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And another thing… 25/04/2016

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.
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1. I hate Wembley. The new one, that is. The old one was fine; it had faults but everything’s got faults, although it’s true that not everything’s faults smell quite so pungently of wee.

2. Anyway. I hate Wembley. I hate everything about Wembley. If you take away the stadium, you’re left with a bleak, remorselessly grey corner of north London devoted to concrete and car parks; you’d no more come here for a day trip than you’d wear a “Kiss Me Quick” hat to South Bermondsey. But someone did put the stadium back, and decorated it with a big arch because, y’know, there used to be towers so, um, now there’s a big arch, and you have to come for a day trip because there’s a football match that you want to see, somewhere over there, somewhere underneath the big arch, somewhere behind all the people taking selfies. No, I don’t want my face painted.

3. For fifty quid, you get a ticket so large that it can’t possibly fit into any of your pockets and that threatens at any second to blow away and be lost forever on one of the many gusts that swirl around this desolate hellhole. As always with football, money and size are everything; presumably the tickets for the final are A3 and laminated in frozen unicorn tears. As always with football, what might once have had some romance – walking down “Wembley Way” and all that – has been turned into commercial circus. I’ve got a thunderous headache. I feel as if I may not be getting into the spirit of it all.

4. You buy a bottle of water on your way up to London. On entry to the ground, you’re forced to empty that bottle of water into a plastic pint glass. You place that pint glass under your seat, propping it carefully so that it doesn’t spill. The teams come out, yellow, red and black confetti everywhere. Several bits of crepe paper land in your pint glass. They slowly disintegrate, turning your water pink or grey. Or, if you’re particularly unlucky, yellow.

5. Oh, you miserable sod. Yes, I know. But here’s the thing: I’ve got all of my joy and tears and disbelief stored up for the moment when we win, for the moment when we’re going to a Cup Final again. I just want that bit, only that bit. And then I want to win that too. Give me that and I’ll be drunk on it until the day I die. If not, bollocks to it all.

6. This vast, plastic, airless stadium renders you powerless. It’s like watching a dream unfold: you know what’s going to happen but you can do nothing to intervene. Your voice is muffled, suffocated, silenced. As in 2013, you’re watching ninety minutes of football that you’ve spent weeks thinking about, chewing over, preparing for…and it’s drifting by in the exhausted, dulled haze of a Sunday morning hangover. People fidget listlessly like they’re at the back of a Bryan Adams concert; chit-chat and popcorn and spilled drinks and slowly deflating balloons.

7. One of the most important football matches of your entire life is about to end. You spend its last ten minutes trying to work out how best to get back to civilisation. You wish it away and it meekly obeys.

8. I don’t often hate my football club. Not actively, not really. But here, the level of satisfaction at the season’s undoubted achievements makes me furious, the sense of turning up for the occasion but not for the match makes me despair. Right now, I don’t care what expectations were in August; I know, I understand and I don’t bloody care. All that matters is the opportunity spurned. Palace, below us in the league, demanded that the day bend to their will; we mumbled something about how it’d be quite nice but, you know, all a bit of a bonus and so on and so forth. Who knows when we’ll have a chance like that again…

9. You delete the highlights, unwatched. You make other plans for the 21st. You vent your frustration to anyone who’ll listen and eventually get most of it out of your system. But something’s changed, irreversibly changed. A distance that wasn’t there before. A sense of difference, of separation.

10. There’ll be people who make lots and lots of money out of Premier League survival. They should be careful it doesn’t blind them to the importance of making history too.

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Comments»

1. Duncan - 25/04/2016

^^^ What he said.

Nailed.

2. Adam Cummings - 25/04/2016

Points 1-6 were made by me (if not as eloquently) after the 2013 play-off final and were the main reason why I (a fan of 45 years) went nowhere near Wembley on Sunday. The world soulless should have been invented for that stadium.

3. William Grundy - 25/04/2016

If I hear one more person trying to justify some of our turgid performances this season by banging on about 41 points and a trip to Wembley…..I’ll bite more than their sodding hand off!

