Ice hockey doesn't cut it
By Paul Green
The support for Watford F.C. spans the globe, as well as my little corner
of the world in Bethlehem, Connecticut, USA. Bethlehem is situated about
half way between New York City and Boston on the East Coast.
A few of us
exiled Brits usually gather around our shortwave radios on a Saturday morning
(remember, we are five hours behind), to tune into the World Service to listen to a
second half commentary and get updates and final results from the
English leagues. It's not the same as driving to the ground, parking down
the same road, at the same lamp post, walking to the ground through the allotments,
buying a programe, looking to see if your favourite players
are playing, going to the same part of the ground you have always seen
the game from, and meeting the same people every week at your little corner of
the pitch and discussing the in's and out's of the last game or why the manager has picked
this guy over someone else.
Nope, it's not the same but the memories always come flooding
back every Saturday during the season and wishing you were with your mates at the
Red Lion catching a quick pint before the game. You can even smell the beer if you try hard
enough. Then it's off to the ground, with a sense of anticipation that
for the next two hours you are going to be transformed into another world
that people from outside of the British Isles, especially here in the
States, just don't understand. I try to tell
people that United States' culture does not revolve around the
game of football (or 'Soccer' as they refer to it in the U.S.), as it does
in England but more on Baseball and American Football and Basketball and
Ice Hockey, which, for me, just doesn't cut it the same as leather
meeting leather on a grassy field between twenty-two players every Saturday
afternoon. When you are brought up on a diet of football from such an
early age, it's no wonder it stays with you for the rest of your life no
matter where you happen to be.
I was last at Vicarage Road in the summer of 1993 and couldn't believe
the transformation that the ground improvements have done to the stadium
but to me it's still the "Old Vic".
My first memories of the club go back to the 1957-58 season. I had just
moved from Harlesden, NW10 to North Harrow (February ' 58), and my new
best friend (Barry Manser - Abbotts Langley, Herts now), asked me if I would like to
go with him and his Dad to a Watford game. I remember it was towards
the end of the season and Watford played in blue and white and were called "The Blues".
I don't remember who Watford were playing that day but from that moment I
was hooked on Watford Football Club. I used to go and watch all first
team and reserve home team games - that's how much I liked supporting the club. Of course,
away games that were within a reasonable distance were seen as well.
I think that the best period for me was the era of Holton and Uphill,
considered by some to be the best scoring duo that Watford has ever had.
The season of 1959-60, when Watford gained promotion from Division Four (after only two
seasons since the Division Three South league had been scrapped), saw Cliff
Holton score 42 goals and Dennis Uphill 30 goals (as well as 6 apiece in Cup games). Cliff Holton's
48 goals still remains (as far as I know) a club record. Arguably the most consistent team
Watford has ever put on the field, week after week was:
I managed to get back to England in 1984 for Watford's appearance in the
Cup Final and, although we lost to Everton, I was very proud to have been
at the game and see the "Golden Boys" walk out onto the pitch that day, a day I had always thought would never happen in my lifetime.
So now it's crunch-time again for the Horns and it's coming down to the
wire whether they make the playoffs or not. For me Watford F.C. and
Vicarage Road will never lose the charm or memories it has whether I am
living in Harrow or Bethlehem, Connecticut.