Friday, 30 September 2011

WFC In 100 Objects - #10 The Watford Observer Clock

I have a very vivid memory of watching Watford games in the late 80's. My Dad and I sat in the Family Enclosure with the Vicarage Road scoreboard to our right (that will be another object) and to my left a clock. The clock was in the middle of an advert.

As you can see in the photo the clock sat within the O of Observer and not a game went by without me looking at it to check the time. Yes the Vicarage Road end scoreboard told us how many minutes we'd played in the half, but it stopped at 45 minutes and back then the Linesman didn't put up a board with the minutes of injury time. I used the Watford Observer Clock to tell me if the Ref was taking the mick or if we'd had kick off late! So why a clock to advertise the local rag? Back in the day there were two local papers to Watford and coverage of the club was a competitive edge both papers fighted for. Someone at the Watford Observer must have felt that a clock would make the difference and with the fact the Echo doesn't exists anymore must prove the strategy worked. Rumour has it that if a player ever hit it on a match day they would have a forfeit at training. 

It was an icon in the old stadium and it's been on of the most suggested items in our Watford in 100 Objects list. It was an early suggestion from Richard Megroff. When he suggested it to I never thought we'd find it. Surely it was scrapped when the old Rookery End was taken down - it hadn't. After a tip off from a supporter I got in contact with Sarah Preistly from Watford Museum. After a lovely chat about all the amazing Watford FC items she has there she told me that the Watford Observer clock is still alive, but not ticking. It's been used in a few exhibitions at Watford Museum in the last few years, but isn't on permanent display.  So a few weeks ago Mike, Jason and I went down to meet Sarah and after moving a few historic objects there she was - The Watford Observer Clock.

The current home of the Watford Observer Clock
I can't explain to you how excited I was about seeing the clock again and I hope I'm not the only Watford fan who'd get excited like a 7 year old meeting their hero. I guess to any other football fan, or any other human being, the Watford Observer Clock looks like a hunk of scrap metal that at one time used to tell the time. And in many ways they'd be right. This list is all about special objects that are only relevant to Watford fans. The Watford Observer Clock certainly is one of those items.


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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

POD 2.3: Hi Mum I'm on Telly

It's that time of the month again, time for the latest From The Rookey End podcast!

This month Mike's off on holiday so you expect a far more optimistic podcast. And it is optimistic not only because we're sans Mike, but we recorded the football chat after the Millwall win and not after Forest! Filling in for Mike is his brother Andy.

Our big interview is with Carl "The Goals" Dickinson. We get to know Watford's latest hardman a bit more with Mike almost obsessed with confirming his hard credentials. We're joined by Watford author Lionel Birnie who gives us a helping hand to add a few more objects to our list of "Watford in 100 Objects". These include a pen, a certain set of football shirts, a pair of boots and a very important clock!

Yes we got to meet the old girl personally
We talk to fans, and amongst ourselves, about how everyone is feeling about the first 6 months of the Laurence Bassini reign. Plus Dickinson returns with Mark Yeates in a new show called "Watford Ass". Oh and no song!



Monday, 26 September 2011

What Football could learn from Rugby?

I'm one of those blokes who can watch any sport that comes on the TV. As long as I have an idea of how a team can win a game I'll sit and watch it. Baseball, American Football even Kabadi I will watch it. I like to pick out the best things in a sport and imagine how they might improve my favourite sport - Football. Watching the Rugby World Cup these past few weekend mornings has been brilliant. How great is it to wake up and be able to watch world class sport? And there are many things I think Football should adopt from Rugby immediately, most are to do with the referees.

1) Clock STOPS during a gameIt could be a substitue or a injury, but when the game stops the clock stops in Rugby. If football did then we won't get situations like we had on Saturday against Forest where players trotted off the pitch to time waste. In his post match interview with BBC 3CR Sean was very upset about the small amount of additional time given. In football 30 seconds is add to a game for every substitution no matter if they are 3 seconds of 40 seconds and the amount of time a ref adds is far too subjective at the moment.

Couldn't one of the referee assistants not be in charge of the clock?