Ian Grant - 25/04/2016

Ha! That made me laugh. Thanks.

Andi - 25/04/2016

Amen

Andi - 25/04/2016

These are the same people who ran on the pitch last May to celebrate NOT winning the league. More interested in the fact Chelsea/Arsenal/Man Utd are coming to town than in seeing us win a trophy.

4. Leggatts 'orn - 25/04/2016

How I feel.

Quite brilliant.

5. Wrighty - 25/04/2016

packet of crisps £1.60
bottle of sprite (poured into plastic pint glass etc etc) £3
small salted popcorn £5 (yes really)

just a few other reasons

the ticket size made me laugh loudly

6. Roger Smith - 25/04/2016

…and what passes for beer or a glass of wine at £5.20. I didn’t dare ask what a programme cost.

However, even seated towards the front of the top tier, and with an eagle’s eye view of the pitch (don’t take that the wrong way), I didn’t feel totally divorced from the game. Every now and then, 1881 came through, and I and enough around me lent our support. And the ticket did make a useful bookmark.

tony w - 25/04/2016

The programme was £5 and they didn’t even get our squad numbers right, surely one of the reasons to buy the thing and something relatively easy to copy and check. Grrrrr

pucklechurchscouts - 25/04/2016

The programme was £5 and they couldn’t even get our squad numbers right. Ahhh the magic of corporate Wembley.

7. Mrs Bugbee - 25/04/2016

Number 8. That is all.

8. Harefield Hornet - 25/04/2016

I was lucky enough to attend many games at the old stadium from the early seventies. England 7 Austria 1 was my first game and I saw countless others ranging from Liverpool winning the European cup to a particularly hilarious afternoon when Luton were stuffed by Reading in the Simod cup! – but you’re right, the new stadium is absolutely dreadful. I was overseas when we beat Bolton so my Watford record is 3 games 3 miserable defeats. At least in 1984 we were singing “we’ll be back again next year” at the end of the game. No bloody danger of that yesterday!

9. "Berghuis, in the middle of our street" - 25/04/2016

…and you couldn’t get beer outside the stadium past 3pm, total lockdown even in Sainsburys for a can…
…to herd you inside to share a sterile concourse with a 330ml bottle (yes again poured into a plastic glass) of turgid Budweiser for £5.20, if only we walked to the next kiosk selling pints for same £5.20 – work that logic out.
Only bright point of the game was turning round to see Ekstrand sitting behind me flanked by two Swedish beauties, even he was trying to hide is face the way we were playing.
Getting away from Wembley is no better than the old Wembley, so we ventured into the Hilton to let the queue die down as it looked to have a nice lounge only to be directed away from the ‘residents only’ nice part into the ‘Grand ballroom’ – grand it wasn’t, it was more like a weird conference/convention in a soulless room where 80% were in blue/red and happy, and the other 20% in yellow couldn’t face going home and guess what £5 a bottle of blooming beer!

10. Old Git - 25/04/2016

Yup.

11. Wimborne Hornet - 25/04/2016

Brilliant report. Hated every aspect of the day except the anticipation. I rushed back to my car so I didn’t have to meet the Palace fans parked next to me. Almost made it , they caught me on the way out with a thumbs up. Thanks. It’s like a really big row with a loved one where you don’t want to speak. You want to go down the pub on your own, but you know you’ll be back together again soon.

12. drdavewatford - 25/04/2016

I still haven’t managed to extricate that bastard ticket from my coat pocket – it’s wedged in so tight that it might never escape, and I’ll therefore be forever reminded of that half-arsed, non-event, piss-poor first half display every time I wear the coat. It’ll be like football herpes, lying in wait and ready to re-emerge at any moment. Or something.

Thank you Ig for expressing my pain and gut-wrenching frustration so eloquently.

13. Stuart Campbell - 25/04/2016

Yup. Spot on IG.

The new Wembley is ghastly. A monument to football money, not to the game. And never to the fans. I felt completely disconnected from the game.

