The red car
By John Clayton
Five days to go and a Devonian shopkeeper said to me he hoped that "Watford will do the world of football a big favour and beat them on Sunday".
Right then, four of us in the motor, all decorated with WFC stuff, eight o'clock start from Wakefield and onto the southbound M1 at junction 40. Into lane three and up to seventy mph plus ten percent. Not clever, but the truth.
Now I could have wondered - who are we playing today? Needlessly. A red car "undertakes" from lane two, carves us up while giving the finger, all at once. An LFC sticker answered that question - before junction 39! We saw loads more like him through the day, 460 miles of idiots.
To the spectacularly beautiful Taff's Well station car park under a huge cliff with the fabulous Castell Coch perched part-way up. Note all the correctly parked WFC cars, also the LUFC motor parked in the disabled spot (no blue sticker).
Thanks Pete Bradshaw and Chris Stride for directions to a decent city centre "old man's" boozer. And what a treasure, with "Z-Cars" on the jukebox - that got the Leeds fans going, I bet they'll never ever know why. James Saunders from Ossett mused on the possibilities "next week" at Ossett School with just one or two Watford fans and a thousand-plus Leeds ones. Regarding the imbalance of (say) ten thousand more Leeds fans than Watford, I drew consolation from our side's greatly superior aggregate IQ. On our way out, I tried to settle Graham's anxieties about the outcome by reminding him that this would have been our "dream" semi-final game - and we have Leeds, easily the weakest of the four, in the final instead.
Through the non-functioning high technology gates into the stadium, up loads of steps with intriguing peeps through rear openings to the pitch and stands of Cardiff Arms Park, the pitch half-covered in hospitality marquees.
The game and the football events are recorded elsewhere, I can't do that. While I understand technical stuff about my own sport of cycling, the technical bits of football are beyond me. But, but I sure as hell know all about the emotion, the feel, the moods and swings of that sometimes wild, mad creature - a football match.
I've been to more tense games, but this one was plenty taut for me. The first goal hardly relieved my tension, the second took absolutely ages to cross the line. I worried greatly when Leeds almost got their "anschlusstreffer" to get back into the game, but the personal relief, my absolute joy of Darius Henderson's conversion for three-nil, instantly confirmed by the scoreboard, didn't remotely come near the mad lunatic stupid unhindered scrum that followed where huge adult men hugged, fell and tumbled utterly without regard for any personal or collective safety.
We won a game and possibly £40m, but football now owes us a favour for services rendered. I'm personally very happy to win our biggest game ever against Leeds.
Almost my final recollection in the ground was saying to my daughter Laura, "Now, where's that bastard in the red car?"