Main Menu
What's New
It's a long way to...
Ori ludi tu sheidzleba
By Andy Barnard

My first memory to do with Watford FC is of my dad reading the WO when we lived in Leavesden and remarking "oh, I see Watford lost again". That must have been about 1974/5 - everyone in the school playground used to "support" Liverpool or Man Utd, but when I was asked I said Watford. So I was a bit of a pioneer even then and three years later everyone was a fervent Horn. Except me, cos I was too skint ever to see them - my first match was one of Barnes' early ones in our promotion year (to old Division One) when we beat Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge - by that time I was living in South London.

Anyway I went along occasionally during the glory years, but never all that often as I had not much money and little news about what was happening there. I went to three or four matches after relegation, including a heavy home defeat by Notts County who were quite good, a home defeat by Hull who weren't, and an FA Cup defeat at West Ham. But I just couldn't get into it, I was too busy asking myself who were these players and why were they so bad?

It wasn't till I was in Brussels in the mid-90s that my interest was re-kindled. While messing about on "soccer" newsgroups I was recruited onto WML and established the East Brussels Hornets (later merged into the South-East Brussels Orns, now under Kevin B.'s able chairmanship). Gradually, courtesy of all the stuff on BSaD and WML, the gaps in my ignorance about contemporary (and historic) Watford FC began to widen and before long I was hooked. In 1996 I returned to London, but (despite the relatively easy access to Watford) nine months of working back there became too much and I jumped at the chance to go abroad as a special economic advisor to the Georgian government.

So where is Georgia? It's the capital of the ex-Soviet country of Georgia, east of the Black Sea between Russia and Turkey. Oh, alright, it's where England played one of their World Cup qualifiers and it's also the country where Gia Kinkladze comes from. It's very beautiful, with lots of alpine-type scenery and a pleasant Mediterranean climate.

Learning the Georgian language is a bit of a struggle as they have 28 consonents including three "k"s and two "ts"s - it's unrelated to any major language, but I can usually get by in Russian when I need to. Speaking a bit of Georgian's worth the effort, though: even sour-faced shop assistants can be transformed into joyful bundles of smiles and kisses who practically invite you to be the father of their children - and that's just the men. I now know most of the alphabet and can say a few key phrases such as Gamarjobat (Hi), Ra gkviat? (What's your name?), Gqavt boipfrendi? (Have you got a boyfriend?), Ori ludi tu sheidzleba (Two beers, please) and Itsit inglisuri/rusuli? (Do you speak English/Russian?).

After 18 months I've moved from direct policy advice to editing a Georgian-English economic journal. It's a great job - within Georgia the journal's as influential as the Financial Times and The Economist are in the West.

I now get back to England three or four times a year. I usually manage to see Watford at least once on each visit, and while I'm here I find that WML, BSaD, the official WFC web-page, TeamTalk and Sporting Life all keep me as up-to-date as I could hope to be.


Seeing as the above must have been written back in 1998, it's now (autumn 2005) high time for an update. Firstly, it's Tbilisi - not Tblisi, the latter being the name of a talented but now-defunct band of Watford fans which in 1999 I shipped over to Tbilisi for a rock festival to celebrate promotion to the Premiership (only temporarily Premier due to Watford's fleeting presence, and not a ship). But that's another story.

In 1999, I passed exams to become a Eurocrat, and in 2001, after a year or so's globetrotting (during which time I also met and married my wife Rebecca), I finally moved back to Brussels to take up a post in the European Commission.

Our son Heidar Superdan was born during a fine 2-0 victory at the New Den early in the 2004-05 season, precisely at the moment that Helguson was sealing the win by outrunning the home defence and drilling a low shot into the bottom corner. (The birth itself took place in a state-of-the-art hospital in a leafy Brussels suburb, rather than at the New Den, but I guess you can't have everything.)

Too busy these days to wade through WML, I listen to quite a few matches on the Internet and also try to get along to the Vic a few times each season.