Wednesday, 30 November 2011

FTRE on the Telly

A few weeks ago FTRE were asked to do a TV show for the new sports channel called 'Sports Tonight Live'. You can watch the station on-line at or Channel 112 on Freeview HD.

Did we want to be on the telly? YES WE DID!!

So one Sunday morning we headed down to London and into the Sports Tonight Live studios near BT Tower, where we recorded a programme about why we love being Watford fans. The station is doing a series of programmes called 'Podcast takeover' and we were one of the first to take part.

So here, for your visual pleasure, is the FTRE (minus Jason as he had some plastering to do) Television debut

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Blame in on the weatherman

Mike Parkin of the ‘From the Rookery End’ podcast gives thanks for abnormally mild winter...

As we head towards December, meteorological experts are consistently telling us that we are set for one of the mildest winters on record. Bad news for polar bears and de-icer salesmen, but good news for us football fans, who spend much of the winter months traipsing up and down motorways to sit outdoors watching our beloved team in action. Not that it puts us off of course, quite the opposite in fact; attending football matches in abysmal weather conditions is seen as a badge of honour. A rite of passage. A means of sorting the men from the boys.

Often I’m a victim of my own poor planning – wearing just a school shirt to Oakwell on a cold Tuesday evening wasn’t one of my greatest moves. Sometimes though, no amount of planning or clothing can protect you from what the weather gods throw at you.
Take Torquay at home for example.

This January 1997 fixture was a game in the early stages of what was then known as the Auto Windscreens Shield. Only one stand was open – ironically the East Stand, and due to treacherous and unwelcoming conditions, the crowd was a low one. It was in danger of getting lower as the game wore on, with numerous spectators, myself included, feeling like death from hypothermia was a very real danger. As the game wore on, the pitch began to visibly freeze before our eyes; it was as if “Iceman” from the Fabulous Four comic had turned his attentions to the Vicarage Road turf. Oh what the assembled few would have done for a visit from his superhero companion “The Human Torch”.  It was cripplingly cold and the game should never have been played. It was though and I am one of only a couple of thousand to be able to say I was there. Worth risking limb loss to frostbite for? You betcha.
Fast forward almost a decade to 2006 and Watford were hosting Italian side Chievo in a pre-season friendly. Despite being summer, rain was forecast and older and wiser following Barnsley and Torquay, I arrived at The Vic with an umbrella proudly in tow. It was a good umbrella too, a silver, space age looking creation, given to me by a friend. It was a real one-off and I was quite proud of it. So proud in fact that I left it in the Hornets shop before the game. Realising my mistake halfway through the first half, I rushed back to the shop, only to be told by staff there had been nothing handed in. Oh well, I thought. It probably won’t rain anyway. An hour later and we were in the midst of a rainstorm the likes of which I had never seen before or since. I couldn’t believe it. Walking back to the car some 40 minutes away in such weather without an umbrella would be suicidal. My brother and I cowered in the Rookery until we realised the rain wasn’t going to stop and made a run for it. The Hornet shop had just closed as we ran past, it’s staff heading out into the rain just in front of us. Then, mere metres in front of me an employee put up an umbrella. A silver umbrella. My silver umbrella! Luckily for the chap in question, my anger at this outrageous and brazen theft was instantly outweighed by the relief of having some form of protection from the unrelenting rain, and without breaking stride I took back my brolly and strode off, leaving the young man wondering why he couldn’t have nicked a plain black one...

So, we’ve had ice. We’ve had rain. What are we missing? Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the FA Cup Third Round. I give you Scarborough away. I give you a 0-0 draw. I give you snow. No further comment required, I’m sure you agree.

Despite these dark memories, with three home wins on the bounce, things are looking increasingly sunny here at WD18 so let’s get behind the team this evening and make sure it’s our friends from Bristol that leave under a cloud.

Come on you Horns!

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Monday, 21 November 2011

A win is a win...

Mike tries to work out what’s more important – style or substance?

Well, it’s nice to be back isn’t it? In my eyes, International football is no replacement for seeing the Hornets in action, even if we did see the National side beat the World Champions (Spain) and a Country we haven’t had a win against for over 40 years (Sweden). Give me a home win against Portsmouth any day of the week...

The game against the all conquering Spanish was the game that attracted all the pre and post match headlines, and whilst England’s victory was a welcome one, the lukewarm reaction to it was interesting. England were widely tipped to be on the wrong end of a footballing lesson by a Spanish team quite rightly rated as the best in the world, but Fabio Capello masterminded a rearguard action that saw England win the game despite seeing little of the ball. With a disastrous and depressing World Cup campaign still fresh in the mind, one could be excused for expecting a victory against a team of this calibre to be greeted with excitement and optimism. It wasn’t.

