By Julie MacTaggart
It's been one of those funny weeks, full of trouble and at the back of it all that slowly building sick feeling that always creeps up before the greatest matches.
Full of Trouble, because my bowl full of aptly named fish have caused mayhem in the house this week. I got home from work on Tuesday to find two envelopes on the door mat containing the tickets for the Millennium Stadium but before I could start making the calls to tell everyone they were here, five kids came running in telling me that Rosie the Platy was dying. She had obviously decided she couldn't bear the wait for the outcome of Sunday and had popped off only twenty-four hours after I'd spent two hours cleaning them out! So to try and ensure that none of the others distracted me further, I cleaned them out again. Suddenly we spotted something moving in the air vent. Incredibly it was the tiniest little fish you have ever seen with two tiny black eyes and a tail. Of course, the kids were fussing about it and we ended up transferring it to a sandwich box for the night. Having been distracted for two hours I was finally able to ring round and assure everyone the tickets were here safe and sound.
Wednesday saw me in the local Aquatic centre near Chepstow, run by a loyal Reading supporter. Whilst selecting a new tank for Trouble (well, it was the only name we could give him!), we discussed Reading's promotion and my hopes for Sunday. He wished us luck (partly because he'd had an arrogant Leeds fan in earlier that day) and £25 lighter, I headed for home. We both agreed it was an omen that the big fish hadn't made it but the little one looked like it would!! Trouble was duly installed in his new tank. Luckily the gravel in the new tank was blue, otherwise we'd never have been able to spot him, as it was we spent the next day or so playing 'Where's Wally?' That evening I popped over to Bristol to pass on tickets and went into a local hostelry where we watched the Champions League Final. My stomach churning was beginning to build up and it was a relief to get home and find Trouble.
The rest of the week passed in a bit of a blur. Finally, Saturday arrived and Dave and Charlie arrived for a pre-match drink and curry night. We spun 2p coins in the pub looking for signs, heads we win, tails we lose, we kept rolling three heads and a tail so we decided that would be the score. We saw literally legless Munster fans still delirious after their great win that afternoon and hoped that would be us the following evening. We went home and watched some Watford DVDs and retired to bed.
Sunday morning, we put Sky Sports on and the build up to the match had begun already. We had taken a late decision to drive up to Cardiff instead of taking the train so at 9.45 we left the house flags up, hornets in place, face paints, balloons and, of course, tickets in tow. As we made our way, we tore up Yellow Pages for confetti. Let's hope we don't need anyone in the 'L's or 'S's till the new one arrives!
We parked up, bussed into the centre, and went for breakfast. We chatted to some Leeds fans who reckoned they were gong to do it, by this time I felt pretty adamant that they wouldn't.
We wandered in the rain for a while and ended up in PICA - a Tapas bar opposite Gate 2 of the stadium that was suddenly engulfed by Watford fans who started sporadically chanting and were soon in full flow. The atmosphere was great with a confidence underlying it - not brash, just knowing, knowing that Aidy had said we would do it, the team would do it and we had no reason not to believe him.
We made our way into the thoroughly impressive Millennium Stadium. Only the acoustics were odd, though...never having been there before, I wonder if the open roof allows some of the echoing to be released. My husband had on several occasions asked me to go matches at the stadium and I had always declined. I was only ever going to go there with Watford.
The build-up was still churning my stomach but as the game started I went very calm and watching the early exchanges, it became very clear that there would only be one winner. When the first goal went in, this just confirmed that feeling. That's not to say I didn't feel a little jittery as half time came and went, but it wasn't how I had expected to feel. When the second goal went in, it was like time stood still as it slowly crossed the line; looking at it later in real time, it went in far faster than we remembered it, for that short moment in time seemed to last forever and then suddenly we knew that we were going to brush shoulders with the elite clubs next year. The penalty triggered off the best of the celebrations so far and seeing Aidy on the big screen finally celebrating, we knew this was it.
As the final whistle went, I burst into tears, tears of sheer joy, tears that acknowledged the truly magnificent achievement of everyone at Watford Football Club this season. At the start of the season, most of us would more than happily have accepted a mid-table position, away from the trauma of a relegation scrap. Little did we know that a football genius was planning something so much more. Watching the unadulterated joy of all of the players, management and directors of the club, seeing the unity and bond that has formed between them was, for me, the best part of a truly extraordinary season. To see Aidy finally allowing himself to celebrate the achievements of this season was truly wonderful. I have no doubt that this is not the end of a fairytale story, as many outside the club will have us believe, but just the beginning.
We made our way out of the stadium and back into PICA, exhilarated, exhausted and voiceless and continued the celebrations. Suddenly a shout went up and we saw the team coach edging out of the stadium, I ran outside and was rewarded with Marlon King and Ashley Young, beaming and waving at all of us from the back of the coach, they were rightly overjoyed as were we all.
I have always been proud to be a Watford supporter. Over the years, there's been happiness, joy, sadness, upset, anger, the highs, the lows, the in-between times. Today was special, very, very special and will always be one of the absolute highlights of the past twenty-seven years. Thanks Aidy - you made a lot of people believe this season.
We watched the match when we got in and before I went to bed, I popped in to have a check on Trouble. He was happily swimming around his very large tank - a small fish in a big pond. It augurs well for next season.