Yes, we were woeful; yes Palace deserved to win. Because everything about them wanted it more. We made them look good. The team that not so long ago totally dismembered Liverpool made struggling Crystal Palace look every inch like cup finalists.

And so many of our followers at the game felt all wrong. Silent seat fillers wearing out-of-date shirts or scarves turning up for the Wembley experience or, as in Matt’s piece, horribly drunken embarrassments.

Your final two thunks ring horribly close to home.

Please family Pozzo… don’t lose the essence of the club you bought in the pursuit of glory. Please keep us on board.

Keith Endean - 28/04/2016

Yes my shirt is out of date but I will not ware a shirt advertising a loan company or a gambling company as for my now not so lucky out of date scarf (1 win at Wembly 1 win at the millennium 2 losses at the new Wembly) silent I wasn’t until I lost my not all what you see is what you think

14. franelynn - 25/04/2016

Thank-you, Ian. Point 8 expresses perfectly my feelings about the day. I can take all the garbage surrounding ‘modern football’ if I can leave a stadium after a crucial game feeling that my team gave of their best. I felt horribly let down on Sunday and that upset and anger will take a while to abate

Pete - 26/04/2016

It staggered me just how many people were there for a picnic. As soon as the game started, up they got to go and stuff more crap in their fat mouthes.
It was as though the game was a sideshow to their day out.

With you IG. Dreadful experience (again).

I wish it was played at somewhere like Barnet and we were only allowed 3k fans.

Bring back bsad

15. Robin - 25/04/2016

At least we didn’t have the sun in our eyes this time.

16. Nick B jnr - 25/04/2016

Brilliantly summed up, as was Matt’s epilogue.

I’m so full of pent up (fill void with multiple joyless adjective) that I can’t even begin to think where to direct it.

For all of our collective pessimism in the build-up, that dizzying, gut-mixing hope of what would have been quite wondrous scenes is so bloody agonising to even contemplate. Except that my head is a constant juxtaposition of what might have been and what really unfolded that leaving it all behind is friggin’ tough.

Perhaps it’s worse now that the true extent of the horror has fully sunk in. In the aftermath, there’s an element of punch drunkenness. I found ridiculous solace on Sunday evening in the brief distraction of being told by the wife of the bad news; that she’d forgotten to get a bunch of bananas from Sainsbury’s and ‘would we be ok for the week without?’. What is it? When it rains, it pours…

Now I feel true anger, frustration and total sadness.

Sometimes I’d like to be able to divorce myself from it. But it’s too emotional, it means SO much doesn’t it? You can’t explain it, nor is it reasoned. But I’ve dreamed about that lovely, beautiful trophy being paraded by Watford players for longer than I can remember. For five minutes on Sunday I could almost touch it, joyfully hoarse from the equaliser. The horrible hope that its crushingly snatched away. Thrown away. Whittled away in 40 wasted first half minutes and 30 in the second.

That was MY day to see Watford in lights; echoing to Abide with Me. Elton, Luther, GT… Troy Deeney with his arms squeezed around the jug. The heroes of heroes. Unbridled joy.

Sh*t.

All this stuff about Man Utd fans not being content with winning the cup and that getting 4th place is more important, or some crud like that. Sorry, sod off. Just go away and leave those who truly cherish the meaning of that competition to have just one year of it.

Thank goodness we’re not Wigan though, eh…? The media’s focus on their relegation from the Premier, days after winning the cup. The notion that that was their season wrecked. Would I have taken a few goes at biffing the big boys on the nose before signing off in a blaze of glory with the cup in your hands? Abso-bloody-lutely.

Sack the manager even if we win it? He could have started in goal next season for all I would have cared…

“Give me that and I’ll be drunk on it until the day I die.”

But perhaps that’s now our default position is one shared with United’s current ambition. It’s ‘ok’ or, dare I say, ‘amazing’, because we still get another season of untold riches from the tele, while playing Bournemouth, Stoke and, er… Palace.

