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
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
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?