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Brighton and Hove Albion 0 Watford 2 (25/04/2015) 26/04/2015

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

0. At Lewes station afterwards, I’m approached by an Albion fan who asks, in the tone of a teacher questioning a teenager about his sub-standard homework, “So what did you think of your performance today, then?”

I stare at him blankly for a few moments, eyes bloodshot and dazed, attempting to compose an intelligent response. I come up with this:

“I don’t know. I…don’t care. I just don’t care.

1. Perhaps we should just begin at the beginning. Perhaps we should treat it like any other match. Perhaps that’s best.

2. So, yeah, football and that. Normal things. Teamsheets and formations and kickoff and…oh heavens. We clearly have designs on being the more positive side from the off, brisk and purposeful as if chairing a meeting with a train to catch. Those designs last all of thirty seconds, the time it takes for Albion to make their first incursion behind Juan-Carlos Paredes and to require flying interventions from Angella and Cathcart. So much for settling the nerves.

Although Deeney brings the game’s first save with an angled drive, it’s against the run of play and the targeting of our wing-backs quickly becomes a theme: Paredes is lucky to survive a penalty shout shortly afterwards, having been caught out by Bennett again, while Anya becomes more isolated and more vulnerable as the half goes on. We’re exposed on the flanks and painfully short in midfield. It isn’t the game we wanted it to be. It isn’t enjoyable to watch…although, as it turns out, this is the relaxing bit.

3. Twenty-five minutes, then, and that’s enough for Slav. Anya off, Tozser on; fun and games over for a while. It takes barely a couple of minutes for that to work, as Tozser takes possession deep, Abdi burrows his way through the midfield, and we begin an attacking phase which, eventually, ends with Ighalo and Deeney turning some stray scraps into a vital, vital goal. A statement about the willingness of the head coach to take decisions, certainly: that’s been a crucial factor in this run-in, and any problems have been tackled with a dry, almost blackly theatrical dismissiveness. But also a statement about the unbelievable depth in our squad and the options we have available. Once again, as at Millwall, we’re in an entirely different league to our hosts in that regard.

4. We make it through to half-time, just about. I eat a Kit-Kat and Greg Rusedski comes on to encourage me to play more tennis. The rest is a blur.

5. I’ll shortly turn forty-five years old. There still seems like a preposterous amount of time before I’m allowed to retire and go to bed for a year with a massive box of chocolate biscuits and a good book, but there we are. It’s ten whole years since Adrian Boothroyd became the first Watford manager younger than me. It’s twenty years since absolutely nothing happened worth remembering in the mid-nineties. I think I might need reading glasses soon. I wish they’d bring back Lovejoy.

Among other things, reaching this ripe age appears to bring with it the sudden and inexplicable desire to watch football matches from sideways on. For reasons that I’ve never entirely grasped, this is considered to be a more suitable angle for the mature and educated spectator, allowing greater consideration of the game’s subtleties and tactical nuances without all of the unnecessary noise.

Perhaps that desire will seize me at any day. For the time being, however, I remain utterly wedded to the idea of being in an “end”, of having the team driving towards me as the game reaches its climax. Perhaps it’s a legacy of watching Graham Taylor’s teams tip the pitch up and pound down the hill as if on horseback. Who wouldn’t want to be the movable object to that unstoppable force? But perhaps it’s days like this too.

Goals aren’t about sides. Thrown-ins are about sides. Goals are about ends. Football is about ends.

6. Of course, there is a downside. The bits where your team’s hanging on for dear life are never more painful than when viewed from a pitch-length distance, every loose bounce and random ricochet looking like they’re the moment when it’s all going to come crashing down. When the team’s far out of reach of your encouragement and the illusion of control it brings, when the thing you’ve been feverishly obsessed with all week is happening a hundred yards away and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s like being shown a live video link of an operation to save your right arm. It’s bloody awful.

There are points during the second half here, as we sink ever deeper to protect our precious lead, where it feels almost physically impossible to remain in place, peering into the middle distance as another Brighton attack stutters into life. It’s too much. Every muscle tensed, teeth grinding, mouth dry, hands clenched together, nausea rising, blood pressure off the scale.

Your attention is so tightly focused that you start to lose any perspective, any sense of before or after. Things flash in front of your eyes. Corners, crosses, blocked shots, a header that apparently only misses the bottom corner by virtue of hitting a bit of a sandy patch and spinning around the post like an off-break into the rough just evading the outside edge. Abdi wasting a shooting opportunity, Vydra wasting a shooting opportunity, Forestieri wasting a shooting opportunity. Cathcart, Angella and Deeney all booked for crude hacks on escaping players. Guedioura booked for a pointless, reckless elbow; God knows how we’d have coped with facing the last few minutes with ten men. Deeney playing as if willing to drag each and every one of his colleagues across the finishing line by their hair if he has to.

