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It doesn't get any better
By Matt Bunner
I remember the defining moment of our first attempt to get out of Division Two after relegation. I was in Derby seeing an old University friend for the weekend in the early spring of 1997 and the same day Watford were away at Millwall. On paper a very tough game considering, if my memory serves me well, Millwall won at our place, but at that time all games were tough. Anyway, when I came back, the television immediately went on and, as I watched the results filter through, I saw that we had won 1-0! Together with the other results, we were level on sixty points at the TOP of the table! I suppose then, I took the rest of the season for granted because after all we were very hard to beat and I just couldn't see us throwing away this opportunity....

People who don't know me must realise that I follow my local (errr... within 10 miles then) side Aldershot Town FC. You know the one: got into Division Two (as it is now) after beating Wolves in the play-offs; relegated next year and then spectacularly folded in 1991. Then came our 'saviour', the 17 year-old whizz kid, property dealer Spencer Trethewey. There was great publicity about his 'fortune' that was being ploughed into the new club, Aldershot Town FC 1992. Three months later and no cash injection, he was banged away for fraud. Cheers, mate. Anyway, the point I'm driving at is that I have followed both clubs since the late 70's and the commonality between the two clubs is astounding. Aldershot Town had to start at the grass roots level after reforming. The club has gained three promotions in six years and is only two away from league status - this activity of rising through the leagues is very familiar with us Golden Boys!

At the same period in the season as the aforementioned Millwall result, Aldershot were near the top of the league. I thought that both clubs were going up and what a season this would be, but unfortunately both Watford and Aldershot dropped too many points at crucial times and were left stranded in Division Two. So that lead nicely into this season....

A change of personal at both clubs saw a new direction and perhaps a refreshing change in the clubs' fortunes. We had Elton John and his merry band of chirpy directors running the club; Graham Taylor back in a tracksuit, months after saying he'd never do that again; and a good source of income to the club via the Saracens Rugby Union outfit that now share our ground. Things were looking perky. For the first few months, Watford were unstoppable, winning an unprecedented amount of games in the first ten league games. Our first mini-test of the season was after the drubbing (okay, 2-0) at Preston. I was expecting us to go on a standard draw-a- few-and-win-one-occasionally period, but no, we picked up straight away and won the next game. My first visual signs of encouragement was the first half bombardment against Wycombe, where we played to the potential of the side of the 1980's: there was width, flair, character, invention and we hit the bar more times than Tony Adams.

A few months into the season and Watford were well clear at the top of league. It took at little bit of believing, but considering the way the Boys had been playing, it was well deserved. I'm right in saying that most fans didn't fall for the old "we'll blow it by May" syndrome - there was more of an air of confidence through the club - more like "we deserve to be top, so we'll take that". Interestingly, Bristol City were nineteenth at the time.

Aldershot, meanwhile, had achieved a near club record of seven league wins in row to catch up on the league leaders Grays, who took had taken thirty-one points from a maximum of thirty-three (but DIDN'T get promoted!), so football all around was looking good for yours truly.

Not being able to be in two places at one time, I have to make the sacrifice for one club on a footy day: it came down to distance. Watford home games all the time and, if the Golden Ones are away from home, then I follow Aldershot T. It may seem like divided loyalties but, because I love footy so much, I have to do it (having said that, Aldershot v Watford and I'll be in the away end!). I suppose the good thing that comes out of this is that when you watch one match you always have one thought on what is going on in the other. The feeling I get when I jump in the car after watching Aldershot to find the Watford have won away is an immense rush - it sets up the rest of the evening! And, let's face it, we've won a lot away!!!

A good indicator of how well a side is doing is at the New Year time. A benchmark that I use is that if a club has around or over fifty points during the first week of the New Year, then that side is going very well indeed. Watford had fifty-six points. Enough said. Then came THAT Sheff Weds equaliser, where the whole Sheff Wed end was very loud because they had just scored, but eleven seconds later, the Kennedy screamer lifted the 'needle off the record' and a 'pin drop' moment was created (I know, I was with them!!! Couldn't get in anywhere else).

The month after a 'Manager of the Month' award is always the club's worst. GT was awarded the accolade for January and then saw our side not win a sausage for February. We were nineteen points clear of third place and just about keeping Bristol City away, but we were suddenly back into draw mode again. A little bit of frustration and dare I say complacency (after all, isn't that what success breeds?) crept in and we found it hard going. Grimsby put a good run together and looked like that may be able to catch one of the front two until they met Luton who did us a fantastic favour in winning away. Despite being miles clear, it's still nice to have promotion confirmed to eliminate any doubt (despite what GT said) and thankfully the occasion was not too far away.

Meanwhile, Aldershot were streaking clear of the rest....

I was a bit miffed that Bristol City confirmed promotion before we did, but we all knew that we should have wrapped it up a few weeks before. Silly home results cost us, but it wasn't for the lack of effort. I mean, the Walsall game was a case in point: we played them off the park and they had two shots and won. Some of the crowd reaction was unbelievable at the end: I will remember this shout for a long time, "Go on piss-off back to the changing rooms. You're not getting any clap from here". No wonder Mooney stormed off. It's good that we're all behind the team as we're about to get promoted. That's by-the-by. Back to Bristol. We got our tickets in February for this huge occasion - thanks to John Abbott (City fan, ha! ha!) for that - City v Watford. We could confirm promotion as well as getting ahead in the Championship race. Although Bristol had seventy-five percent of the possession, it was all side-to-side stuff: Watford had the better chances. When Jason Lee put us ahead, we (Dad and I) nearly lost it, until we realised that we were surrounded by seven thousand not-so-happy farmers! Magic moment! By then, we knew that Grimsby were losing at home, so the party could begin!

On last day of the season, it was going to the wire. Surely Bristol wouldn't lose at Preston? Watford to win at Fulham when they desperately need a point? Aldershot had guaranteed promotion by winning the league by 11 points, so where was I? Fulham? No. Aldershot? No. I was at Valley End playing league cricket (have to - I'm skipper). Hmmm. That afternoon I spent more time in the car listening to the radio than in the field. Eventually the half-time scores came through: City down, Watford up. Way hey! With a perfect stroke of genius, I managed to time the tea interval EXACTLY as the results were filtering through. WE WERE CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!! Only then did it sink in....

Well, that was a football season and a half. Our team Watford went up as CHAMPIONS. My other team, Aldershot, went up as CHAMPIONS. Rangers didn't win the league. Man Utd won f*ck all. Crystal Palace got relegated. Luton are going nowhere.