Confessions of a recent convert
By Peter Lee
Okay, I'll admit it: I am not a thirteenth generation Hornet supporter, I wasn't there the day we lost and went bottom of the league, nor did I see Gray knock the ball out of Sherwood's hands.
My emotional route to Cardiff is somewhat circuitous than most others, but no less genuine. Even though I grew up in St. Albans and went to the same school as Nigel Gibbs (albeit two years behind him), coming a) from a non-football family and b) only living in this country from the age of eight, meant that WFC was something read about in local papers, rather than experienced first hand.
University in London meant that George Graham's Arsenal got most of my money and attention until marriage and two children led me to live in Watford. Even then the Roeder and the second Taylor era saw sporadic attendance, mainly to see friends' teams. As the children grew, the attendance at family days under Lewington increased. As it did, I noticed a growing concern in my heart for what was happening. Walking down Vicarage road after Lewington's last match I felt totally gutted. I couldn't see where we went from there.
Fast forward to August 2005 and the family is in Scotland for the first week of the season but a record of one loss, one draw and one win seemed a reasonable start. The club generously declares the Burnley game a "Family Day" and £12 sees us firmly ensconced in the Vicarage Road end. After the game I ask the children, "Are we going to the next home game?" "Yes!" is the answer. Since then the same answer came every week, even after debacles such as Leicester, Brighton and Plymouth. After the Plymouth game half-season tickets are purchased for the children and me.
At the same time, our household becomes more and more focused on the Hornets' fortunes. Our first family away trip to Reading isn't spoiled by the mismanagement of traffic and the trio of four goal games brightens our hearts and makes us just hope that the Blades may blow it. Even the 2-0 defeat to Milwall doesn't spoil my daughter's birthday; we know it's just a blip. As the season nears its end and automatic promotion slips away, feverish calculations and permutations are devised to see where we will finish and whom we will play in the play-offs. As soon as we could, the "early-bird" season ticket applications are sent.
The play-offs. It seems a lifetime ago that I went to the ticket office and bought the tickets for Selhurst. As luck would have it we were in the front row, nearest the Palace fans. Ninety minutes of delirious singing later, two certainties took hold. Firstly, we were going to win the Play-off Final and secondly, Watford is now my team and always will be. The Tuesday night at the Vic is magical, both sets of fans singing from the High Street to the ground. The noise we all made in the ground must have been heard in Leeds, let alone Luton.
And so on to Cardiff, I'd actually woken up certain that Leeds would cheat us somehow. This feeling only felt worse when what seemed like half of Leeds was outside Cardiff Central. However, getting into the stadium and hearing the Hornets sing and seeing the determination of the players in the warm up began to ease my mind. For reasons I cannot explain, I looked around as they played "Vertigo" before the game at all our support and thought, "We cannot lose this, there is no way Leeds can compete", the early morning uncertainty just melted away. The game tells it own story. At the end my son rushed down the steps to the front of the middle tier just to take it all in. Only a steward stopped me joining him. Magical doesn't begin to describe it.
It was only on the Monday, sitting at home reading through every paper's coverage, that I felt like I was going to cry. The quality of the achievement the team has made overwhelmed me. As I told my son on Sunday, "It won't always be like this", but whatever it's like, whenever it is, we will be there. This is our team and our town. Nothing shall ever rend us asunder.