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Golden days:
"Fresh eyes"
Watford v Reading, 09/05/04
By John Blake
Amazing how unobservant you become. I have been going to Watford since 1970, initially with my Dad and then, coinciding neatly with the first arrival of GT, I deserted him to start going with a group of mates.

On Sunday, I decided to take both of my kids to a game together for the first time. So it was that I set off with Kitty, seven, and Evan, five, in order to meet up with my friend, Mark, and his daughter, Bella, also seven.

The kids had been discussing little else all week, relishing a fairly meaningless end-of-season encounter with the kind of excitement usually reserved for play-off finals. Evan was looking very handsome in is his brand new Watford goalkeeping jersey, whilst Kitty had been planning outfits with Bella on the phone that morning, and was, until I persuaded her otherwise, serious about taking at least two sets of footwear, just in case.

As I parked the car in my usual spot, I suddenly realised that the brisk fifteen-minute stroll to the ground was going to be rather more arduous for their little legs. However, the promise of a short-cut through the park and a stop-off at the petrol station to stock up on sweets managed to get them there without too much bother.

The most frustrating part of the whole day for them was waiting outside the ground for the others (I had their tickets), as we could hear bits of the pre-match entertainment, without being able to see anything.

Finally we met up, got inside the ground, had a trip to the loo and stocked up again on lemonade, etc., before walking up the steps to the Rookery. Even for me, as an old lag, this is a moment to look forward to, but for them it was something far more exhilarating, and they were temporarily hushed.

I am rather ashamed to say that, for Kitty, the principal highlight of the day was probably the Golden Girls doing their routines pre-match and at half-time, but all the kids found the sight of Harry the Hornet joining in to be outrageously funny. The seaside inflatables being batted around the away end also caused much mirth.

Evan is already football-obsessed, and was keenly watching the warm-up from the players, anticipating the real match to come.

When the game started, Evan and Bella were much more into the ebb and flow of the game, such as it was, whilst Kitty's attention wandered a bit more. As did mine, truth be told, as I spent as much time watching their reactions out of the corner of my eye.

Not much happened to create undue excitement, but the goal was enthusiastically celebrated, even though, from our vantage point at the other end of the ground, it was hardly a classic.

Nonetheless, it meant that we could all go home happy and excitedly relate the various highlights back as a vast stream of consciousness to a rather bemused mummy.

Now, apologies if this all sounds like so much misplaced paternal pride and sentimental tosh, but there is a point to all of this.

It has been very easy for us to beat up the club and ourselves this season, both on and off the field and I am sure we all engaged in at least a bit of this, with varying degrees of regularity and vitriol.

But Sunday was a joy, in its own way - not because of the sparkling nature of the game, although a win is a win. Simply because it reminded me, for the umpteenth time, that despite all of its problems, Watford is really a very good place to watch football.

The kids had a very exciting day out in a really enjoyable environment, with a lot of like-minded people (even when Evan shouted out "Reading, boo!" and gave a thumbs down to a group of blue and white-clad supporters).

We can too easily forget the simple pleasures. I enjoyed the game as much as any this season (not that this is saying much, I know), even though it meant no pre-match beers or intra-match cigarettes, and I had to be far more circumspect with my comments ("Oh gosh, referee, that challenge on Lee Cook was a little late").

All the three kids joined in with the singing of "Yellow Army" and "We love you Watford", and all stated categorically that they want to go again next season.

I am not so sure about Kitty, ultimately, but Evan is a highly likely convert.

He has now been to two games (Reading and Preston) from which we have taken six points and not even conceded a goal. On this basis, I am planning to get him a season ticket for the next three years - Champions League, here we come.

His enthusiasm may wane a little when he learns to read the newspapers and finds out that Watford are not, in fact, battling it out at the top of some mythical league with Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Brazil (some confusion there, I feel), but I really hope not.

When I put him to bed on Sunday evening, he was already looking forward to next season, and going to more games with me. I told him that all too soon, he would start wanting to go with his mates, not his dad.

He denied it, but I know it will happen.