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Division 1 Playoff Final, 31/5/99
Watford 2(1)
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)
Report by Martin Coupe

Despite my tender age of 25, I have witnessed many things in my time on this earth, perhaps none more surreal or incredible as the birth of my two daughters. And yet, something happened between the hours of 3pm and 4.50pm on Monday 31st May 1999 that will be indelibly etched in my mind for as long as I live.

At 11am, my wife (after much gentle persuasion) and I, both resplendent in Watford regalia, made our way to the Junction to board a train bound for a destination to which I have ventured on numerous occasions, but never before as a supporter of Elton John's Taylor-made Army - WEMBLEY STADIUM.

Maybe as a result of my wife's impartial company, or perhaps the simple knock-on effect of a very busy weekend that encompassed a long journey to my beloved home town and my little brother's wedding, I had a strange sense of calm surrounding me. After biting my nails down to the elbows after the Brum penalty saga, I had no more nerves to sever. And so began my pilgrimage to the promised land....

The short train ride to the Borough of Brent was uneventful, a few chants eminating from a group of vocally superior Watford fans causing nothing more than a hairline fracture in the somewhat eerie silence surrounding my fellow travellers. Fear of the unknown can do strange things to a man, and in some perverse strain of logic I can only deduce that it was this that calmed me (okay, so this doesn't make a great deal of sense, but then neither did what was to follow).

We (that is my wife Deb and I - more on the love of my life later) disembarked at Wembley Central and set out on the long but pleasant trek to the Mecca of English football. Along the way, we rather fortuitously crossed paths with Bazelli, Evo, Rupe, Taz et al and proceeded towards Olympic Way, pausing at various points for the gratuitous snap-shots that will undoubtedly adourn the albums of these WML'ers for years to come. On the dozens of previous occasions that I have visited Wembley, each and every outing had one thing in common - the awe that I felt as I approached the magnificent (even if now somewhat delapidated) twin towers. However, this time it was different - they seemed no more than two great lumps of concrete amongst the thousands in an increasingly over-developed area. I was feeling more and more detatched as time went by. And yet at the same time, I was overwhelmingly excited and joyous at the possibilities that lay ahead.

After a quick photographic session with the superbly presented Internet 'Orns banner beneath the twin towers, the time came to make our way into the stadium itself. So, through the turnstyle and to our seats we went, after the essential purchase of a programme. With about an hour and a half until the main event, there were many empty seats, so I contented myself with the Watford related articles in the aforementioned publication to wile away the time. And wile away the time it did, for when my browsing came to an end and I glanced around the 'Watford' half of Wembley, every single hair on my body stood on end, for all I could see was a veritable ocean of yellow, red and black. For the first time that day (but no means the last) I was, for want of a better word, GOBSMACKED. If that lump that suddenly appeared in my throat wasn't a whole melon that I had inadvertantly swallowed, then I'll be buggered if I know what it was. Then all of a sudden, the by now long-overdue nerves went into overdrive.

The moments that I should recall with perfect clarity are a complete blur - the players coming out onto the hallowed turf, the ensuing battle for supremacy in an end-to-end encounter on the pitch, the fantastic overhead goal by Wrighty, the stupendous reaction save in the first half by AC - all of these required subsequent reviewing courtesy of the recorded ITV highlights to mould them into tangible events. However, when Smarty blasted the ball into the back of the net right in front of us with just two minutes to go, it all hit home. No amount of injury time would have tinged the conviction and realisation in my heart and in my mind that we were on our way to the Premiership.

The final whistle blew, and all around me stood on their seats to shout and cheer in complete and utter ECSTASY. I was one of the first to climb up, and scream and shout, but only by a split second. I danced on my seat, hugged complete strangers, male and female alike, as if we were old friends reunited after years of forced seperation. But the most incredible thing of all was when I broke free of an embrace to my immediate right and turned to the left to see my wonderful wife Deb, a South Wales Valley girl who before this day of days had never even watched (or wanted to watch for that matter) a game of football, standing on her seat, clapping her hands above her head and chanting 'WE ARE GOING UP, I SAID WE ARE GOING UP'.

A certain Mr Graham Taylor was quoted as describing the view from the tunnel end on his departure as 'unforgettable'. Well, sir, you have hit the nail right on the bloody head. The achievements of yourself, the players and the Watford fans have deeply touched even those who were seemingly untouchable. Monday 31st May 1999 is truly unforgettable as both the day that we silenced the critics and EARNED promotion to the Premiership, and the day that my search for Rhondda Valley 'Orn #2 came to a successful conclusion. I salute you.