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Tell me more, baby!
By Colin Payne
It all really dates back to French lessons, I suppose. What a piss poor teacher Mr Cooper was. He couldn't even start to hold my attention, he had no chance, his ridiculous curly hair and monotone drawl was as uninspiring as could be. So whilst he spouted his Gallic gobbledegook, blissfully unaware that he had somehow lost the class about five months back, I drifted off into another plane. My exercise book instead of being full of keenly translated phrases and sentences became a far more interesting read. For within those doodled upon, dog-eared leaves existed my masterplan, the very blueprints for the future of Vicarage Road.

Of course, back in 1979 there was much that needed improving at "The Vic", though I'm not quite sure that my design of two huge covered terraces behind each goal, a third bank, to rival the one then at Charlton, where the Shroddells then stood, and a new lick of paint for the East Stand was exactly what was needed.

With such architectural leanings, I should have taken Technical Drawing instead of French, but alas it was a career path I never embarked upon. But it didn't stop my fascination with football grounds.

Once free of the confines of Mr Cooper talking unintelligible nonsense, the fascination dimmed not one bit. As the years passed, my favourite book ever became "Simon Inglis's Football Grounds of Britain (second edition)" - a wonderful, gorgeous book, full of beautiful stands, tiny terraces, and far too many mentions of Stand-meister supreme, Archibald Leitch.

For the first three months of any season, Match of the Day wasn't about football, it was all about catching tiny glimpses of new stands and minor developments of the grounds around the country. Throughout the nineties, clubs were teasing me with half-completed projects, building works only offering the tiniest of clues about what the finished item would look like. I loved football in the nineties, so much change, so much progress, so many new stands!

And whilst all this was happening Watford never let me down at all. Jack Petchey - say his name with contempt if you must, but he understood my passion. Jack knew what I wanted. Sure, a successful side may have been important to some, but like Kevin Costner, Jack and I knew that if you build it, they will come.

As first the Vicarage Road stand went up, then the seats in the Rous, and finally the Rookery, Jack became my hero. Where as the succession of hapless managers he employed only disappointed, off the field Jack built a new Watford. So the community aspect of the club may have lagged behind a bit, gates fell a little, every one thought he was a grade one shit. But who cared. Jack built new stands, I like new stands, and so I liked Jack.

Of course, with the re-arrival of GT, and the inevitable departure of Jack Petchey, things changed again. The emphasis shifted, football became the priority once more, winning the community over was again back on the agenda, plans for new stands were shifted down the list of things to do.

I spent each game planning in my cluttered head how I would redevelop the East Stand, but they were just fantasies. I had to console myself with Premier Football instead.

And then - joy of joys! - they're only going to build a new Main stand!

Seeing that expensively produced 3D "presentation" on the big screen was like winning the play-offs again, as each little detail was announced, I was drooling "Yes, yes, tell me more baby!"

That fantastic light and airy structure, the square block bit thingy down by the Rookery, another tier on the Rous, infilled corners, extending the god, it's wonderful!

And it's all actually going to happen. Well, perhaps not the Rookery bit, the corners are a maybe, the new tier on the Rous a possibility, but you know what I mean - another new stand!

Oh come on, let's get this season over with, it's just a game after all, never mind the play-offs, that'll only delay the start of the work. I want to see the wrecking balls, piledrivers, large cranes, huge lengths of preformed concrete, men with hard hats and fluorescent bibs scratching their arses, I want it all now. I can't wait until June or whenever. I want the ground to look as god intended it, a beautiful place, a yellow, red and black shrine to past legends and future glory. In fact, everything it wasn't in my old French text book.