2) A Sin BinWhen debating how well a ref has done I often talk about how well he has controlled the teams. In the last year I've become a primary school teacher and classroom management has been high on the agenda. I liked it when the two yellow's for a red card rule came into football, but on too many occasions I get a feeling that a ref isn't giving a second yellow card because the first one might have been a little weak and sending off a player would change the game too much. Don't even get me started on the lack of consistency in what gets you a yellow card.

I have 5 levels in my classroom and sending someone off (out of the classroom) is Level 5. At the moment ref's only have 3 levels.

1) Verbal warning
2) Yellow Card
3) 2nd Yellow + Red Card

A sin bin would add another level and give many players time to calm down and consider their actions and what they need to do to not be sent off. Plus a sin bin penalises a team/players for just a few minutes and not for the rest of the game.

3) Blood replacementGot an injury? Well get off and get someone else on for a bit of time. I particularly like this idea as Watford could send on Rene Gilmartin for five minutes up front to throw his weight around and cause the defence some issues! I know it won't happen as much football, but I still like the idea of weird subs coming on for a few minutes.

4) Losing/winning bonus pointsThere is part of me that thinks this is a weird thing in Rugby, but another part thinks it could give a fairer picture to how a game has gone. Why should Forest get the same points after beating us 1-0 this last Saturday as we got for beating Millwall 6-1 last season? And why should we continue to rub defeats in the face of unsuccessful teams just because they last by 1 goal? 

So I'm suggesting... 

4 points if a team wins by 3 or more goals
3 points for a win with a 1 or 2 goal advantage
2 points for a draw
1 point for a losing by just 1 goal
0 points for losing a game by 2 or more goals

Have a done the maths and figured out the exact impact of the league from this idea? No, but it's fun to debate isn't it?

Football is by far my favourite sport and I will argue till the end of time with anyone as to why. However, I'm not nieve to not know that it could still do with some improving.

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Friday, 23 September 2011

WFC in 100 Objects - #9 Steve Palmer's 14 Shirts

This week's object in our search for Watford in 100 Objects is in fact 14 objects. Together they represent a feat never done before at Watford and one that probably won't happen again. In the 1997-1998 season, the year Watford were crowd champions of Division 2 (League One in new money), Steve Palmer wore every Watford shirt possible, numbers 1 to 14.
Picture: A jigsaw puzzle was available showing Steve with his 14 shirts!
We had considered putting in Steve's bong*, but after chatting with Steve at the London Masters back in July he said he'd like to put in his 14 shirts. You'll hear the story of his achievement on Pod 2.3 and you can listen to the rest of the interview with Steve and the rest of the Masters team on our Selco London Masters Special.

For me wearing 14 different numbered shirts in one season is great on two fronts. Firstly, that it won't happen again. The Football League brought in squad numbers in 1999 and when they did we lost something in football. We don't have the ability to refer to a striker as a 'classic No. 9' or even look at the away team and have a good idea of how they are going to line up and easily see when they make tactical changes. It's also a sign that we have huge benches now and the real art of substitutions has gone. With 5 or more players on the bench a manager doesn't have to worry that much about who he has on his bench, he has many options available.

The bigger reason I love this feat is it proves what a great player and great bloke Steve must have been. In the 97-98 season Steve had been pushed out of his normal position by the rise of Richard Johnson. Many players would become lost in the battle to get that position back. Steve showed his skills as an all rounder, an ability to fit in where ever needed. Graham Taylor must have loved having someone he could slot in where needed. And having met Steve, albeit briefly, I suspect he wasn't the type of player to complain about being dropped. The role of a utility man is something else that we've lost in the game. Players are far more specialised these days. I mean how many players can you honestly say you can see playing out of position?

It's also a sign of how much Graham Taylor was up for a laugh. Steve couldn't tell us when someone noticed that he was missing a few numbers to complete his set, but by the time he started the games wearing number 1, Watford had not guaranteed the championship or even promotion. Taylor must have had massive trust in Palmer and the team to let him do it.

