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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)
It's a long way to...LA
Report by Simon Holzman

America is, in many ways, a wonderful place but they really don't understand football. Actually, they do... it's just that, divided from England by a common language, they have the strange idea that football is a game played with only one player per side allowed to touch the ball with their foot. As for "Soccer", they simply don't understand the fascination that everyone else on the planet has with a sport that only girls play.

So being stuck in Los Angeles while Watford are playing one of their most important games ever was seriously painful.

I did hope that Reg Dwight would have space on his sofa for a few additional bums, but alas not.

Instead, I had a wonderful weekend and then woke up at 6.55 in the morning to try and catch the game on LBC's RealAudio. As usual, LBC was the only radio station I couldn't get to work and so it was back to the Olde Reliable Vidiprinter....

After catching up on the Mailing List Digests that I had been too nervous to read for three days, I glanced back at the Sporting Life window to discover "Bolton 0 Watford 1 (Nicholas Wright 38)"

The shriek of delight woke my "friend" in the nearby bed and, after a sleep-befuddled "Whassgoin'on", she responded appropriately to my eager explanation and nude dancing around the bedroom... let us just say that, while I would have liked to be at Wembley, 5,000 miles has its compensations... I may be the only Watford fan who scored as often as the team did during the game....

The rest of the game passed in a blur, with my attention fairly evenly divided between the beautiful woman beside me and the beautiful game on the vidi-printer and the minute-by-minute updates....

For the rest of the day I wore my Hornet shirt, despite my friend's condemnation of its cheap polyester material. She has offered to make me a replacement out of brushed silk. What more could a man ask for from a woman ?

A while later, after copious transatlantic phone calls, we left the house to meet another exiled Hornet... Myles, late of Texas and now Portland. My friend had found an "English" Pub at which we arranged to meet him. We got to the "Olde Ship" in Fullerton to be welcomed by a very friendly barman who gave me a Boddington Top (I know, pansy southerner that I am) as my friend asked me what Myles was like.

"Dunno", I replied, "I've never met him".

"So how will we recognise him?", she asked.

"Easily", I smiled.

Sure enough, in he walked in his Vintage Watford shirt a few minutes later.

We talked about the game, we talked about other games, other players, Graham Taylor's deification, we drank beer and then we asked for the menu.

My female friend is still amazed by the concept of a "French Fry Sandwich", so I suppose it was sensible of us to skip the Beans on Toast... Little does she realise just how good it was.

Afterwards, she asked me how we had been able to remember so much about the football games. "Folk Memory", I answered... slightly unsure myself... After all, I can remember Stewart Scullion's double goal as if I had been there, even though it was probably before I was born. OP's description of it is enough. I was there for other events, such as our home game against Kaiserslautern, or I could remember where I was and what I was doing, as with our win over Southampton (do not even think of asking which one).

There is something almost magical about being a football fan. You can walk into almost any bar in the world and have an instant rapport with the other football fans, your weekends revolve around finding out the score, even if you can't get to the game - to the extent that during the summer break, it is almost impossible to settle to anything because you haven't had your weekly fix.

Ever since my first visit to the Hallowed Ground of the Vicarage Road (against Liverpool in the last game of our first ever season in the top flight), I have felt a warmth as I approach it... I am coming home. My memories are not of the famous victories alone, though. I remember standing and singing EJTMA for the whole second half against Torquay in the FA Cup reply a year or two ago... almost fainting from the hyperventilation, but needing to keep going to avoid freezing to death. I remember another cold day watching the most boring game ever away to Rotherham and desperately trying to work out when I could get to the next game. I remember playing Fulham in the AWS, in the rain, straight from work trying desperately to keep my laptop dry. I remember talking with, and sympathising with, a Stoke fan who knew that his team was shit, but they were still his team.

I remember the Mailing List description of our game at Grimsby in which (I almost quote) "We scored with our first touch of the game and barely saw the ball for the following 89 minutes". I can almost hear the humming along to the tune of the "Great Escape", even though I was 250 miles away. I remember the year when we played Coventry at the Vic, scored four goals and lost 3-2 because we put two of them in our own net, including the most perfect lob by Pat Rice. And the game at their place which we won thanks to a Steve Sherwood Goal.

The two games against Everton one year which had an aggregate score of 8-9 (to them... bugger). You don't expect to score four goals at home and lose (or was that the draw... who cares !)

I remember being in tears after the Cup Final. Not because we had lost, but because we didn't deserve to win... We had none of our usual flair that day. Andy Gray may be a cheating bastard, but it wouldn't have mattered if we had just played like we did every other game.

Los Angeles has wonderful weather and a magnificent locality... It is genuinely possible to sun bathe in the morning and ski in the afternoon. The desert is nearby, as is Mexico, Las Vegas or the Ocean. But it doesn't have Watford Football Club. I can live without ever seeing my family, my friends or the sun again, but it is so hard to be away from the Golden Boys.

Perhaps next year will be better as I catch highlights of our games on Cable. But I do so want to see the Vic again. The bitching thing is that I'll be back in Blighty from the 6th to the 22nd of August and now that we're in the sodding premiership, the season will probably not start until the 28th ! Even if it was the week before, what are the odds that I'll be able to buy, beg, borrow or steal a ticket ?

Still, I find myself wandering down the street singing "Elton John's Taylor Made Army", "Come on you 'Orns", "Mooney Wonderland" and (strangely, since I have nothing against Luton and it's totally irrelevent anyway), "Four-nil, we beat the Scum four-nil".

The grin across my face seems to be a permanent fixture. It is really starting to ache a bit , but I think it is just because I am using muscles that had begun to atrophy !

As I explained to my friend... I am almost tempted to kill myself simply because life doesn't get better than it has been this weekend (and not just because of the Hornets, I hasten to add !) Still, with GT in charge, maybe we will do one better next year and win the Premiership.