Sunday, 6 March 2011

We Can See You Sneaking Out

If you’ve watched Match of the Day recently, you’ll have seen that the cameramen and producers have a new favourite shot. As soon as a home team concede a goal or two, the camera will cut to members of the crowd leaving their seats, whilst the commentator confidently tell us that ‘Plenty of people have seen enough, they are streaming towards the exits’. In fact, they are probably either heading to the toilet or for an overpriced pie or watered down beer, but since several Newcastle fans were seen (understandably) departing St James’ Park before their team came back from 0-4 down to grab an unlikely draw with Arsenal, the ‘early leavers’ have been brought firmly into the spotlight.

It’s not a new phenomenon. The Emirates and Old Trafford begin visibly emptying at the 75 minute mark, supporters of such successful teams clearly being more concerned with being stuck in traffic than they are with getting value for their expensive match ticket. Wembley is always far from full come the 90 minute mark and the the Vicarage Road end exits, clearly visible form my position in the Rookery, are always open early to allow deflated away supporters to leave the scene of their teams demise quickly.

You can’t really blame those supporters who leave a bit early with their team in a hopeless position, but of course it only takes a second to score a goal, so it’s a gamble to miss any part of a game no matter how hopeless the perceived situation. How many Watford fans will have missed the Gary Porter inspired comeback against Bolton in 1993, having given up and gone home with the Hornets 0-3 down after an hour, only to miss a hat-trick from Porter and a Ken Charlery winner? How many Liverpool fans will have to live with the haunting knowledge that they missed their team win the Champions League in 2005 after giving up and leaving the stadium with the reds on the wrong end of a 0-3 score-line? More than will admit it I’m sure.

Whilst we’re on the subject of admissions, I suppose I better come clean. I’ve left a game early. Two actually. Alright, alright, I know us proper fans are supposed to stay until the end, but sometimes, very occasionally it’s all too much to cope with. One such occasion was a home fixture with our old friends Crystal Palace. It was last season and both the Hornets and the Eagles were embroiled in a nerve shredding relegation scrap. Watford were above Palace in the table and a win would have all but secured our safety for another year. I was confident we’d get a decent performance, even if we didn’t get the win we craved. In the event, the performance got the result it deserved and I was well on my way home by the final whistle blew on a 3-0 defeat.

Whilst I left that particular debacle through choice, my first early departure was thrust upon me and it has bothered me ever since. It was an away game with Reading at their old Elm Park ground and my brother and I had cadged a lift with a school friend in his rather exotic convertible car. A trip to an away match with the roof down. What fun. Unfortunately the fun ended pretty quickly after the game began and Watford found themselves 4-0 down. Our driver for the day had seen enough and decided we should leave. As passengers, we had no choice but to meekly surrender and as we trudged away from the ground we heard a weary, slightly hollow cheer. Watford had scored. My brother and I looked at each other, each as cross as the other at missing a Watford goal. Missing this one has proved increasingly infuriating as whilst it was a mere consolation, it was also the first professional goal for a young Kevin Phillips.

More recently I was sorely tempted to leave the home fixture with PNE prematurely. At 0-2 down it was a miserable night and a miserable performance. I stuck with it though and eventually was rewarded with a spirited comeback and a well earned point. I learned a lesson at that game. Stick with it, and usually you’ll be rewarded. With the team enduring a torrid run of form, that’s exactly what we need to do. Stick together and stay strong to the end. This team will come good – we need to make sure we’re here when they do.

I’m still glad I left that Palace game though…

Come on You Horns!

This post was originally published on Saturday 5th March 2011 in the Watford vs Millwall Matchday programme. A game that Mike watched to the bitter end.


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  1. I actually think you're a bit harsh about that Palace game, we should have had a penalty at nil nil, and had we had a bit of luck I think we'd have stuffed them. Doesn't excuse our spastic defending that night, mind.

  2. The Palace game actualy finished 3-1 with Graham scoring near the end, but then you wouldn't know that seeing as you left early and missed the goal! While the performance was bad, we were unlucky, I remember us hitting the woowork about 3 or 4 times during the match.

  3. I seem to remember Palace's first two goals being very much against the run of play. It was just one of those nights.

    Glad to say I saw the comenack against Bolton - blinding!

    I've been to well over 500 Watford games and have only left early once. That was in October 1983 when I was standing in the pouring rain on the old Vic Road terrace with a stream running through my feet as we went 0-2 down at home to Norwich with between five and ten minutes remaining. When I got home, my lower half beneath my coat comletely soaked through, I turned on the radio and found I'd missed two goals and we'd lost 1-3. The weather was so good that day that earlier one of the small trees beside Exchange Road was uprooted by the winds and blown across, stopping all the traffic in its tracks.

  4. Seems I must have been having a bad night when we played Palace - most people remember a much better performance than I do. I think I was just disappointed as I had hoped that would be the fixture to secure our safety.

    Ralph, quite some memories there! The Bolton triumph was a rare highlight in an otherwise dire period.

    Anyway, rest assured I won't be leaving early any time soon!

  5. Cheers, Rookery Mike!

    Agreed, the Bolton game was a gem in a cowpat of a period on the whole. Think we were up to eighth in what is now called the Championship after that, then we went into freefall for a couple of months with a lot of injuries and suspensions. Dyer and Furlong scored lots of goals before both were sold, the sale of Dyer sparking THAT protest against Petchey and co. at the Grimsby home game, but we signed Mooney and stayed up with a game to spare.

  6. I really like your blog, keep it up!