I've never brought a Watford shirt and had a players name put on it. It seems wrong to single one of them out, but I wonder if the Hornet shop will do me one with 14 numbers and Palmer on the back?


List of games where Steve wore the numbered shirt for the first/only time:

1- AFC Bournemouth - Home - Won 2-1 - Tuesday 28th April 1998
2- Bristol Rovers - Away - Won 2-1 - Tuesday 14th October 1997
3- Chesterfield - Away - Won 1-0 - Saturday 31st January 1998
4- Burnley - Away - Lost 0-2 - Saturday 10th January 1998
5- Preston North End - Away - Lost 0-2 - Saturday 30th August 1997
6- Bristol City - Home - Draw 1-1, Saturday 13th December 1997
7- Wigan Athletic - Away - Lost 2-3 - Saturday 4th April 1998
8- Luton Town - Away - Won 4-0 - Saturday 4th October 1997 (in the original red and black striped away kit)
9- Fulham - Away - Won 2-1 - Saturday 2nd May 1998 (in the brand new blue and grey striped away kit)
10- Carlisle Utd - Home - Won 2-1 - Tuesday 17th March 1998
11- Torquay Utd (FAC 2nd Round R), Home - Won 2-1 AET -Tuesday 16th December 1997
12- Brentford - H - Won 3-1 - Sat 23rd August 1997 (On for Melvang)
13- Millwall - A - Lost 0-1 - Saturday 18th October 1997 (On for Mooney)
14- Carlsile United - A - Won 2-0 - Saturday 16th August 1997 (On for Page)

Thanks to Matt Rowson for the details on the games Steve wore each numbered shirt.

* = "There's only one Stevie Palmer, And he smokes Marjuarnia, walking along, Smoking a bong, walking in a Palmer wonderland."
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Friday, 16 September 2011

WFC In 100 Objects - #8 Tight Red Shorts

The debate of what colour shorts Watford FC should wear is oft made. Particularly these days when the club roll out a new kit every season. Personally, I fall on the black shorts side of the fence. I think they look better with the yellow shirts and last season's kit was my favourite in a long time. They were also the colour shorts we wore for the first twenty years after changing from blue shirts to yellow, so older fans may argue they are Watford tradition. But for those who grew up with Elton John's Taylor Made Army in the Eighties, tight red shorts were a staple of our heroes' Saturday afternoon dress.

 I've already done the red shorts vs black shorts thing. But just a final note on that, beautifully summed up by @DrBillyO - “Black is the fashion option. Red is the Watford option.”

 As a young lad of primary school age, just getting the shirt wasn't an option. I was the proud owner of a full Watford FC kit. The one worn between 1979-80, my first season as a fan, and 1981-82, when the dream of promotion to the top flight was realised. And for those fans of recent vintage, yes we really did keep the same kit for three successive seasons! I think my mum has a few photos in her collection somewhere. But I don't need to dig them out to either a. put them on here for you to laugh at; or b. remember that they didn't flap around my knees like some 50's wing wizard or 90's beach bum. No, this was the eighties and all footballers were wearing it tight & short!

As an innocent child it didn't bother me that the apparel left little to the imagination. This was before the days of cycling shorts too. So if that leather ball caught Steve Simms on his inner thigh on a cold and wet Tuesday evening at Notts County, it was going to sting.

 The mid Eighties saw the introduction of the pin-stripe to football kits. I used to like other clubs kits with this subtle touch of style added. Wolves, Norwich and Liverpool away all looked quite smart. Funny how it's the yellow ones that stick in the memory. So I was a little disappointed we never went for this option. But at the start of the 83-84 season, they did replace the thick yellow and black piping down the side of the shorts with a much more chic trim of identical colour.

I really liked those shorts, but unfortunately never got to own a pair. Even more unfortunately, they were worn for the last time in the 87-88 season. Coincidentally, the season that saw the Hornets relegated from the First Division. The 88-89 season saw us kick off in black shorts. By the time red shorts returned in 1991 for the centenary season (that wasn't really), fashions had changed and shorts were longer. From The Rookery End blames Spurs for those shorts they wore around the time of the cup final that can only be remembered for Gazza buggering his knee up and Des Walker scoring an own goal. They had that extra white piping round the bottom that made them look longer. And as the man on the street appeared to like them, so the kit manufacturers started making them as required.

