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The Watford Pronunciation Guide
By Andy Barnard
Lesson two:

If you missed WPG Lesson One (or maybe you did it a while ago and now need to brush up on your lingo), please go and have a look cos it covers not only the very basics but also some pseudo-linguistic terminology which I can't be bothered to reproduce in this lesson. So for Lesson One click "here", assuming that ig does the honours by putting in a hyperlink to it. Anyway, Lesson Two is about the above-mentioned terrace chant [teaching tip: arrive before the class and write it up on the blackboard in yellow and decorate around it with red arrows and go-faster stripes, and then start off the lesson with the Watford song from Lesson One].

First of all, a bit of historical background. In the 1970s, when New Labour might have been a fashionable way of having babies and Tony Blair was probably still only a non-league singer-songwriter, Elton John and Graham Taylor set out to woo the middle classes to the Vic. Then, as now, there was only one way of doing this - they had to get the club into the top flight. Luckily that was dead easy in those days - even clubs like Swansea City did it. The Premiership didn't exist, so even the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool had to play in Division One; Britain was too poor to attract Italian footballers, so clubs had to make do with what they'd got; without Sky there was no financial incentive to get into Division One, so lower division club chairman were happy selling their star players to Liverpool. This meant that if you were a club with Division One ambitions basically all you had to do was get in a decent manager and not sell your star players to Liverpool.

As luck would have it, in those days all the Watford players were stars - even youth team goalies, like Pat Jennings who was sold off to Spurs because he couldn't kick the ball far enough upfield. But that's another story. The main thing was that everyone was happy: the team went on giant-killing cup runs and won promotion after promotion, the chant "Elton John's Taylor-Made Army" was written, and with Division One looming the middle classes eventually began to flock to the Vic including John Barnes (who would later be awarded an MBE for his services to the gentrification of football). The only real problem was that the middle- class supporters couldn't work out what the words in "Elton John's Taylor-Made Army" were. It certainly took me a good couple of seasons. I wasn't the only one though - in 1996, when the chant finally re-emerged at home to Oldham (as chronicled elsewhere in BSaD), some elderly-professor type confessed "excuse me, I've not heard this chant for ten years, and I still can't work out the words". "Elton John's Taylor-made Army," I confided. "Ah," he said, his mind at rest at last.

But then in the second phase of gentrification Graham Taylor signed a Congolese striker called Michel Ngonge. In WPG Lesson Three we will learn the correct way to say his name, but quite aside from his footballing talents he was a great signing on the pronunciation front. Here's why. Firstly, don't worry about getting it wrong, just have a go at saying it: "Michel Ngonge" - after all, even if you get it wrong it's still a beautiful name. Now, just for a moment, change that first "g" to a "j" and you get "Michel Njonge". Say it a couple of times (not too many because it's the incorrect pronunciation), then try leaving out the first four and last two letters: el Njon. And there you go - that's how "Elton John" is pronounced in "Elton John's Taylor-Made Army".

It's not really worth going into details about the vowels in "Taylor-Made" because the words are said so quickly. Strictly speaking the T and l are one syllable and the M and d are another, but so long as you pronounce T, l, m and d quickly and in that order you're close enough. That leaves the "Army" which is much the same word in practically any language - a reminder though that, as with "hornets" in WPG Lesson One, the "r" is not rolled. The chant has four beats: Elton / John's / Taylor-Made / Army. You also need to get the tones right: it's all monotone except for the "Ar" of "Army" which is one-and-a-half tones below the key. So if you sing it in C, the "Ar" is an A. Sometimes you can also split the effort: half the chanters start with "Elton John's" and the other half take over with "Taylor-Made Army". This helps to sustain marathon sessions such as the effort vs Oldham.

The words are followed by a similar period of clapping, drum-beats etc., and then the whole lot is repeated many times. For the clapping, try two claps for each of the first two beats, a clap and double-clap on the third beat, and then two claps on the fourth. For small drums the same, but ideally you also have a bass effect which is just one thump on each beat. And when you're chanting, you hold your arms up at angles towards the sky so they make a big V shape. If the "Watford" song is an expression of friendship, "Elton John's Taylor-Made Army" is a chant to raise spirits or inspire genius.

Elton John's Taylor-Made Army. Elton John's Taylor-Made Army. Almost without question the greatest football chant ever - as uplifting after eighteen hours of trekking through the Amazon rainforest as it is when the golden boys are suffering stagefright in front of the TV cameras on a Friday night.

And it's great to have it back.