The scoreline remains the same. The clock appears to be broken. It’s bloody awful. Perhaps it’d look better from the side after all. Perhaps it’d look better from the sodding car park.

7. But football is about ends. Football is about waiting for moments that might never arrive, about playing them through in your imagination over and over, about being there to see if it happens…and then finding Matej Vydra taking what seems like an age to control the ball, threatening to let that moment slip away, and then sliding it calmly into the bottom corner before the whole world turns yellow and red and inside out and upside down. It’s always better than it was in your imagination. You want words, but I don’t really have them. There aren’t words in that moment, just the release of months of tension in ten seconds. Just a hurricane, just obliteration.

There’s a version of this game in which we scored the second some time around the sixtieth minute and cruised through the rest against tired opposition. That’s the version which didn’t involve turning everyone in the away end into an emotional wreck. It’s also the version without that moment. It probably took years off our lives; it certainly felt like it. Who wants to live forever anyway?

8. In the olden days, there’d have been nothing for it but to find a pub and toast victory until a different kind of obliteration. Instead, I’m at home by four, drinking in tea and fresh air outside the back door. For all that there are other games in progress, it feels as if the job was done earlier in the day; it feels like someone’s put the support bands on after the headline act. Let Middlesbrough and Norwich do their worst. Sod ’em. I’m wrung out, drained and buzzing. It’s done.

A brisk southerly blows thick fog in from the sea, and with it the sound of distant waves and people playing on the beach. Somebody’s hammering in the allotments beyond the garden fence. Seagulls glide around in the mist. Peacefully, contentedly, the world goes about its business.

It’s hard to believe that it really happened.

But it did.




1. The Great Big O - 26/04/2015

My feelings were, unusually, a little different from yours at the final whistle. I absolutely didn’t think it was ‘done’. I simply thought we’d done what we had to do – extracting three points from the fixture – in preparation for next week’s ‘season finale’. For me, the remarkable thing about the day was what transpired while you drank your tea and while I strolled over the sunny South Downs to Lewes with one of my oldest Watford mates. We’d been following the scores with satisfaction and had just reached his local pub, sitting down with fresh pints of Harvey’s in front of us, when the sudden fact of promotion presented itself.

By no means was it a ‘Deeney v Leicester’ moment of sudden, dramatic and unexpected joy. It was a rich and deep moment of a different kind altogether.

It’s wonderful that being a Watford fan delivers so many of these.

2. rory - 26/04/2015

As someone who spent the 70’s under the scoreboard, the 80’s in the Rookery, and now reside the the Shrodells ( sorry – Lwr Graham Taylor ) your words as always are spot on. yesterday was agony, the second half a blur, but at least I enjoyed the final 15 seconds !! And whilst, having two sons that now attend the games with me, we probably wouldn’t change the sideways view, the sheer joy of Fulham & Brentford away this year, and of course the eruption at about 2.15 yesterday leaves you almost speechless, and in my case turns the clock back so many years. What a day, what a finish, for the most part no fun at all, but isn’t that what we live for. thanks for the great write ups.

3. Iwozthere - 26/04/2015

P.S. We are going Up! Briliant report as always, thanks Ian

4. BrechinHorn - 26/04/2015

brilliant report as usual Ian, not been on for a few years but after yesterday’s roller coaster it’s the least I can do, like many others I have been here since the Furphy years and this has to be up there with the best. Next Saturday is for the celebration and hopefully the trophy. Be good if LD could play a part !

5. Mike B - 26/04/2015

I’m still coming to terms with an unbelievably momentous day. A suggestion – in honour of Sir Slavica – change the bHappy at the top of the page to ‘bHeppy’!

6. Mike james - 26/04/2015

Can I just say your write ups are always spot on but today just summed up perfectly every single emotion I went through in the 90 minutes!
A quite brilliant piece of writing
What a day
One of those “I was there” moments
Cheers boys

NickB - 27/04/2015

Echoed in spades: quite brilliant and had me distinctly misty eyed by thunk 7.
I cannot get rid of the image of that bloody digital clock stuck on 87…

7. Dan - 26/04/2015

Spot on, another Watford game that will be etched into the memory bank forever, to be called upon for light relief for those dark days watching a tepid 0-0 draw (not that we do 0-0 draws anymore). The post Vydra bundle is up there with the best, but also quite harrowing to be so close to a 3 deep tangle of bodies as those at the bottom lay motionless, one bloke finally dragged up like a rag doll and slumped into a seat looked bad…until he suddenly rose from near unconsciousness with a fist in the air and continued chanting…priceless!

8. Simoninoz - 27/04/2015

It was just as torturous and crazed on the other side of the World, ig. As the gathering of Hornets Down Under in a Sydney pub hugged and cheered Vydra’s goal, it certainly seemed to be an ‘Alan Smart’ moment. But, later on at home, when my iPhone changed from Rotherham 1 Norwich 1 (94′) to Rotherham 1 Norwich 1 (FT), there’s nothing I can compare it to.