In the main, pundits and fans opted to focus not on the result, instead picking up on the apparently negative way in which it was achieved. Questions were asked in papers and pubs throughout the Country about whether England should be winning this way. It’s not often you’ll find me sympathising with Fabio Capello, but on this occasion I’m struggling not to side with him and his fellow managers. How often are bosses dismissed from their role after a run of poor form, then told by all and sundry that their sacking was inevitable as football is “a results based business”. Fair enough perhaps, until those very same managers grind out results, only to be met with dissenting voices claiming that football is actually “an entertainment business”. Winning with style is apparently now the only way to avoid criticism.

As I absorbed the post Spain fallout, it struck me that the modern football fan may be expecting too much. Do we all have a right to expect free flowing, expansive football AND results? Is anything less than a combination of these two aspects unacceptable?

I love overhead kicks, diving headers, back-heels and 20 pass moves that end with a sweetly struck volley into the top left hand corner. Do you know what I love more, though? Winning. As a football fan, nothing beats the feeling of leaving the ground knowing that 3 points are in the bag. No matter how the victory is secured, it is the victory that counts. Nothing more, nothing less. If today ends in a scrappy one-nil win, secured after the ball bounces of Nyron Nosworthy’s backside and in, I’ll be as happy as it’s possible to be.

Style and tactics can be debated all day long. Results can’t. Let’s get behind the team and make sure we get one today.

Come on You Horns!

This article was first published in the Matchday programme for Watford vs Pompey on 19th November 2011.

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Friday, 18 November 2011

WFC in 100 Objects - #15 - Anatomically Correct Harry the Hornet

This weeks object is The Anatomically Correct Harry The Hornet Costume from the mid-90's. Nick Young emailed us with the idea:

Hi guys,

Can I recommend the Harry the Hornet costume as one of the 100 objects? Specifically, I mean the mid-90s one that had the tail-section ('Harry's arse') and therefore actually looked like a hornet. Not the current one. Say what you like about mascots - I am not much of a fan if truth be told - but they have been a part of the footballing scene in this country for two decades now. And before being a wage-slave in a costume, Harry was a cartoon character in the programmes of the 80s, and can even claim direct descent from the mischievous-looking hornet who was the club badge before making way for the red hart/moose. So he's part of the club's history.


Nick Young

Harry first appeared "in real life" in 1995 and legend has it that the original Harry the Hornet costume that Nick wants to put in the list was changed because the man who first played Harry pleaded "squatters rights" when he had a fall out with the club. Apparently he stole the head. We never had a Harry the Hornet when I was a kid and in some ways I very jealous of the young supporters who get to see him today. I know in my very early games my Dad would have liked him to keep me distracted when my mind wondered away from the on-pitch action and I'd run out of Panda Pop and eaten my Mars Bar.

We have a few more ideas for Harry The Hornet objects to do into the list, but if you have an idea or an idea for another Waford object taht is important to you or the clubs history then please email us -


Adam Cummings, former member of Radio Hornet, sent us the below email correcting the true age of Harry The Hornet:

Hi Guys

Just like to take issue with you regarding the age of Harry. He was certainly out and about in the early 90's during the final years of my time as Radio Hornet. There was one occasion at an open day when the normal Harry was still on holiday and my father somehow managed to put the costume on and use the skills he gained over 20 plus years in amateur dramatics in order not to disappoint the masses!

Thanks for the details Alan, we were wrong with the age, but the mid 90's Harry is still the version we're putting into the list
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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Five simple questions...

EXTRA PODCAST: Listen to an extra podcast we have produced to talk about our 5 SIMPLE QUESTIONS and the worrying week at board level since Laurence was a no show at the Fans Forum.

Listen on-line HERE or via iTunes

Some questions are destined never to be answered. 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg' for example, is a poser that will most likely never have a wholly satisfactory answer. Some questions are difficult to answer. As a parent, 'Daddy, where do babies come from?' are the six single words most likely to have me running for cover. Some questions are just plain daft; 'Would you rather be attacked by 1 horse sized duck, or 50 duck sized horses?' is one you have no doubt given careful consideration to after a few pints or glasses of wine. In the main though, questions are good. And answers are better. It is answers that allow us to learn and to understand. Answers empower us.
Since Watford's new owner was revealed as Stanmore businessman Laurence Bassini in April, there have been plenty of questions, but not many answers. The developments at the club this week; Mr Bassini's absence from the Fans Forum and subsequent statement of intent to leave his role as a Director of the club, have only served to provide yet more cause for confusion for fans. As owner of the Football Club, Mr Bassini is the one ideally placed to steady the ship and calm the frayed nerves of Watford fans worldwide. All he has to do is answer a few questions.