The anguish is getting so hard to bear with each passing major happening and its own avoidable, but inevitable heartbreak that have a way of wrecking (in some form or other) what cudda or shudda been blissfully perfect, ecstatic and memorable. For every Brighton away, or Deeney against Leicester, the wholesomeness is inadvertently driven headfirst into a ravine.

Leeds: For me, much harder to bear than what followed it at Wembley. Hair tearingly terrible.

Palace: A huge let down by any score.

Sheffield Wednesday: Felt like a post relegation wake – and anyone who mindlessly spilled onto the pitch at the end of that in ‘celebration’ really needed their head checked.

This season’s antithesis to Sunday is obviously Arsenal… And my only hope of contentment is that I can look back on it all before not too long with a selective mindset and a big grin. Seems pretty damn hard right now as the debris of another wasted opportunity slips pathetically away in the blur of ‘a day out at Wembley’.

I don’t really know where I’m going with all this, nor why anyone would want to share in my self fulfilling anguish which has gone all a bit Facebook-Twitter-Watford Observer-forum-y… So I’ll end the silliness here.

Wimborne Hornet - 26/04/2016

Works for me! Non football fans don’t understand. Neither do supporters of bigger clubs. Gut wrenchingly hurtful

17. Dougie Brimson - 26/04/2016

Another perfect summary.

18. simmos - 26/04/2016

IG superbly summed up my feelings as always but I also hate Luton (which goes without saying), Oxford, Wigan, Portsmouth, WBA, Blackburn etc and soon I will hate Leicester. Totally irrational but I hate the fact that teams of perceived similar or smaller size than us have won major trophies and we are now 135 years and counting. Perhaps I just hate the fact that I invest so much emotion in supporting a team that cannot win a sodding trophy just once.

19. David Glover - 26/04/2016

It’s all gone terribly wrong.

20. Mike Phillips - 26/04/2016

As much as i’m loathed to admit it our support today was at best average. I really thought after 2013 that we would ‘up the ante’ (particularly now with the 1881) but i’m afraid it was second best to palace. I know we went a goal down early but sitting in the upper tier on the half way line gave a very good perspective on the support of both teams. Palace won it hands down and that compounded a miserable afternoon.We didn’t even sell out our allocation compared to 2013. That was disappointing but not overly surprising. A reality check on the size of our fan base and surely a point that wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by the pozzos.

I know it’s a soulless stadium but from where I was sitting the palace fans created a great atmosphere.

Matt Rowson - 26/04/2016

I think that’s a bit harsh. When we levelled we were much louder than Palace due to the passage of the game. Circumstances dictated the way it went… in a ground with appalling accoustics getting a bit of defiance going was never going to be easy.

As for not selling out the allocation, i think that was an unfortunate consequence of the TO trying, as ever, to be painstakingly fair. ST holders only being able to buy their own ticket helped guarantee that ticket allocation was as fair as possible. But had we each been able to buy an extra ticket (for friends, family) we’d have sold our allocation easily.

Harefield Hornet - 26/04/2016

Totally agree – if we’d gone 2-1 up after Troy drew us level (or equalised later) the roof would have come off and the noise would have continued if events had continued in our favour. . I just think the timing of their goals extinguished everyone’s spirit, especially combined with the Palace de-ja-vu factor from 2013. On the non-sell out bear in mind that if we’d won a lot of us would have had to stump up another £100 on top of the semi-final costs. I’m convinced the demand for tickets if we’d got to the final would have been far greater. I know it might seem a bit disloyal perhaps but a couple of people I know who were entitled to tickets were hedging their bets we’d get to the final and they were saving their money for that. And I’m sure they weren’t the only ones. Our fan base isn’t an issue.

