Division 1 Playoff Final, 31/5/99
Team: Chamberlain, Bazeley, Kennedy, Page, Palmer, Robinson, Ngonge, Hyde, Mooney, Johnson, Wright
Subs: Hazan (for Wright), Day, Smart (for Ngonge)
Scorers: Wright (38), Smart (89)
Bolton Wanderers 0(0)
The Horns of a dilemma?
Report by Graham Kirsch
Watford have made it back up! And for all of us at Wembley on the last day of May it was unalloyed joy. All except possibly one ten year old lad - my son Ben. After the match he was quiet, and oddly thoughtful. He has a problem - and he doesn't know (yet) - how he will resolve it.
When Ben was small, about six, and the whole great world of football started to open out before him, he, quite off his own bat, decided to choose a team. (Why, I hear you cry, didn't I guide him to the Hornets then and there, while he was impressionable? Well, perhaps I have been a deficient parent, not attending to my son's need to support the greatest team on earth...but perhaps I was just letting him think for himself. After all true commitment comes from a deeply felt love of one's club, which has to grow from within. Doesn't it?)
Ben decided to find a team he had a reason to support. But he was never going to follow the herd, and all his small friends and choose MU. Ben had a look at his family and their teams. What went through his six year old head was probably a mixture of family loyalty, stubborn independence of his dad and a need for at least some street cred: a Premiership team was needed. He chose his oldest relative's team: Everton - where his great-grandad had grown up, and had supported all his 92 years. Sadly the old chap died earlier this year, which probably makes it all the worse for young Ben.
Now I must be grateful for a couple of things. Firstly, Ben wasn't born early enough for the Watford-Everton Cup final. And secondly that he didn't choose his mother's team, Palace. Be grateful for small mercies.
Everton are not an easy team for Ben to support. For a start, they are a long, long way from where we live. (Watford, on the other hand, are just up the road - well along the M4 and round the M25 a bit.) And secondly, they keep losing to all his friends' teams. Ben, to give him his due, has stuck with it. Loyalty is a vital attribute of a football supporter. I encourage it, and have always tried to make sympathetic noises when Everton's results have not been too good. Well, sometimes.
Meanwhile, I have been subverting Ben's loyalty to Everton, without even trying. This season Ben and I have watched Watford's progress from expected-to-struggle newcomers, losing at home to Wolves, a fortunate win against Ipswich, through to the titanic struggle against Tranmere at home and the glorious matches against Bolton and Palace at the Vic. The last of these was particularly satisfying as his mum was with us. And through all these I noticed a change come over him. He began to shout louder, to watch every twist and turn of the games with more emotion and involvement. All in all, he was becoming a Watford supporter, without even realising it.
This was never going to be a problem for him, when he didn't have to make that final choice. After all, we were unlikely to meet Everton in the near future. Not unless they got the drop.
And then it happened. We were sitting up there in Wembley, shouting ourselves hoarse. Allan Smart put in the second goal, and I hugged my brother and the bloke next to me who had come from Miami just for this match and I'd never met before in my life and then Ben - we were going up! But a minute or two later when I looked at him again the enormity of it had hit him. Next year, Watford and Everton would play each other. And we will be there.
So who will it be? I have told Ben that he won't have to make the choice - it will be made for him. Deep inside, he has already decided and when the day comes, he will know. So spare a thought, when Jeffers, Campbell, Bakayoko and co. come to Vicarage Road, for a small boy making one of his first great life decisions. And be sure, as I am, that he will choose well.
Meanwhile the decoration of his bedroom is on hold, until he chooses a colour.