By Mike Smart
As you will no doubt be aware, this is the last match that BSaD plans to cover in its usual, inimitable, comprehensive fashion. As such it is an honour to be given the task of writing the preview. An honour, because of all that BSaD has come to mean to so many of us. An honour, because I get to write about this wonderful football team of ours. An honour, because fellow supporters will read it and maybe, just maybe, one or two employees of the club read these pages too. And, of course, I'm led to believe that Jason Drysdale enjoys catching up with BSaD....
Not adding to the honour, however, is the fact that we are playing Manchester United. United. Manyoo. Not one bit.
Which is what any supporters of our opponents on Saturday who are tuning in will find unfathomable, particularly those who will be making their journey (or, more likely, not making their journey) from Pontefract. Or Truro. Or Kings Lynn.
Right, let's go back a bit. Of course, like most people, I used to hate Manyoo. And I suppose a part of me still does, in much the same way that I will forever chortle at Derby's misfortune due to an unpleasant encounter I once had with a particularly sub-human supporter of theirs. As football supporters – real ones – we don't forget such things.
Some of the reasons to hate this lot are still there, some diminished slightly; Ferguson is far less odious now that he's actually not very good, but I will still be reminded, as a coach pulls away from Vicarage Road bearing the words "South Wales Reds", of why the existence of Manchester United is so bad for football.
And some reasons have gone altogether. Chiefly, Roy Keane, an individual who makes Kevin Muscat seem like a contender for the Fair Play award, has gone. In fact, I haven't heard anything about the man who loves his country almost as much as his ego since he left Celtic. I'm torn between hoping that he's in prison and hoping Alf-Inge Haaland's pet bull terrier has eaten his testicles.
Keane's appearance as a substitute the last time we visited Old Trafford was one of six times that afternoon that the Red Devils' supporters (sic) made any noise. Four of them came when United scored, and the other was to chirrup: "You've only come to see United". Which, you suspect, many of them actually believed.
They will never understand. They will hide behind the tired old line that anyone expressing a dislike of their team is "jealous".
Their team on Saturday will certainly be a talented one. I can't be bothered to research the various ins and outs; obviously Rooney (ridiculously) is suspended, as is Scholes, and I believe Carrick is still some way off. But debate the merits of a Ferdinand/Brown centre back pairing? Discuss the threat down the right flank of a Neville/Ronaldo link-up? There are too many people spending too much time doing that already. I can't be bothered. Rest assured it will be a strong team; Ferguson, having visited Watford for the West Ham game on Tuesday, will have left with no doubt that complacency is a luxury his team can ill-afford when they visit.
So, jealous then. There's some truth in it, I suppose; I most certainly would like to see Watford win the league. Better still, the European Cup. Better still, both at the same time; and throw in the FA Cup while you're at it. There is where the envy ends; everything else is pity.
Suppose Manyoo win on Saturday, which they probably will. What's the emotion for their fans, travelling or otherwise? Joy? Unbounded delight? Mild satisfaction at a necessary speed bump being safely negotiated, I'm guessing. And so it will be in every game, other than those against, say, Chelsea and Arsenal. They expect to win. They need to win. In a world where anything but first place is failure, there is no joy along the way. Only when the job is done and the trophy is lifted can proper celebrations begin. They will never feel the thrill that those of us fortunate enough to be at Bramall Lane last season felt. Or the pride at being the only team to stop Reading scoring in either game. The ecstasy of beating their local rivals? Of course they beat their local rivals, their team cost ten times as much to put together. In any case, they don't seem able to decide who their local rivals are; "Anyone in the North-West with a ground capacity of thirty-five thousand or more…plus Leeds" seems to fit the bill.
Pick a random Watford season. Pick a random game. We could be beating Liverpool. We could be losing to Notts County. We could be drawing nil-nil at Oxford, snatching a crucial last-gasp two-one win at home to Tranmere, inching home in a thoroughly unmerited win at Brighton. Here, you can read about all these and so many more. And this is the joy of supporting Watford. This, and the fact that you can nearly always get a ticket, and the many happy hours to be spent taking the piss out of Wolves. Other clubs will have similar stories; the locations are different, the heroes and villains. But the adventure is along similar lines. For Swansea. For Nottingham Forest. For Peterborough. For Portsmouth. For so many other clubs and their supporters. But not for Manyoo. For them, the "adventure" is that sometimes it is good enough, and sometimes it isn't. They go – those who win the raffle to get tickets – to mostly the same venues each year, visit the same pubs and swap insults, if they can be bothered, with the same sets of supporters.
Watford have a bloody great team at the moment. One day, we will be crap again. We will have another financial crisis, we will have another Jack Petchey. Then, we will come out the other side and be great again. So it will go on. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
There'll be other websites too. None that'll match this one, though. This is the website whose match preview Graham Taylor put on the dressing room wall during the play-offs. This is the website that Mick Quinn quoted in his autobiography. This is the website that translated "If I had the Wings of a Sparrow" into thirty-one different languages. Including Morse Code. This is the website that filled Anfield with yellow balloons.
This is the website that did this, this, this and, um, this. And pick your own favourite – there's a fair bit to choose from.
We'll never see its like again. But at least we saw it. It's part of what makes our club so special. If you're a Manyoo fan from Aberystwyth, you will never understand.