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Andy Barnard 24/01/2020

Posted by Ian Grant in Thoughts about things.

We were saddened to hear that Andy Barnard lost his fight with cancer earlier this week.

From his outpost in Tbilisi, among other places, Andy was a valued contributor to Blind, Stupid and Desperate and was one of those who helped it to find its distinctive voice in the mid-to-late nineties. He carried his immense intelligence lightly, and it’s easy, even so many years after our paths last crossed, to hear him quietly, gently, precisely picking holes in whatever half-arsed theory I might’ve put forward, always with a smile. He was delightful company.

We wanted to reproduce a bit of his writing in his honour. Much of it – such as his missive from Georgia, linked above – can still be found on BSaD and is well worth rummaging through. The piece below, however, was written for the Supporters’ Trust to commemorate the tenth birthday of the site.

Enjoy. And thanks, Andy.

from Andy Barnard

My wife’s 92-year-old grandfather Ike is a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. Until this autumn the Red Sox were renowned as the second-most unlucky team in American baseball, having failed to win a World Series since 1918 despite being the world’s second-richest baseball team. For the uninitiated, the baseball World Series is a bit like the European Champions League in football, except that only American (and one or two Canadian) teams can take part. And the Canadian ones, like the Welsh clubs in the competition formerly known as the Football League, are only really there to make up the numbers.

Eight-six years is, of course, a long time for any sports fan to wait for his team to live up to expectations. Some say that the Red Sox were cursed by their sale in 1920 of Babe Ruth (the bambino ) to their rivals the New York Yankees, the world’s richest and most hated baseball team who have since won the World Series twenty-zillion times. My own feeling is that it served the Red Sox owners damn well right for
their refusal to sign any black players until 1959, but that’s another story.

Grandfather Ike never gave up hope, and in autumn this year was rewarded both with the birth of a great-grandson and a World Series victory. Younger great-grandparents than him had lived out their lives before dying without seeing Boston crowned champions. Yet Ike’s great-grandson Heidar Superdan had a mere six weeks to wait before witnessing what we hope will be but the first of many Red Sox titles. Perhaps even more impressively, his birth coincided almost precisely with two Watford goals in the space of 10 minutes that gave the Golden Boys a splendid victory at the New Den.

Heidar Superdan is now four-and-a-half months old and is just starting on solids. Which brings me, in what seems a suitably roundabout way, to BSaD’s 10th birthday. The connection is that ten years ago solids and Watford Football Club had a lot more in common than you’d ideally want. Indeed, there’s a powerful case that the moniker Blind, Stupid and Desperate credits the Watford performances of the time with
considerably more spirit than was in evidence. Two months without a win, culminating in an abject 4-0 defeat to Palarse, would finally see off manager Glenn Roeder. By then it was more like Blind, Stupid and Despondent and even under Graham Taylor it would be another five games before they mustered a victory at home to Oldham.

The Oldham game sparked a recovery of sorts (five wins and only two defeats in 13 games) but in the end it was too little too late, the only crumbs of comfort being that we finished above Luton and that Millwall were relegated into the bargain. The following season, with GT taking a back seat, we finished in the bottom half of the division formerly known as Division Three. Then Elton John helped a consortium buy out Jack Petchey, GT took over the reigns of management, and two years later we were in the top flight.

The good times didn’t last forever, of course. We were relegated, GT retired to manage Aston Villa, and perhaps the less said about the litigious Gianluca Vialli the better. But hey, what the heck. Aesthetically, I’d argue that Vialli did a better job on Watford than Peter Mandelson did on the Millennium Dome and on a marginally tighter budget. On the other hand, New Labour haven’t yet been forced to go cap in hand to the IMF.

In the meantime BSaD has gone from strength to strength, eventually quitting its original www.display.co.uk/bsad home to occupy its very own berth on the information superhighway at www.bsad.org.  As recently as six years ago, it was still enough to be on the Watford mailing list for an ex-pat like me to snag a much-sought-after play-off final ticket at cost price. But in recent years, with hundreds if not thousands of people on the mailing list, the only hope us old hands have of picking up a cup semi-final ticket when needed is to fling together some old tosh for BSaD to upload.

And so, over time, BSaD has become a mine of obscure and often educational information. Can you believe, for example, that the hapless rabble thrashed at Smellhurst back in February 1995 featured such stars as Kevin Miller, Nigel Gibbs, Tommy Mooney, Sir Colin
Foster, Kevin Millen, Steve Palmer, Andy Hessenthaler, Gary Porter and Kevin Phillips?(http://www.bsad.org/9596/reports/palacea.html)
Or that, until this year’s loans of Paul Jones and Johnnie Jackson, the past ten years featured only five Watford players whose surnames began with J?(http://www.bsad.org/gone/gone.html#J) Or that four of those five were called Johnson and came through the youth team? Or that Jean-Jacques Dessalines was an ex-slave who became one of the generals who ousted Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops to win Haiti independence from France in 1803?(http://www.bsad.org/0001/reports/forest/phtext.html)

Which, stylistically rather than logically, brings me back to my preamble about baseball. (And just in case you’re interested it’s the Chicago Cubs who are the unluckiest baseball team, their curse having been brought by their refusal to let a local tavern owner bring his pet billy-goat into their stadium to watch a game. Maybe there’s a lesson for Wolves in that…) On signing yet another superstar this close-season a New York Yankees executive apparently retorted to accusations of overkill, Don’t you realise, there are four-year-old Yankees fans in this fine city who’ve yet to see their team win a World Series? To the Yankees and, in another vein, to BSaD my dearest hope is: Eighty-two more years!


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