the energy from the
stands began slowly to diffuse into the Watford players. Sure, Bolton
were creating the better chances, namely a sitter missed from
Gudjohnson after a lovely ball from Gardner (taken from a rolling ball
after a Watford offside, I may add) and a simply stunning save from
Chamberlain, parrying away a Gudjohnson effort hit with venomous power
after the ball fortuitously ran to him off the Watford wall. One could
say that save transformed the nature of the game. The players knew it
and the crowd knew it, that it was going to be Watford's day.
Todd was caught dawdling on the half-line by Nicky Wright and sprinted
down the left channel. He played Ngonge in, but unfortunately the
Zairean took too long and his shot on the edge of the area was blocked
by Elliot. Smart work from Bazeley down the right channel took him
ghosting past Gardner and Elliot, but his delivery was disappointing
from such a good position. These were the signs that something was special
was going to happen.
We'd been dangerous from set plays for most of the first half when
Elliot scrambled the ball for a corner after a goalmouth melee and Cox
headed Johnson's effort away from the line just as it appeared the ball
may have a chance to go in. From another cross from the dependable
Kennedy, the ball was hoofed over the deadball line for another corner.
Kennedy delivered an inch perfect cross that eluded all players within
the six yard box. The ball seemed to hit Andy Todd accidentally on the
head and was heading away when Super Nicky Wright instinctively overhead
kicked the ball....
From my position low down opposite the Royal Box, the effort looked
unspectacular for the first 50% of the ball's journey; however, unlike
the majority of overheads, this ball actually seemed to dip and curve!
No-one could quite believe it when the ball hit the back of the
net....some people, myself included, were waiting for a blast (you
wouldn't have been able to hear it, believe you me!) on the whistle, but
it never came and 37,000 Hornets were going absolutely mad. The
scoreboard confirmed our dreams, that after 38 mins: Bolton 0 Watford 1.
The rest of the half was a celebration, a carnival, a sheer sense of elation
- if I had more room I would have danced about three miles. There was
however a nervous moment before the break as Chamberlain produced (later
to be academic due to the referees's insistence that the kick be taken
again) a wonderful save from Frandsen's free-kick. You could tell the
atmosphere was one of a party when we cheered that Robbo had blocked
a Bolton cross and went for a corner!
Two minutes of injury time and referee blew to confirm our 1-0 status.
On reflection, Bolton played the football in the first half and had
better chances, but there was a feeling that we were growing in
ascendancy throughout the half and thus it would be mighty difficult for
Bolton to score. We were 45 minutes from Premiership.
The second half was all about character and heart. If we played to our
potential and stifled Bolton, then there would be no way that they would
penetrate - and so it proved. Bolton tried, but could not produce a
worthwhile effort on goal. In fact, the better chances came from us:
Mooney had a fantastic header that was just past the post after
excellent work from Hyde on the Royal box side; Wright roasted Elliot
again and was unlucky to see his good cross evade both Mooney and
Ngonge; Wright again caused mayhem in the Wanderers area by running and
running and then electing to play a one-two with Mooney that saw
Mooney's cross-shot inches away from being turned in at the far post by
Nearing 80 mins, from an excellent position in our area, Gardner tried
to square the ball to an awaiting team-mate, but Super Johno intercepted
and delivered a sparkling 30 yard pass to Wright who was hovering just
shy of the half-way line, on the right. He collected the ball and ran
forward, playing an inch perfect ball to Kennedy on the left edge of the
area and electing to strike first time, he hit an electrifying shot just
past the post. No question that we were not sitting back; we wanted that
crucial second goal to take us to Heaven.
The last ten minutes were nail-biting. I wasn't as nervous as I thought
I would be (perhaps I've no experience of being 1-0 up at Wembley!), but
the sweat coming from hands was a sight to behold! It wasn't assisted
when Palmer and Chamberlain fooled each other, allowing Gudjohnnson to
toe-poke the ball towards the goal. The way that Page seemed to be
running and the screams from the Bolton end indicated that it was only a
matter of seconds before it was confirmed as 1-1. However, Page guided
the ball past the post for a stress-relieving goal-kick. Phew!
It's now 88 mins and the tension is winding up. The length of Tom 'n'
Jerry cartoon separates us from immortality. I'm begging to the ref to
mis-read his watch and blow early, but judging by recent matches, it
seems the referee has evil streak and a morbid fascination to see a team
robbed at the last.
Smart is on now and unbelievably the chap's being lambasted by a few
f***wits (excuse my language, but NO-ONE has a pop at a player at this
stage in the game). Oh, and didn't he ram those words down their
Only a few days before the play-off final, there was a match in
Barcelona where Man Utd won the Euro cup in last few minutes. I was
caught up in occasion of the last goal, but after that had subsided, I
wondered if I'd ever feel as a Man Utd fan did then. I said I loved to
have that feeling Monday.
Smart tackled the substitute Sellars in midfield and as they both got
off the ground, Hyde took over possession of the ball and moved into the
Bolton half. Spotting Kennedy free on left, Hyde produced a perfectly
weighted pass. We were now 2 on 1 with a minute to go. Kennedy wasted no
time in putting Smart through on the right side of the 'D'......would he
control then shoot?........no, before we could take a breath, Smart
unleashed a devastating finish low to the keeper's left and we'd
scored!!!! Because the attack was so swift, none of us had time to take it
in.......the outpouring of relief and scenes of immense joy could be
seen from the Moon; could seize the National Grid; could be heard in
California - it was that great. To me that moment was worthy of living.
Football is life and today we came alive. Mine and a good many people's
ambition had been realised, and NOTHING will ever surpass it - Roy of
the Rovers came to Wembley!
Moments later, the referee signalling our return to the Premiership,
bringing tearful scenes everywhere. The players were on their knees. We
would have been, given enough room. Flags were waved furiously. Hands
were clapped until red raw. Fans hugged strangers. My face was aching
because I was smiling so much. I just kept shaking my head in disbelief
and then chuckling. We'd only gone and done it! The huge scoreboard
said, "Congratulation to Watford". The word "Premiership" was underneath
- cue another shake of the head.
Minutes later, Page and boys went up the steps to collect their hugely
justified prize to a tumultuous reception from a sea of yellow. Needless
to say that the Bolton end was nearly empty. The players and staff
danced around the track, handing back some of the praise and support
we'd given them. This was all a bit of haze, but I made damn sure that I
took it all in because this could be the last time we play at Wembley.
After what seemed like hours we left the stadium. The atmosphere was
strangely quiet, almost surreal. I expect many couldn't believe the
outcome. Occasional "Youuuuuuuu Ornnnnnnnnnsss!" pierced the atmosphere,
prompting me that I wasn't dreaming. The coach journey home was sedate,
apart from the encounters with numerous Bolton coaches and cars; most
being friendly and some indicating that we like to 'feed the chickens'.
Isn't it ironic that all the cars (and one coach!) that were broken down
were Bolton fans - when it's not your day......! Getting off at the Vic,
the cars were streaming around with colours and flags and horns (!)
ablazing, just like you see on the telly. People punching the air - all
people's troubles had been forgotten in that instant: the party was
So. What a day. The day we all dream of. Your team reaches Wembley and
wins. Not only that, your team scores a last minute goal to seal the
game and you then dream of Anfield, Old Trafford, etc. Except that it
isn't a dream for much longer - two months anyway.
If someone questions why you like football, just point them to these
reports on BSaD and they'll tell them all they need to know.
Thank you football. Thank you Watford.