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Was it all a dream?
By Ben Soloway

The throw comes in, Melvang rises in the centre of the box and the net gives a knowing bulge. In elation I rise to my feet, throw my hands in the air to join in the joyous disbelief of the rest of the North Stand. Ten minutes of football had taken my breath away and nearly brought tears to my eyes; 2-0. It was my first visit to the Vic of the new season and I began to believe then what I suspected at Swindon the previous Wednesday that, after years of tedium and decline under Perryman, Roeder and Jackett, Watford were back! In the excitement I turned to my brother who beamed from ear to ear and half-jokingly said "That's it! I'm not going to Israel. I'm gonna stay here and buy a f****ing season ticket!"

For the rest of that incredible afternoon we murdered Brentford with gorgeously flowing and inventive football and Rosenthal - to name but one - looked a star (if a bit of balding one). 3-1 could easily have been 6 or 7.

Despite the temptations I, of course, did leave for my gap-year scheme in Israel a week and a half later; condemning myself to missing the rest of the season.

Israel, from an absent Watford fan's point of view was probably one of the best places I could have gone to and still kept abreast of all things 'Orn. Israelis love their footie; especially of the English variety, with usually a couple of live Premiership games a week. The featured match would, unsurprisingly, be West Ham vs. "We don't give a sh!t as long as Berkovic is playing", as often as they could muster. The Israeli commentators were also fond of finding some way of connecting something or someone involved with the featured game with Watford so they could surreptitiously mention Rosenthal, and subsequently Alon Hazan on a regular basis. Oh very pleasing! (Look, when you're starved of your obsession for nearly a full season, and you know they're top of the bloody league by twelve points you clutch at whatever straws you can, okay?)

Israeli footie fans do not, however, live in rose-tinted Utopia when it comes to dear ol' Ron. He is no longer their best export; and they are as amused as many an English fan when it comes to Ronny's ability to every now and again run around like a blind donkey on heat. Irrespective of this, and his growing credentials for free admission to Geriatricdom, memories of his once world-beating skills fade slowly and he's still high profile enough to get on National News if he scores. His little beauty against Blackpool did not go unnoticed. (The excited surprise of this announcement on the radio left me jumping up and down on a public bus!)

Local fans, however, highly recommend Hazan who has been a fixture in the National Side for a fair while. Until we see him, however, in the centre of mid-field instead of as wing back (or at least without defensive responsibility) don't expect the forecasts of supposedly Di Matteo-esque skills to come anywhere near fruition.

Also, it's worth noting that the National Sports Channel bought the rights for our FA Cup tie against Sheff Wednesday, selling it as a chance to see Rosenthal and Hazan once again - money well spent, I'm not sure they agree but I was glued. For there was the Vic in all its three and three-quarter sides of glory and I finally was watching, not knowing the result and not waiting with baited breath for MR I. M. Inept from the BBC World Service to get the result wrong.

My Saturday afternoons were, of course, nervous affairs awaiting final score at 7pm local time. This is how I gleaned most of the results, filled in every now and again with news from my brother back in Blighty. Knowing Watford were doing so well and missing it all was the single most frustrating thing about my time away.

Understandably, when I returned I was confident and excited, but the reality of a new division dampened my expectation down to a sensible level. Cambridge away - the big one. Well, not exactly huge but nonetheless my first game in almost a year. Bloody disappointing? Naturally. A blip? Obviously. Or so I thought.

Since then I've been to both the Bradford game and the return leg against Cambridge. These performances have begged just one or two questions: Did someone make up last season? Was it all some elaborate hoax? Did the other teams in Division 2 refuse to play us on an ideological basis, citing the vividness of our home shirt as grounds not to turn-up? Did we gain the points, promotion and the Championship (oh yes great gag!) by default?

Some of what I've seen, with the exception of ten minutes against Cambridge at The Road and about thirty minutes against Bradford, drifts me back to some of the more turgid moments (of which there were many) of the season before last and the darkest hours of Roeder's time.

Leaving with memories of that game against Brentford, I'm now as depressed about Watford as I've ever been. I've never known a side under Taylor seem so unmotivated, so unwilling and so generally useless. I'm not campaigning for GT's head (let's not be silly - far from it) but, having been assured reliably of how well we really did last term, it's difficult not to see this as some huge twisted practical joke with a large pinch of the Law according to Sod. Maybe I'll just bugger off for the rest of the year and arrive next August to discover Watford in the Premiership! Please someone pinch me.

PS - As a result of my disillusionment, I delayed booking my place on the club coach until Friday morning. By that time, of course, it was full and I couldn't get to Bristol. Anyone need a lift to Heathrow?