9. Ghotia - 27/04/2015

Ha, Simoninoz! You should try watching over the Tasman. The time of the match neatly straddled midnight (which makes a change from the 2am and 4am starts). I went to sleep pleased that we were nicely set up for next weekend, not thinking that even in my wildest dreams we would be promoted when I got up. As a result all Sunday I kept having to check the tables just to make sure that we really were four points clear.

10. john Parslow - 27/04/2015

Ian. Just brilliant.

What makes it even more special is that the player-fans-management connection of yesteryear is clearly so alive and well.
Whatever happens on the field – we truly have our club back.

And the so called experts. They just did not see it coming. Whilst we all believed that our time is now.

fair play to the Mirror correspondent though – if this link works – one of the first well researched and balanced articles I have read


(“are you watching Martin Samuels?”)

and now for another season of defying the critics.

We are staying up. Sing we are staying up.


RGW - 27/04/2015

I doubt the Mirror article needed much research, he’s been a Watford fan for 45 years.

11. Derek - 27/04/2015

I agree with Mike James about the “I was there moment”.
With apologies to Will S.
“And gentlemen in Watford now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,”

I noticed that the digital clock seemed to take about 3 days to go from 65 to 80 minutes.

The overwhelming relief some time around 2:10 as the second goal went in, exploding into mad celebration, lasted until shortly after the game finished. Then the thought that we had to do it all over again next week started to loom.

After a couple of beers in the sunshine outside the ground I headed off to the train listening to the coverage of the afternoon matches on my phone.

That curse of modern life, rubbish batteries installed in iPhones meant that I could only check scores periodically on the train back to London Bridge. Suffering a Norwich goal and a Boro fightback.
Going past the New den, I had a few glimpses of Derby struggling to hang on to their play-off spot, before finally arriving at London Bridge and confirmation that we had truly arrived.

I would like to offer thanks to everybody at the club, and our friends in Italy and Spain for this season, and especially for this day. It’s days like this that make going to football worthwhile.

12. SwindonDave - 27/04/2015

Ian, fantastic as always. Great to be there but not to endure the second half when I sat down so I couldn’t see their attacks on occasions!
The various celebrations in Brighton including all the people going in the sea capped the day nicely.
Designated driver (wife) got us back to Swindon safely and she’s booked for next Saturday as well.

13. Pete - 27/04/2015

Bring back Lovejoy?

The telly Suffolk Georgie Best of antiques or TV Tim from Rickmansworth, glory hunting ex ‘Orn and “big mate” of football stars?

I prefer the bloke in the leather jacket as my voice of Sky.

BTW, as ever, you paint emotions with words. Funny. Brilliant.

Ian Grant - 27/04/2015

Oh God, I hadn’t even thought of that. What if everyone thinks I meant TV Tim? What if all the nice things people have been saying are really because they think I’ve started a campaign to bring him back? What if I’ve started an unstoppable popular movement which I can’t now disown? Ohhhhh no. No, no, no.

Not that Lovejoy. The other one. The real one.

14. drewoneone - 27/04/2015

Another inspired write up Ian – thank you so much.

I witnessed SwindonDave (see above) sitting down in the posh padded seats and wanted to join him as the tension became unbearable, but learned that I am too much of a masochist!

I took a look at the scores on my phone on the train from Falmer to Seaford only to see it was Fulham 3 Boro 3 and Rotherham 0 Norwich 1 and put the phone in my pocket resolving to not look again until I got home. As I walked to my car I couldn’t resist the temptation to look again, and then couldn’t believe my eyes as it had changed to 4-3 (FT) and 1-1 (FT) respectively. The drive from Seaford to home in Bexhill was surreal and requiring added concentration. A new offence of “driving under the influence of sheer post match euphoria” should be introduced.

15. Royston ROF - 27/04/2015

being from the McGarry era Ive had some moments over the years….but watching the game on Sky at a friends house who is a staunch Wednesday fan, and having had a 2 or 5 bottles of best bitter, we hugged as next week we can both enjoy the game

…..as we “just dont care” what the result is….

…well versed Mr Ig….as always…

ps1.(actually I do…it would be nice to ahve a Championi flag waiting in the wings…wouldnt it Mr 1881!)

ps2..it feels since the issues for #nic at wolves, this club has bondede, glued, cemented together as one unstoppable train…..

16. GerardInOK - 27/04/2015

Rubbish fan that I am I didn’t realise that the game started at 12:30, which is 6:30 am here in Oklahoma so by the time I woke up at my usual time on Saturday and got up to make coffee, tune in to the game etc. etc. it was all over!

Having read Ian’s report of the second half maybe that was a good thing for my nerves, but I now I have the dubious distinction of having slept through one of the most important moments in our club’s history.

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