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“We’re living through it, we’ll have so many stories to tell…” 31/05/2009

Posted by Ian Grant in Thoughts about things.

We only went and bloody did it.

It doesn’t seem like yesterday. There’s been far too much water – some of it crystal clear, some of it decidedly murky – under the bridge since then. But it certainly doesn’t feel like ten years have passed since that day at Wembley either.

There’s good reason for that. If it still feels close, if those stories are still fresh from re-telling, that’s because nothing has come near to touching it since. We shouldn’t belittle the second promotion to the Premiership under Adrian Boothroyd – it involved no more luck, arguably a little less – but the events of the spring of ’99 remain an impossible, giddy pinnacle in the recent history of Watford Football Club. Rarely has a club, its manager, players and supporters, dreamt as vividly as then. Rarely has it all come true quite so tumultuously. It was just magical.

That day, we had the entire world at our feet. As Nicky Wright looped that overhead into the top corner and Allan Smart belted in the second to conclusively finish what’d been started weeks before in that bizarre game with Tranmere, it felt as if nothing could stand in our way. Reality bit back quickly enough, of course…but that only makes it seem more special when you look back, the wintry shadows throwing the sun-drenched,ย  romantic adventure of those two months into even sharper relief. For a moment or two, we all closed our eyes and let our imagination run riot.

We’ve had plenty of ambition in the years since then, plenty of proclamations about where we should be and where we could be; we’ve blown plenty of cash in hot (or lukewarm, often) pursuit of the Premiership gravy train. But the truth is that you can only have that innocence once: we were never the same again after the 31st May 1999, just as every club that swaps its daydreams for a hefty bank balance and visits to Old Trafford is never the same again.We beat Liverpool and Chelsea months later, but that team – an immense team, unforgettable names and unforgettable deeds – never existed as an entity again, shattered by injuries to many of its brightest stars. Victory at Wembley was its final momentous act.

Damned if I’d swap a single second of it, though. Watch the highlights and look at the photos and read the reports, but never forget how you saw it. Because it wasn’t a media event for Sky’s benefit. It was a defining moment in our collective history, in your life and your friends’ lives; it’s your story to tell to future generations.

It was a golden day. On the 31st May 1999, everything was possible. And it really happened.


1. Stuart - 31/05/2009

What a game and what a run in to it! That Tranmere match was something else. I just can’t believe 10 years have now past. Those months were still the highlight of my Watford supporting life for me. Amazing.

2. Patrick Crozier - 31/05/2009

My abiding memory was how knackered Nick Wright was towards the end of the game.

Oh, and the streakers. Really could have done without them.

3. Jeremy Clarke - 31/05/2009

JC here Mr Grant, my oustanding memory is the NOISE

I remember the murmering as Micah Hyde robbed the ball, the rumbles as Peter Kennedy moved forward, the expectations stuck in the back of the throat, for a second the quietness, then THAT ROAR as Smarties shot hit the back of the net.

Louder than the loudest Ferrari

Louder than the old Concorde taking off

The Explosion and Cacophany of YELLOW and RED
nb: ( remember to all those in doubt about colours..the RED!)

The loudest “We are going up, I said, we are going up”

………………………..and off to the close season with a hideous grin on ones face that just would not go away…….oh sweet dreams…as you say never, ever to be replaced

4. Matt Rowson - 31/05/2009

JC – interesting that you should remember Micah Hyde winning the ball. For years I was convinced it was Johnno. Actually it was neither… Smart won the challenge with Sellars and received the ball again at the end of the move…

5. straightnochaser - 31/05/2009

But in fairness, Matt, to JC, it was Micah who gathered the loose ball & passed it out wide to Kennedy, no?

6. DM - 31/05/2009

*won* the challenge with Sellars ? Understatement of the decade Mr R. I felt that one in the stands.

Happy memories of my happiest time as a Watford fan. My view of that second goal is burned on my memory forever.

7. Esp - 31/05/2009

And the difference between the many foreign mercenaries to have won trophies at Wembley since that day and our team is adequately summed up in this excerpt from the BSaD report: “Tommy Mooney, hands on head, staring at the delirium in the stands and clearly trying, and failing, to make it sink in…”

I cannot truthfully say I am a lifelong supporter BUT my memories of THAT day mean I am NOW a Hornet ’till I die!

