Scarborough v Watford, 7/1/95
By Ian Grant
"Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful"
(Samuel Beckett, Waiting For Godot)
We do it 'cause we love it, obviously. But we also do it 'cause we're so damn scared
that we might miss something, the one match which'll be talked about with awe for
years to come.
Fate has a funny way of making it so. Thus, for example, on the one occasion when my
efforts to get to an away game aren't totally whole-hearted, when defeat in the battle
against the public transport system is conceded a little too easily, it's inevitable
that I'll miss the best Watford performance for about half a decade.
And, equally, when that fear of being absent when history is made really kicks in and I
travel the length of the country for ninety minutes of football, fate decrees that it'll
be ninety minutes of undiluted cack. Such is life.
Football fans have a delightful way of turning the ridiculous into the sublime. Scarborough
away has become the stuff of legend, a medal of courage to be worn with pride. Rarely can so
many have travelled so far for so little.
For me, it was an act of wilful lunacy. Of course, no matter how insane the martyrdom, there'll
always be someone willing to top it - swimming ten miles through shark-infested waters
to get to a re-arranged Full Members Cup tie at Swansea or something - but, for me,
this was fairly extreme.
It's something that the outside world will never understand. A round trip of several
hundred miles at fairly monstrous expense, seeing nothing of the destination town other
than a couple of hours at the football ground. We've all, I suspect, tried to rationalise
such behaviour to our nearest and dearest at some stage in our lives. Scarborough away
reminded me that my nearest and dearest might just have a valid point....
So, anyway, the train journey from Brighton required an obscenely early alarm call -
something of a novelty back then, rather less so in these days of WIFC matches at
ten o'clock - and endless hours of travelling. Unfortunately, a personal trait means that
I'm destined to arrive stupidly early for absolutely everything - all attempts to make
myself fashionably late or even sensibly punctual, including being tied up in a straitjacket
and dangled from a crane, have met with failure. Thus it was that, despite having
journeyed from the other end of the country, I arrived in north Yorkshire at midday,
for crying out loud.
These were the days before BSaD became a multi-national money-making machine, before
the mailing list had more than a dozen scattered subscribers. I knew no-one bar a few
familiar faces to give brief greeting to, and wasted time wandering aimlessly around the
leafy village that surrounds the McCain Stadium until the turnstiles opened. Little
did I know that the boredom was only just beginning....
I've seen a lot of football matches. I've seen a lot of goalless draws. I've seen a
lot of very bad goalless draws. Nevertheless, this was without question the worst game
of competitive football I have ever seen.
Scarborough were bottom of the entire league. Watford were in the midst of one of
their periodical injury crises, meaning that Craig Ramage and Tommy Mooney became a
very makeshift bluntforce and Perry Digweed stood between the sticks. I say 'stood' between
the sticks because, other than catching one cross, that was literally all he had to
These 'memory lane' pieces usually require strenuous memory exercises to recall details
of the action. No such problems in this instance. There was no action. Nothing, an
Stood on a grass bank (next time I start droning on about the architectural cowardice of today's
new stadia, you might like to remind me of the grass bank at Scarborough), I was acutely aware that were Watford to score, I'd end up flat
on my face in the mud. Fortunately, Watford scoring was not on the agenda. We were
abject, just a god-awful flatulent mess of a football team. Scarborough were no better.
By the final whistle, the January cold - snow-covered hilltops surrounded the ground, a bitter
wind betrayed our proximity to the North Sea - had penetrated parts that even Heineken
doesn't reach. Watford fans, police and stewards had kept themselves warm with a minor
ruck, while the rest of us gave the players support that they really didn't deserve just
to kid ourselves that we were having a good time. I'd seen enough to make me want
to scream abuse at anyone who ever mentions 'the romance of the FA Cup' in my presence.
That feeling of stumbling around on frozen feet as you leave a distant away ground, having
witnessed a wretched, barren excuse for a football match. That feeling as you trudge slowly
to the station, knowing that all that awaits you is a six hour train journey with only an overpriced
programme to read. That feeling
as you remember the sacrifices you made to raise the money for the trip, the records
you could've bought, the nights out you could've enjoyed. There's nothing like it.