Waving the flag
By Jim MacTaggart
"Why has Mum got a Germany flag?"
"It's not Germany - see, it says 'Watford FC' across the middle." Sure enough, on closer inspection, the kids can see that Julie has written the name of the club in black face-paint crayon. "Of course it could come in handy for me during the World Cup too," I add. (I can't help it. It's a Scottish thing.)
That flag's seen a lot of action this weekend. Draped across the window of our Chrysler kiddie-bus. Carried sodden through the torrential Welsh rain. Raised aloft in song to welcome the team onto the rather worn pitch of the otherwise magnificent Millennium Stadium (£126 million quid, finished on time in 1999 - easy!). Waved incessantly by the now hoarse Julie from the edge of the middle tier during the unbelievable post-match celebrations. Paraded again through the (drier) Cardiff streets, attracting several saddened Leeds fans wanting to complain about their performance and offering to swap Blackwell for Boothroyd. Also attracting a few angry Leeds fans looking for somebody to thump.
What both sets of Leeds supporters, the Jekylls and the Hydes, didn't get was that this was never going to be their day. The assured side that effectively despatched promotion favourites Palace on their own turf, then never looked for a moment like letting that lead slip at home, were always going to be far too much for lacklustre Leeds. (By the way, was it my imagination, or did Derry have a face like a skelped erse?*)
Neil Warnock, in the Sky box, said he was glad he wasn't in the play-offs. I bet he was! We've seen nothing from Sheffield United in the last three months to indicate that the ever improving 'Orns wouldn't have dealt with his boys every bit as convincingly as they did his Yorkshire neighbours.
It has been a belter of a season. Yes, there have been wobbles, but in the end the Glory Hornet Boys have simply kept on getting better. I don't know when a team has last sailed through the play-offs with such assurance. No football lottery here, more a triumphal and single-minded march to claim the prize.
And what a prize! The media keep on about the supposed cash value of promotion (and, cheekily, some have added that we can look forward to parachute money the following season). Of course the money is essential, for the security of the club, and to take the team to that next level. But the real prize is one that keeps on giving. On August 19, and every weekend from then on, we'll keep on getting that prize. Oh, the tickets will cost too much. It'll be harder to get a drink or park the car. The kick off times will become ridiculously mobile. But we'll be loving every minute.
As Julie can tell you, I predicted this season all wrong, so you can take this with a whole carton of Saxa; but I suspect it'll take the Boy Wonder a while to work out how to play the Premiership. We may even have some very scary results early on. But if we've learnt anything this season, it's that once Aidy has figured out what to do, the Golden Boys just keep on getting better and better. Will that be enough? Let's have fun finding out.
Boothroyd and Simpson are talking about a place in the UEFA cup next year. Ridiculous, of course. Absolutely no chance.
But then again, it would be awfully nice if we could take Julie's flag to Germany…
Nah! That couldn't happen...could it?
*smacked bottom (translated from the Scottish)