Big and baggy was in. The Eighties had become the Nineties. And Watford went from First Division force to Second Tier strugglers. Tight Red Shorts quickly became a distant memory.


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Monday, 12 September 2011

Why I'm Laughing At Arsenal

A few weeks back I bumped into a fellow Hornets fan in the staff restaurant at work. It was the morning after the Bristol Rovers cup tie, and as I had made the dash down the M4 the previous evening I thought it best to give him my assessment of the game. As you've probably guessed, it wasn't very positive. A colleague who was party to our conversation picked up on this and commented “It could be worse, you could be an Arsenal fan”. I can't remember what my response was at the time. I think I was too tired to bother launching into a tirade. But come on, seriously. I'd love to be able to watch my team play in a 60,000 capacity stadium. I'd love to see them competing in European competition year after year. Wouldn't it be great to see some silverware in the Watford FC trophy cabinet every few seasons. And just think who we could buy with the £30m or so that Arsene Wenger spent in the transfer window.

That lunchtime incident made my brain over sensitive to Arsenal fans moaning and whinnying. Over the next few days I seemed to turn the radio on just as Gooners were ringing in with calls for Arsene to start spending some money. Facebook was full of Arsenal supporting friends status updates taking some sort of sadistic comfort in the fact that at least they had a point more than Spurs. And the workplace still managed to throw up the odd “Arsenal are hopeless\rubbish\useless” from their armchair brigade. None of them were very happy and even the most optimistic were simply clutching at straws. The burden of expectation appeared to be weighing them down. So I began to wonder, perhaps my colleague is right. Maybe it would be worse being an Arsenal fan?

The following Sunday after making the short journey home from Vicarage Road and our first home point of the season (thank you Martin Taylor!), I flicked on a certain sports TV channel to watch the remainder of the Man United v Arsenal game. My timing was impeccable. Rooney was just banging in United's fourth. And as the procession that was the second half unfolded before me, a little smile grew on my face. Now there could be a few reasons for that. Goals are the be all and end all of football and I love watching high scoring games. You can stick your catenaccio up your proverbial. I also have a soft spot for Man Utd (please don't hate me). It's a long story that stems from my time at University in Manchester. And I guess I was in a good mood anyway after the Hornets snatched that late point. But the main reason for taking such pleasure from this game was the fact that all these Arsenal fans that don't appreciate what they have were suffering a very public humiliation. Schadenfreude is a terrible thing, but I couldn't help it. I am only human after all.

So that particular weekend I was laughing at Arsenal. I would have been laughing at them even more if Danny Graham had bagged that equaliser at the Emirates on Saturday, but it wasn't to be. It appears the Arsenal fans are still moaning about Wenger's tactics though, so we've probably got another couple of days of ear-ache until the Borussia Dortmund game. That's Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, for goodness sake! Stop moaning!! You know what? I'm so glad I'm a Watford fan.

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

WFC in 100 Objects - #7 Square Programmes

Our search of 100 Objects that define Watford Football Club continues with another 80's object. Remember if you have a suggestion to go into our list then please send them to Read the list so far on our Watford in 100 Objects page. This is only the 7th object so we've got plenty of space.

Objects - #7 Square programmes 

If you pick up a matchday programme this season and go to pages 60-70 you'll find our From The Rookery End column. We're very proud of them, but we would have loved for it to be in a square programme from the 1980's. We had the idea of putting a square programme into the list almost instantly when we thought up this idea, but we wanted it to be a special square programme. So when we got this email from Anthony Packer we knew we'd found the programme that needed to go in.

