I used to be a believer. Jack Nicholson's twitchy character in "As Good As It Gets" had nothing on me. I had to switch the lights on and off three times before leaving any room, touch the banister at the bottom of the stairs on both sides on the way out of the house (if you know the layout, that's a bit of a detour if you come straight out of the kitchen...hang on, if you know the layout, who the hell are you?), lucky socks and unlucky music - and so on. But eventually (and I wondered sometimes if it would ever happen) I began to let go of the quotidian charms and amulets - I was still alive, so were all my immediate family, so the rituals were clearly good for something, but I'd started to doubt, to not do them and find myself still alive anyway, and doing surprisingly well at work, studies, girls...and finally the doubts took over, established themselves, and I was able to resume my place in adult society.
Until this season. For here we are, staring at a place in the record books - one of those snickering "Who has the lowest season total of points in Premiership history?" sort of places that we really don't need. The obvious methods of combatting that fate are proving fruitless. So we need to think about what else made us succeed in the past. Need I tell you? Superstitions. And I've got a little list:
1. However unpleasant to the pre-game announcer, or anyone else for that matter, we must play Eiffel 65's "Blue Da-Be-Dee" before every game. We stuffed Chelsea after its debut but dropped it from then on.
2. Robert Page must stop kicking a ball into the net at the Rookery End. When he misses, we play better. We don't necessarily win, but let's take this stuff a step at a time...
3. I have to park as near to the Tesco end of the road as possible (and that hasn't been very near for about three months now, except for the Newcastle game...)
4. We must all be sitting between two other Watford supporters.
5. The entire first team squad have to be fit. At the same time.
6. We must never, never, never admit that we're in the shit. At least not to ourselves. We can admit it to someone else, as a sort of pretend-jollity if we're trying to pull, or if we're on national TV, but otherwise, absolutely out of the question.
Okay, some of these may be impossible to achieve. Possibly all of them, in fact. Obsessive compulsives everywhere will understand that for a second, when we fail to observe our rituals, it feels like the end of the world is nigh. But then, at least 99% of the time, it isn't. Everyone should just try to do their bit. And with pride and commitment to our lunatic, or just tic, cause, we may triumph. If they don't come to take us away in the meantime.