8. Back from Hammerau - 01/06/2009

For me, the second goal was just the icing on the cake.
Once we got the first one after Bolton had missed all those chances, I felt we’d done it.

9. Harefield Hornet - 01/06/2009

Wonderful memories! – and I still reckon Graham Taylors finest hour as manager of Watford. The achievements of his first era had been the results of a gradual process of improvement but this was something else. Marvelously unrehearsed and completely unexpected, all those players will remain heroes to me forever.

10. Luther Missit - 01/06/2009

5 thunks I remember from that day…

Alan Smart’s tears, on both knees arms outstretched at our end after he’d scored the winner. A guy who, if I remember, had been a bit of a boo-boy at time that season, finally being welcomed back into the fold…

The noise, yes the deafening noise even before the match had started, deep in the cavernous bowls of Wembley Stadium…

The streaker at half time.

The Bolton fans dull and obvious homophobic chants on the road up to the twin towers “Watford’s chairman’s homosexual”… us responding with “Bolton’s chairman’s hetrosexual” and them looking utterly bamboozled – (that’s when I knew we were going to win)

Dancing the conga in a pub in North London after the game – “Let’s all do Ngonge, Let’s all do Ngonge”

Great days, great times – they will be missed

11. Jeremy Clarke - 01/06/2009

JC here

MR or Mr Predantic as he well known around these pastures…yes , alright Smartie winning but Micah getting the attack started..is that better then ๐Ÿ˜‰

and Mr L Missit…”great times..will be missed”….never not, while one is an ‘orn, never, every day is great day..spread the yellow gospel my son, our time will come again….just remember the day we were 92nd in the league that was not long before the first messiah (Mr T) came along.

12. The Great Big O - 01/06/2009

It was an extraordinary day.

The final whistle was the only time I’ve cried at a football match: I blubbed helplessly. (At the Cardiff final, I filled up but didn’t blub.)

Leaving the stadium was the only time I’ve worn an old pair of Graham Taylor’s boxer shorts on my head. (At Cardiff, they stayed firmly in my pocket.)

And that evening was the only time I’ve been summoned to Radio Five Live’s studios to give my views as a Watford fan. (After Cardiff, they knew better than to invite a cocky beer-sodden fool to burble incoherently at Nick Robinson.)

It was a brilliant, truly extraordinary, day.

13. Matt Rowson - 01/06/2009


Pedantic, not predantic.

Sorry, open goal…


14. billyo - 03/06/2009

I know you’re supposed to look forward and not live on past memories, but I must admit that in my blue moments over the last ten years, I havn’t put on my favourite album or phoned an old friend, I’ve gone to youtube and had a guiltily watched that moment again.

Funnily though, as ig said, although I’m watching the screen I don’t see the pictures, instead I see the goal from a bit further around to the left, rising as Kennedy puts the cross in, then I don’t see anything except the people around me – totally delirous. A truely magical and unforgettable moment.

15. Sequel - 03/06/2009

I’ve always said that Aldridge got us promoted. We were drifting towards inevitable defeat against Tranny when, for some reason, Aldridge engaged in a bit of banter with the fans behind the bench. This, of course, wound us up, and we all became quite animated. This transmitted itself to the rest of the ground, and then on to the players, who found the motivation to win the game. From that point on, promotion was inevitable!

16. Simoninoz - 04/06/2009

The fallout from that wonderful day is with me still. You see my wife allowed me to splurge the mortgage money on a plane ticket so Simoninoz could be SimonatWembley. This means that I now lose out in any domestic dispute when she says, “Remember, you owe me as I let you go to your footy game on the other side of the World.”
Worth it though!

17. Jeremy Clarke - 04/06/2009

JC here ..

15 Simoninoz…why didnt you just give her a tinny and sneak out for a few days R&R with the boys..collecting some flowers for her on your return…man or mouse

18. Esp - 04/06/2009

Sequel I was in the East Stand in those days (hence my Internet name: East Stand Paul) and my seat was just above the tunnel in other worsds with a perfect view of the away bench and Aldridge’s antics

Yes your recollections of that match are spot on; a rare moment when the motivation for our players to win a match was from the AWAY bench – this coming season I see that the Hornets will get any motivation to beat Reading from….the away teams’ bench ๐Ÿ™‚

19. Al - 05/06/2009

Anyone else remember after the game seeing Tommy Mooney pick a small pinch of Wembley grass from the goal mouth and tuck it in his sock?

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