Watford Football Club has brought me many things. Happiness, tears, desperation, anxiety and above all I think a little insanity. I consider myself to be of fairly sound mind, but there is something that a match day brings out of me. On a Saturday at around one o'clock, or on a Tuesday at around six thirty, or whenever they choose to play a match. To me, what happens at around these times is a perfectly normal function. To others, though, and actually to nearly everybody else who is outside any kind of football supporting world, I think I seem slightly insane. Maybe I will look back when I am older and think "God, why was I never carted off by the men in white coats?"...but I doubt it, because as long as I support Watford the damn superstitions will always be there, and my support isn't going anywhere.
The problem with superstitions is that they are so inescapable. I could try and shake them off, just try and go to a match without the mapped-out route of exactly what I will do up until the time when I leave The Vic. It isn't going to happen, though. If I took it away, something wouldn't be right. Nobody else would notice and nobody would care. It wouldn't affect the performances of the players, it wouldn't change the score, it wouldn't mean Watford F.C would fall apart. What would happen, then? I couldn't live with myself if we lost and I had not done my routine. Even if we won the routine-less match, I still couldn't cope with the pressure. I need that routine...and, yes, I even believe that Watford F.C need that routine.
It is not even a unique routine, we all have them, and I am far from special. I hope I am not alone, anyway. I know that my superstitions haven't just started recently or grown up over time, they just started on the day I started going to matches. The second match I went to, actually, after a rather unhappy debut, standing frozen on the uncovered family enclosure. From that game onwards, I arrived at least an hour and a half before the game, without a question of changing this, no matter what the weather threw at us, my dad always patient with the fact that I wanted to arrive at the ground a little after dawn. This superstition, though, is different from all my others in the fact that I have dropped it over time. The gap began to close more and more as I went more frequently. It has got to the point now where I am sprinting through the back of the Rookery at breakneck speed to see the players come out on to the field (I always know I am in trouble when that dun-da-da-da-dun music - I never remember how it goes - comes on to the tannoy). I think the reason for my failure to keep this superstition going was a subconscious effort to avoid the annoying man with the microphone.
My route to matches includes specific places to cross the road, which turnstile I use and exactly which flight of stairs I go up to my seat from. Despite the inconvenience my routine causes, by the fact that I have to double back on myself to get to my seat after going through the certain turnstile, I still keep it going. Buy from the same fifty-fifty seller every time. We still lose, though, on a worryingly regular basis, despite my superstitious efforts. Even more worryingly, the superstitions continue.
During the 1998/1999 season, my return to regularly watching Watford, I was forced to watch the whole of our long, long winning run from the very uncomfortable vicinity of the bottom of the Vicarage Road End. It wasn't just near the bottom, it was so far down that you couldn't actually see how high the ball was going, or where it was going, or see much at all really. Why did I do this? Because we beat Sunderland. That game was at the beginning of all the winning, and coincidentally the beginning of me starting to go to the Vic on a regular basis. So, don't thank Nicky Wright for getting us promoted, or Allan Smart. Thank my return. After seeing the whole of the heroic performance against Sunderland from the bottom of the Vic Road end, how could I move? I was stuck there until the winning ended, it was my duty to Watford FC, and the winning didn't end...and, well, everyone knows the rest. Then we had to move over to the Rookery. Maybe a lot of people thought that this was bad idea. Not me, though - the decision to move was a wise one, it got me out of my seats in the Vic Road end, and relieved me of what was becoming a rather uncomfortable neck ache.
This season has brought the most superstitions and the ones which have brought me to the point of questioning my own sanity rather than have others do it for me. For crying out loud, I position my programme under my seat with my jacket in such a precise way that you would think I was doing brain surgery rather than settling down for an hour and a half's entertainment. If the programme gets shifted from its special position, which only I can get it in, then a panic begins. Is this the cause of our fear of Tuesday nights? I apologise to everyone who sits near me, as this is the reason for my reluctance to part with my programme. I hope you can understand. We always, without fail, and I have hard evidence, never ever win or play well when we shoot towards the Rookery in the first half, we must always shoot towards the Vicarage Road End if we want to stand any hope of victory. If opposing teams just watched our videos a bit closer, they would notice the pattern; it would be very useful to them. I never leave the house without my Watford scarf and my orange T-shirt under my Watford home shirt. It wouldn't happen, we wouldn't stand a chance.
To prove that my superstitions weren't in vain, I did carry out a little experiment a few years ago. I did everything, nothing left out. I went by my route to the ground. I did exactly what I needed to do, and didn't leave one detail out. I didn't walk over any drains of three covers, I even crossed the road at precisely the right point. What happened was amazing, conclusive proof that I'm not insane. We won six-three, we beat Grimsby...no, we destroyed Grimsby. To show the power of my superstitions once and for all, they overcame the crapness of Devon White, something I am still amazed by to this day. We played so well, I have never seen an opening twenty minutes like it. Four goals and Devon White looked like he actually did have a footballing brain - it was a fleeting moment, but it happened. The euphoria got to the point that our cries of 'Miller, Miller give us a wave' were actually answered. I needed no more proof that my superstitions were worth it. I have more recent proof. Tuesday night, I broke all my rules. I sat in a completely different part of the ground, I didn't buy a programme, I was very late, and I didn't walk by my route. We got ripped to pieces, admittedly by Rob Styles and not by the opposition, but we still got ripped to pieces. I feel guilty, I apologise.
I am not insane, I don't think. I just want the best for Watford Football Club. Anyone who reads this may be eternally fearful of the fact that they are sharing the Vic with a madman like me. I am not, though. Nothing like a madman. I am moderate in comparison with others, I'm sure. What I do, my entire routine, is nothing out of the ordinary. I hope I'm not the only one out there with such superstitions. I am sure I am not. You may think it is self-centred for me to believe that if I don't have my superstitions then the whole of Watford FC will fall apart. Fine, then - I must be self-centred.