Main Menu
What's New
Now, Then
By David Harrison
"Always Next Year 2" is the new book from the endlessly excellent "When Saturday Comes" magazine. It's a collection of writing by WSC contributors about last season and includes a chapter on Watford, written by David Harrison.

Below, you'll find an extract from the Watford chapter, donated by those kind-hearted WSC folk. For more information on how to order the book, please click here.

"For fairly obvious reasons, Watford followers had not seen much in the way of top-flight football in the decade preceding the 1999-2000 season. Yeah, well OK, none.

Cynical observers may be justified in suggesting that it will be at least another decade before they see any more, but that is a debate for another day. However, grasping constructive opportunity from the jaws of humiliation, what this chronic under-performance through most of the Nineties does mean is that we are uniquely placed to comment on the difference between then (defined as up to the 1987-88 season) and now.

In the final season of our previous spell touring the upper echelons of English football, Nottingham Forest finished in the top three, just ahead of Everton and QPR. Luton Town (whatever happened to them?) were also in the top half, while our fellow relegation chums were none other than those First Division giants, Portsmouth and Oxford. So things have moved on, and more than a little.

Last summer we awoke, following some unforgettable Wembley play-off heroics, to find ourselves clear 4-9 favourites for relegation - a position from which we never seriously threatened to escape. And you will know that it has become one of the game's most familiar cliches (all the more tiresome for being true) that the side promoted via Wembley is all but destined for an immediate return. And so we were.

However, the initial likelihood of relegation, which in our case soon morphed into stone-cold certainty, does offer one an unusually detached and almost privileged perspective from which to observe and evaluate life in the Premier League. Nominally we were in the same league as Manchester United, in the sense that they played the same teams we did, but palpably we weren't in their league at all.

This was brought into its sharpest focus over Christmas, when Watford's borrowed training facility became unavailable. Graham Taylor and his first-team squad were forced to clear the festive outpourings of a legion of Hertfordshire dogs from a local park, prior to preparing for what appeared at the time to be a crucial relegation battle with Southampton. The fact that we won the game gave rise to any number of helpful suggestions as to the ideal constituents of a Premiership training session, but I digress.

In an attempt to compare Then with Now I compiled a list of categories which together make up something vaguely equating to the overall matchday experience. Scoring each category out of ten may give the whole exercise a pseudo-scientific gloss but the only certainty, of course, is that you will disagree with the outcome...."

For the rest, order your copy now!