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Liam Brady in a Watford shirt
By Tim Brennen

You know how very few men actually marry the first girl they go out with? Well, as a little boy from Watford but living in Rome, I fell in love with Juventus: well, they used to win a lot. Then we moved to Belgium and the availability of BBC World Service and then Radio 2 allowed me to tie the knot with Watford. I was soon drawing wallcharts of the season's trivia in the Graham Taylor era (Mark I), allowing rapid access to information about things like Ross Jenkins' exploits and the crowd away at Stoke in the League Cup.

It was at about that time that I began writing to GT, to give him my teenage advice from my particularly useful vantage point in Brussels (Hey Birdseye, you're not the first to suffer from the Brussels-knows-what's-best-for-the-'Orns syndrome!) . Anyway, he always wrote back; amongst the exclusives he gave me were: Andy Dibble had not signed for us because "some people do not know that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence". ("Grass isn't necessarily greener"? He signed for L***n for gawd's sake). And yes, "Liam Brady is a very good player and we are always on the lookout for special players at Watford". At the time I thought I was well-connected...

The six years I lived in England coincided with the Golden Boys being up with the big boys. Living off a grant I don't think I bought any clothes and not much food, just beer and BR tickets to farflung away matches. But then Bassett happened, and it was time to leave the country again: this time to France. Let us not forget that Harrison was seriously bad news too: his transfer dealings were abominable and the team he produced couldn't play. In February 1990 I flew back to England at great expense to see us away at Port Vale. We were diabolical and I wrote to Harrison asking what had happened to the passing game he had promised us. He wrote back to say he agreed with all my criticisms and promptly resigned: yes, not only did I prompt GT to track Liam Brady, but I, personally, also got rid of Harrison.

Colin Lee was in and out too quickly to benefit from my (informative yet probing) letters, but I lured Perryman into admitting that Bull and Mutch could be a real handful (they had stuffed four past us in the Cup). I don't think I wrote to Roeder: if I did, the answer I got back was so boring and bland that I can't remember anything about it.

Anyway by the Roederian Age I had moved to Oslo, thereby becoming the most northerly member of my family: in my immediate family, second most northerly is Brighton, and Norway was thus deemed extreme. Indeed, in Norwegian, the Hebrides are called Suderøya - the southern isles. But still, you could wake up on a Saturday morning in Oslo and be at the Estcourt Arms for midday. It wasn't that far away.

Then the contract ran out in Oslo and I got a free transfer to Tromsø (signing-on fee two sealskins). And here we are 300 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle (fifteen hours' drive: yes, I have tried). That's about half-way to Oslo, which all adds up to a lot of miles between me and Vicarage Road. Even so, taking the 07.30 plane from here would get you there for 3pm, via Oslo and Heathrow. It's just the 400 quid ticket stopping me!

Anyway, now, even though I am one of "the boys on the Internet", I am grown-up and don't write to managers any more. But that's okay, because Hornet exile is a lot less lonely in the global village, what with the list, BSaD and other Web sites, IRC, not to mention Q-tel.

I sit up here whiling away the dark evenings watching my Grampa's video collection of highlights from the Golden Years. I had to get them converted from Betamax, which non-Hornets apparently find funny, but now they are available for viewing in my lounge. (Message to Steve and Anda: They hadn't been converted when you were here - that's why we watched Iceland vs. Norway instead.)

So, I live a long way away, but still made it to Carlisle: where were you at Carlisle, eh? And I'll be there at Blackpool in March too.

See you there!