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FA Carling Premiership, 27/11/99
We're still standing
(Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!)
By Farzana Chaudry

Wembley 1984. I can remember, as a naive girl, gazing up at my devastated father and saying "never mind, there's always next year". My father sighed and said it would be at least twenty years before Watford ever got to the FA Cup Final again.

A lot has changed since then but the key underlying cliched message is the same - in the short term, it is still easier for us to stay up than to come up again.

This season is all about survival, and on Saturday I saw small glimmers of that.

The match had everything you'd expect from a good film; the good guys, the bad guys, the in-between guys, and Satan even made an appearance behind a thinly disguised veil. What a shame McKintyre has gone into hiding; an exposé into the underworld of Premiership refereeing would have been compelling viewing.

We were also honoured with Sir EJ's first visit of the season. Just goes to show, folks, money can never buy you everything - not freedom nor the flexibility to spare the odd ninety minutes.

Naturally if I were him, I would be there on the pitch rallying the troopers with a live re-written rendition of "we're still standing...".

I must admit it's always great to see a packed Vicarage Road. Twenty one Sunderland coaches, that's some support.

Our lads enjoyed some good bursts of play, and we played with determination, eagerness and self-belief.

However, we are still castigating ourselves by giving the opposition tooooo much space. This is invaluable space for them to receive their pass, plan their pass, and execute their pass. Notice how at any one moment in time any Watford player on the pitch seemed to be surrounded by three Sunderland players. The obvious psychological effect of this is to force us into in a mis-timed and mis-judged pass/ shot. We have got to start reading our opponents moods and faces and anticipate their actions and movements, like an advanced driving lesson. If they surround us, we surround them, it's all about tactical warfare and keeping that pressure on. This isn't Premiership stuff, but basic solid text-book football, which to Sunderland's credit, they played, but only because we gave them all that space.

There is logic to me not having a season ticket. By being a member, you have a certain amount of flexibility and movement in the Rookery end, and hence are able to view matches from a variety of different angles and distances. You also get a chance to sit next to a variety of personalities and characters. This week it was my turn to sit within earshot of Mr. Angry ! This man was amazing; I had a running radioesque type commentary throughout the match. He suddenly stopped for a few moments and I had to actually check he hadn't keeled over.

I was sitting very near the front, and heard the loud thud as Page defensively headed a first-half Phillips ball into the crowd. I also heard the stomach-crunching crack as Phillips' legs laid into a lying, available Page head. Before I could even scream... foooowllllll, Page had calmly got up, dusted himself down, shook his head, rebalanced his cerebral fluids and just got on with it. That sums it up for me... we truly are in a class of our own! And it's a class I like.

As Sunderland scored their third goal, very much against the flow of play, a hush descended across the Rookery end. We watched the cheering and chanting Sunderland fans, all five thousand and a bit of them. The smallest cell in my small toe couldn't help but feel a teeny weeny bit jealous. That should have been us living it up in the top five, and what made me even sadder is that it really, really could have been us.

This year is about survival and that survival has now begun.... Onwards and upwards; eleven home matches and eleven away matches left; nicely balanced some would say.

We're still standing...yeah! yeah! yeah!