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Irrational hatred of...
Away games
By Dave Perahia
Eh ? Surely some mistake ? Luton 0 Watford 4 ? Bristol City 1 Watford 4 ? Boozy trips to a distant watering hole and the sight of Pete Fincham's arse as he displays it to the locals ? Rupe ? Let me explain.

I love Watford. And I want the world to know it. There's something about supporting an unfashionable club that almost everybody takes the piss out of that makes me want to shout all the louder. It's called bloodymindedness, I guess (at least it may be, although perhaps there should be at least one space in there somewhere, or perhaps a hyphen ?).

And don't Watford F. C. know it. More often than they should, they produce a mountain of expensive new merchandise. Every time I vow not to buy it, and every time I do. This time it's 1 x Home Outfield Shirt Size L, 1 x Home Goalkeeper Shirt Size XL, 1 x Polo Shirt with club logo on and 1 x Woolly Hat, also with club logo on. That's not to mention 1 x Goalkeeper Shorts Size L (on special order), 1 x Team Poster/Fixture List (Size Pretty Small to be honest) etc. etc.

So where to wear this stuff ? Home games ? Well, okay, but what's the point - I'm 'preaching to the converted'. Same goes for Watford High Street or the Harlequin. No-one's gonna notice, are they ? And if no-one's gonna notice and say "Watford ?" in a sneering voice or just laugh and shout "Arrrrrrrrgggggghhh" then a big part of me thinks I might as well not bother wearing it at all. So how about wearing my stuff when I go out socially ? Hmmm, have you SEEN the new 'keepers top ? It's fluorescent lime green, for God's sake. Talk about as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip ! The quickest way to ensure social isolation, I reckon. Only Billy No-mates would talk to you if you're wearing that, and even then only if he/she has remembered their sunglasses. And as for pubs/clubs - forget it - this is London, and footy fans are as welcome as Bill Clinton at an Afghan barbeque.

So where to wear my stuff ? Where will my 'defiant gesture' be most 'appreciated' ? It's obvious really - away games. You set out loud and proud in the morning, your branded Hornet goods sparkling in the sunlight, singing "YooouuuuOrrnnnss" at every family group and other non-threatening individual you encounter. As the ground approaches, a vague feeling of unease descends and the singing becomes more muted. If you're lucky, you find a friendly pub full of old people/families/other Watford fans and the singing picks up. Then it's to the ground. On the way, your Hornet shirt is still an asset, bravado and excitement overcoming judgement and common sense. Then the game. Watford stuff the opposition and score a hatful. "Can we play you every week ?" , "Going down, going down, going down", "You're sh!t and you know you are", "In your Northern Slums.....", "You'll never get a job...", "Sign on, sign on", "We can see you sneaking out".

And sneak out they might. But not all of them. Some react with resignation - "The better side won" - but some don't. Some are angry. Very angry. These aren't the sort of people you can have a rational discussion with. These people resolve their disputes by hitting first and asking questions later. In fact, they don't even ask questions later, they just hit you again later. Some have an unerring ability to spot you in a crowd, the Away Fan trying to sneak away to safety. These people could even spot the invisible man. If he was a Watford fan, anyway. Most, however, rely on their eyesight rather than any sixth sense, and that yellow (or fluorescent lime green) shirt is like a red rag to a bull.

So the final whistle goes and the natives are baying for blood. You can see them with twisted, hate filled faces in the stadium and standing in groups (they never wear their own team's colours - have you noticed that ?) looking intently at the departing crowds outside the ground. It's at that moment that the decision to wear colours begins to look less sensible. A few of the wise faces say "Just shut up, keep your heads down and we'll meet by the car". They're not wearing colours either. And there's me wondering exactly what a Watford Home Shirt, Size L, looks like inside out, and whether the badge on the new polo shirt is sewn on to the front of the shirt or actually embroidered THROUGH it.

The upshot of all this is that I rarely if ever wear my colours to away games. My heart screams "Let them know you're Watford and you're proud" but my head reminds me of my low tolerance to pain and discomfort and invariably wins out. So it's not away games I hate, it's being cowed into not openly celebrating my pride at being Watford that I hate. Call it cowardice or call it common-sense. Whatever you call it, it's still a damn shame.