Dear Boys

My suggestion for inclusion is the square programme for the Watford v Arsenal game dated 30 April 1983. The reasoning for this isn't because we won 2-1, with Barnes and Blissett scoring, but it was the day my sister was born next door to Vicarage Road in Shrodells Hospital. Zoe Louise Packer was not only born weighing 8lb 1oz with brown eyes, but she came into the world the instant Vicarage Road erupted as Watford scored. I managed to track down a programme from that day and bought it for her for Christmas recently.



What a clash of events - the magnificent moment of a baby being born and the jubilation of fans as a goal goes in. I asked Anthony what time Zoe was born, 4:30pm. With a bit of research on the Watford Observer website found out that it was a Luther Blissett penalty that occurred as Zoe was born. Here's Zoe and Anthony with the programme.

If you've got any old square programme, do get it out and have a read. If there are any interesting features or if memories and objects come back to you then please comment below or email us And make sure to pick up a matchday programme this season and have a read of the FTRE page.


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Friday, 2 September 2011

WFC in 100 Objects - #6 Cally's Decks

Our search for 100 Objects that define watford football club continues. If you have an suggestions for an object then send it in, along with the story or reason, to They can be historic objects that define a special on pitch moment or a personal object that defines your relationship with the club. Read the list so far on your Watford in 100 Objects page. This week we add an object for an 80's Legend..

Object # 6: Cally's Decks

I don't think I give Nigel Callaghan enough credit. As a young Hornets fan my favourites were Jenkins & Blissett, then Barnes appeared and it was all cup runs and Division One. But not long after I made my Vicarage Road debut in 1980, a young Cally was breaking into the Watford first team. And once he was in, he was a pretty consistent feature in Graham Taylor's side. Even as GT strengthened the side in many areas to try and establish the Hornets as a First Division team, Nigel's position never seemed under threat. And whilst it was the man on the other wing taking all the plaudits, Cally continued to put in some inviting looking crosses for the strikers, as well as banging in a few goals of his own, some good ones at that, with an unassuming unfussyness.

Now as a young kid you don't appreciate the nuances of the game. So I can give you no definite reasons as to why I didn't hold him in the same regard as John Barnes. Don't get me wrong, he wore that yellow shirt so was still one of the 11 heroes on any given Saturday afternoon. But if there was one thing that may have attributed to it, it was that he didn't look like a footballer. Luther & Barnes were athletes. Cally looked a bit awkward, a bit unkempt. These days it would probably lead to some sort of Doyley like cult worship!

But like all good things it had to come to an end. And after a falling out with the boss, Nigel found himself on the transfer list. Despite efforts to play his way back into the first team, GT sold him to Derby County in 1987. Cally had a couple of good seasons with the Rams before moving on to Villa and ironically a reunion with the same boss that moved him on from the Hornets. But after Taylor took up the poisoned challis of the England job, Nigel found himself out of favour at Villa Park and fell out of love with the beautiful game.

So what next? He had a ready made talent, but it wasn't such a smooth transition into his new career as a DJ. By the time Nigel left Watford, most fans knew that he felt as comfortable behind the decks as he did on the football pitch. It had all started by accident. Whilst out with Kenny Jackett at a local event, Kenny's DJ mate offered Jackett the chance to have a spin. Kenny declined but volunteered Nigel as he was more of a music man. Cally gave it a go, found he liked it and turned it into something of a hobby. He even used his new found prowess to host the odd WFC promoted event under the title “Cally's Disco”.

When Nigel left Villa he headed out to Corfu for a bit of “me” time and indulge in a few things that he couldn't when he was a footballer. On his return to the UK, he spent some time training with Millwall, but only found full first-team fitness in time for the holiday season and a return to Greece. Four months playing football in South Africa followed and when that concluded Nigel realised he had a decision to make.

He was reaching his expiry date in football terms and wasn't being taken seriously as a DJ whilst keeping his football options open. So at this juncture Cally decided to hang up the boots and start wearing the cans as a professional DJ. And that's what he's been up to ever since, coming back to our attentions firstly in one of those reality holiday, lets look at a load of Brits endearing themselves to the locals, television programmes; and more recently with his involvement with the former players association and his benefit game as he fought against bowel cancer.

So credit where credit's due. The man has certainly earned it.

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