Main Menu
What's New
Famous victories:

Football League Division Two Play-off Final, 21/05/06, 3.00pm
Leeds United
Very superstitious
By Mike Parkin

"How do you think you'll get on?" they'd ask. Colleague after colleague, friend after friend, text message after text message. "Do you think you'll do it?"

They were all genuinely interested and excited for me, but I couldn't answer. Hand on heart, I really didn't know. Of course I knew what I wanted, what I desperately wanted, and like all of you reading this I had pictured it. Aidy and the boys jumping around on the podium with the trophy, our Premiership status secure. "Rockin' All Over The World" over the PA. However, I had also pictured the reverse...

I don't know if it makes me realistic or pessimistic, but I'm never outwardly confident about Watford's chances. I'm afraid I'm a firm believer in tempting fate, and even after twenty-eight years' worth of life experiences I'm still trapped in the childish and slightly mental mindset that if I say something, if I wear the wrong clothes, if I move my hand from my left pocket to my right - it could adversely affect what happens on the pitch.

What am I saying? Well, I'm saying I'm superstitious. Where is this going? Why, to Cardiff, of course...

The day started well, the team was assembled (including cardboard cut outs bearing my brothers image - he was stuck in Cyprus and couldn't make it, and my amazing girlfriend who had left one of her best mate's thirtieth birthday party and driven home from Dorset in the middle of the night to make sure we'd be ready to leave on time) and we were on the 7:56 out of Amersham.

Paddington was already awash with yellow and "that" feeling starts. The feeling that tells you this is a big, big day. "It's bubbling..." was how a beaming Andy summed it up.

Paddington was also the first sighting of "real live" Leeds fans. It, and I, was indeed bubbling.

We were on the charter train, which proved to be a master stroke. The minor inconvenience of queuing for a short time was vastly outweighed by the pleasure of seeing a whole train completely decked out in excitable yellow. Seats for all, a quick read of the papers and an entertaining discussion about whether any of our party could take a point off tennis ace Rafael Nadal and bang, we were in Cardiff. Deep breath. Here we go then...

We poured off the train and into Cardiff - the streets instantly recognisable from envious TV viewing of pre match drinking and revelry, as other clubs prepare for their big day out. I afford myself a little smile and make a mental note to take it all in. This was our big day out.

Into the Millennium Stadium, and to a sea of familiar faces. Folk who haven't seen each other for ages talk and gesticulate - reunited by a common bond - the indescribable feeling that is two parts excitement, one part nerves and topped off with a healthy dash of pure fear. I almost envy the cardboard cut-out of my brother - perched atop an advertising board he is serenely taking it all in, unable to feel the chaotic emotions the rest of us are enduring and enjoying.

And so, finally, to our seats and the match. The first thing that strikes me (apart from the 700,000 Leeds fans obviously) is that it's a bit weird with the roof on. Oddly enough it doesn't seem to hold the noise very well, and although the atmosphere is electric, it's tough to get songs going. The acoustics are ignored though, and everyone is singing screaming and shouting with all they've got. Now it is really bubbling.

The teams come out, and so do the yellow pages. There are flames and an awful lot of noise. It's just brilliant, "this is what it's all about" as they say. Looking back at the TV footage, it could be argued that the game was won at this stage - as Eddie Lewis and Liam Miller nearly jump out of their skin, scared witless by one of the loud pyrotechnic bangs that greeted the two teams. Pansies. At the very least, some great Soccer AM footage.

The game begins and it's a blur. The first incident of note, or at least the first incident I can recall, is a shot from Derry, seemingly goal bound until Ashley Young of all people deflects it wide. I am obviously delighted that we are still level, but the fact that it was Shaun Derry that didn't score made it all the sweeter. I don't have much time for Mr Derry.

The game thundered on and Watford started to enjoy a bit of pressure. A corner, a throw deep in the Leeds half. Promising. Promising soon turned to perfect, which of course quickly turned to pandemonium. A corner from the left, a flash of blonde hair, the ball is in the net and 28,000 Horns go ballistic. Hugs, screams and shouts abound - we're one nil up. My excitable, optimistic, positive side surfaces briefly - "We're an hour away from the Premiership" - and I allow myself the briefest of daydreams - Rockin' All Over The World...

Half time arrives and everyone exhales. Nervous smiles and excited chatter is everywhere. Everyone is thinking it, but no-one, least of all me, is saying it. Instead I listen patiently to complaints from Andy that there is no beer available at half time. It is a welcome distraction from the chaotic, nervous and frantic thoughts running through my head.

After what seemed like an eternity, the action was underway again. Although I can recall absolutely no detail of it until the second goal went in.

This was one of those hold-your-breath-and-grab-the-person-next-to-you moments, the ball was bouncing around in the area, you could clearly see that it was going to drop to Chambers who was ready to strike. Strike it he did, but made one of the poorest contacts possible. It cannoned into the (presumably still shaken) Eddie Lewis, up into the air and towards the bottom corner (I'm still holding my breath). Sullivan scampers across, the ball hits the post, his elbow, then the net.


Since the game, my girlfriend has told me that it took me an age to start celebrating, and was momentarily slightly concerned about me. There was nothing wrong with me, it was just that this particular celebration started in my feet and worked its way through every part of my body before erupting in a roar of delight and a mass of hugs. I'm ashamed to admit it also manifested itself in a stream of expletives, directed at a group of Leeds fans that had got tickets near us, but hey, I guess we all have our moments.

My superstitious side rears its head shortly afterwards as I refuse to allow Lee-Anne to take her hoodie off ("But Mike, I'm boiling") and demand that Andy puts that clapper thingy "Back where you bloody well found it!" We may be 2-0 up but there is a long way to go, and I don't want any mishaps to be my fault...

The game continues to unfold, it's not a classic by any stretch, but I'm gripped. With hindsight, Watford bossed the second half, they were never really in any serious danger, but I only really started to feel safe when Shaun Derry was finally booked. This had a most soothing effect on me, and within minutes Mr Derry had given me and tens of thousand Watford fans further cause to be very, very happy.

As you all know he upended Marlon, stonewall penalty, and Darius duly did the business. 3-0 and we've cracked it. We've done it. Watford had beaten Leeds and all those millions upon millions of fans, and we're going up. The feeling was indescribable, but describing it would be redundant anyway - you will have all felt it for yourselves. Amazing, wasn't it?

Anyway, the clock ticked down towards the inevitable. I hugged my mates and my girlfriend, I jumped up and down. I shouted, I sang, I slapped backs and shook hands. I grinned like a loon. The final whistle went and I did it all again, but louder. We all did.

I also had a (rare) moment of clarity. As the team celebrated on the pitch in front of us, it occurred to me that I had been foolish to be superstitious. There was really no need. None whatsoever. We have in Aidy Boothroyd an amazing bloke in charge of our amazing team. He is meticulous, he is knowledgeable, he is passionate, he is ours.

Nothing Leeds or the rest of the Championship could do could stop him, I was stupid to think that anything I did (or didn't do) could get in the way. He knows what he is doing, the players know what they are doing, and what do you know, they just went out there and did it.

So. Perhaps next year I'll be that little bit less superstitious, and won't have to park in the same place each and every home game. Maybe I won't have to wear the same tired baseball cap to every fixture. Maybe I'll try Pepsi instead of Coke on the way to the ground. Superstitions are well and truly redundant when you have a club, a team and a boss like ours.

Lee-Anne, get that hoodie off, and Andy, pass me that clapper thingy. "We are Premier League!", say "We are Premier League!"