21. Mike Phillips - 26/04/2016

I agree about selling out the final but the cost issue applies equally to Palace and they managed to sell out their allocation on Sunday. Just saying…

22. Lincoln Hornet - 26/04/2016

It would be much less fun if we won every week and played like Barcelona. Character building me thinks or at least that’s what I’m clinging to. Everyone who has contributed on here knows that they will be yellow till they die whatever happens so let’s dust ourselves down and look forward to the next chapter. Put it this way, none of us really knows where we will be this time next season which for me is what being a Watford fan is all about. You never know we could be waiting for a cup final. You can bet your life that Barcelona will be somewhere near the top though! U ‘Orns

P.S To help me get through Sundays result I tried to think of the worst experience I have had supporting Watford and I came up with a 3-0 defeat at Crewe when we were 3 down after about 20 mins. I spent about 8 hours in the car for that game also due to traffic Try it, it does help!

simmos - 26/04/2016

Thanks Lincoln. I have tried to think what may have been worse but I pretty much feel that this one tops the lot. Thinking about the teams left in the competition this is clearly the best chance we have had to win a major trophy in my 53 years. The whole experience was miserable (except for 6 minutes between our equaliser and their second).

Graham Daly - 26/04/2016

There’s ALWAYS something worse. How about this.
We needed to get a better result against Leeds than Cardiff against Hull. And I’m going !
Well, I was until the train was terminated at Nuneaton.
So, taxi to Rugby – Virgin train (walk on fare!) to Euston, train back to Watford, taxi to the ground – all extra cost. Got in at 2-58. And that was as good as it got ! Horrible.

Anyway
1) Wembley stadium inside is magnificent. Ask anyone who had a seat near the front of the old one whether they actually saw anything. So what if Wembley itself is grim – that’s not the point. Just be grateful if you don’t live there.
2) I think the team is tired – every game in the Prem is very high intensity – Palace have had more experience of that. I think the team tried its best – they have ALL season.
3) It felt much worse outplaying Man U and losing than coming up slightly short on Sunday. The form that Man U have NOW discovered will destroy Palace – or us if we had won on Sunday. Who wants a repeat of that 1984 feeling. Not me !
4) We HAVE progressed this season, just not in the right order (copyright E Morecombe).
5) Next season WILL be better – and we won’t be playing Burton, Rotherham, Derby, Brentford, Wolves (ugh) Leeds (ugh ugh) QPR (ugh ugh ugh). Get the picture ?
6) Wouold we have Sir elton John Stand without the improvements? No !
So bl–dy cheer up!

23. Royston RoF - 26/04/2016

…yes we all want to win the big one, just once in our life
..but after 56 years of following the yellow brick road and having many days just like Sunday, just 1 semi final win in 7…..being totally pissed off, saying thats it, I want a divorce
…I will be back…and so will the majority…just dont lock the back door please
…it could be worse, Bazza could have got parole by now..
…coyh’s….
…bring it on..
..the future is golden….

..

24. SteveG - 27/04/2016

Not angry so much as flat and drained after what was a massively disappointing performance. Yes of course we should be hugely pleased that we have effectively secured another season in the top tier with several games to spare, but at that point the focus surely changes – the FA Cup becomes the main event. While calls for the manager to be sacked seem utterly ridiculous to me, there does seem to have been a lack of imagination in dealing with the obvious problems that have arisen.

Gomes should have played, both for goalkeeping and psychological reasons – quite happy to see Pantilimon have a couple of league games, and he’s not ‘to blame’ for what happened on Sunday, but Gomes might have made a better job of both goals. I still think on balance Guedioura adds to the team, but he does make some horrible mistakes in possession and distribution, so I can see why Flores has been reluctant. And while the loss of Capoue was a blow, I thought Suarez was one of our better players on the day – I just don’t think you can play them together in the same team effectively.

There are options available – they may or may not work, but surely some kind of plan B is worth a try, such as: if we’re sticking with 4-4-2, play wide men in wide positions – Amrabat, Anya, Guedoiura, Paredes and Holebas may not be our most gifted individuals, but they are far more natural in those positions than Abdi, Jurado or Capoue; we’ve got three capable central defenders, so try 3-5-2 with two of the above as wing-backs and Jurado (or Abdi) in a more central position; give Ighalo a rest in a 4-5-1 with Deeney up top and two of the wide men up above. It’s a team game, and we need the best team, which isn’t always the 11 best individuals.

Go on Quique – try something a bit different in the last few games. You never know, we might start to click again!


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