By Mike Lavelle
I wasn't there...I was "stuck" in Sydney, crouched over a PC at midnight with the volume of 5Live just about loud enough to hear, but not loud enough to wake my wife and son. The usual Saturday night-Sunday morning for me, the only difference was the far superior reliability of the BBC to keep me in touch and the adrenaline pumping through my veins to the point that I was physically shaking. And, of course, this was Monday morning with work only hours away and no prospect of sleep afterwards, win or lose.
I was tempted to go but the £1,000 plus travelling costs, resigning from my fairly well-paid job and the prospects of divorce and losing my son seemed a price too high to pay. Maybe I was wrong.
So what does this mean to me? Well, in practical terms, it means seeing "my" team play on pay TV over here. It means media coverage that goes beyond two or three lines in the paper when the boys get to the semi-finals of one of the cups. It also means that there are several Aussies in my office that now have Watford as their favourite team (dropping the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea!). But most of all, it means safety.
I left the UK in 2000, thirty-one years after seeing Watford play for the first time (admittedly I was only three years old and don't remember much about those early years!). By the mid-seventies, I was hooked - just in time to see the first coming of GT and enjoy the unbelievable rise through the leagues. I never thought those days would end and perhaps that's why what we are going through now is even more special. Because the last few years have been about survival, not promotion, not relegation but keeping the community that is Watford FC alive.
When I left the UK we were still in the Premier League. GT's second coming had given us the financial stability and building blocks that made the future seem bright. Relegation seemed almost a certainty from day one. I think even GT knew that but he also knew that keeping the spending under control; and Watford's future security was a far more important task and he did that in spades. I knew my club was in safe hands and I could leave to explore pastures new without worrying...
...and then it happened or rather he happened. Okay, the board need to accept some responsibility but I shall never forgive the bald Italian for not only spending money we didn't have on players that couldn't play, but for suing us even though he knew it could literally finish us.
Still, we all know what happened and it is not something we should dwell on but it makes what Aidy and, yes, Mr Simpson have done to give us back our future all the more special. And perhaps the one positive of that season of fiscal madness is that there is no way we'll blow it this time.
I hope to return to the UK, perhaps for good, in late 2007 or early 2008, just in time to enjoy Watford's second season in the Premier League. That would have been said with my tongue firmly in my cheek last time but Aidy has even convinced me, twenty thousand kilometres away, that we can stay up.
By then, my son will be three years old. The perfect age to go to your first game and now I know that there will be a Watford FC for him to follow.
The future's bright, the future's yellow (with red shorts and socks!).