On the latest From the Rookery End podcast, recorded ahead of the Fans Forum, Jon, Jason and myself identified five simple questions that we wanted asked and answered at Tuesday's event at Vicarage Road. Needless to say, they weren't answered.

For those of you that haven't listened to the podcast (yet!) here are the five questions and a brief explanation as to why we chose them

1.Why did you decide to 'invest' in football?

Did you know the only way to make ANY money from taking part of the Europa League is to win it? All the other clubs involved will most likely make a loss. Whilst the Europa League has it's critics, what this does show is that making money from football, even at the top level, is hard. Some of the hardest nosed businessmen in the world have tried and failed. Why would a man who, by his own admission, has faced some challenging times as a businessman enter an industry in which it is almost impossible to make money?

2. Why Watford?

If it is hard to make money out of football, it is a colossal challenge to make any money out of Watford. An average Championship team with a three sided ground, shorn of it's star players hardly screams 'Business Opportunity' does it? Especially when you take into account that previous owner, Lord Ashcroft, a man with a business track record infinitely superior to that of Mr Bassini's failed to turn the club into a profitable operation. As he also isn't a Watford supporter, we think it is important to know why Mr. Bassini chose to get involved with our club.

3. As owner, what will represent a successful tenure?

Businessmen have targets. It's what business is all about. Build a brand. Buy something and sell it on for a profit. Come up with a new product. Whatever the business, there are always targets. Aims. As a businessman, Mr Bassini must have had a set of goals and aims when he purchase Watford Football Club. He paid £400,000 to buy the club, its implausible that anyone would part with this sort of cash without a clear set of aims and objectives. As fans who make a regular financial and emotional commitment to the club, we have the right to know what the owner has planned. Why would he not want to share, what one must assume are plans for success?

4. What are your plans for the Stadium redevelopment and the timescale for completion?

In Mr Bassinis's rare public statements, he has gone on record as saying that the redevelopment of Vicarage Road is a priority. Music to our ears. There is only so long that we want to see the dear old East Stand staring back at us, empty and condemned. What he hasn't done is tell us exactly what is going to happen and when. If it's going to take 5 years, fine, just tell us. Rome wasn't built in a day, there is no reason Vicarage Road should be. As the owner though, he must have a plan. Share it with us. There really is no need to keep us in suspense.

5. Where is the money for bond repayments, stadium redevelopments and future player purchases going to come from?

Let's be clear here, we don't expect figures. Mr Bassini has the same right to financial privacy as you or I. However, it's important that we understand how Watford are going to be steered out of what is still a hugely precarious financial position. Yes, Watford have made signings this year, but it doesn't take a mathematician to work out that the money spent is dwarfed by the money received following a swathe of high profile transfers, money from the Ashley Young deal, compensation following Malky's defection to Cardiff and the unexpected windfall of more rent money from Saracens. The summer purchases have been covered and then some. What is unclear is where the money required to keep Watford afloat and hopefully moving forward is going to come from. With no evidence of any personal investment from Mr Bassini at this stage, it's important to try and get an understanding of how our owner plans to meet the vast financial commitments and obligations faced by our beloved Hornets.

So. That's it. Five simple, yet as yet unanswered questions.

Imagine you own a football club. Imagine you own Watford. Read each of them back and ask yourself if you wouldn't want to answer any of them.

As supporters with Watford dear to our heart, we feel that it wouldn't just be nice to have these questions asked, we believe it is vital. Without these answers it is impossible to have any degree of faith in where the club is being taken and we will therefore be writing to, emailing and calling the club to request that Mr Bassini answers these questions as a matter of urgency. Whether he answers in person, over the phone or via email, we really don't mind. We just want and deserve answers.
Mr Bassini may own our club, but it is us who carry it in our hearts. We have a right to be heard.
We will be sending a letter and email directly to Mr Bassini containing these questions and inviting him to respond. We'll also call the club and leave the same message. We'll keep you posted. His answers, or lack of them, should tell us all we need to know.

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WFC in 100 Objects - #14 - Elton John Album "Single Man"

In our search for 100 Objects that define Watford Football Club we expected to put in a few Elton John related items. Our first Elton items was suggested by Gary Coster he emailed us:

Hi Guys

Don't know if you've got this but Elton John's 1978 album "A Single Man" should be in the Watford in 100 Objects list. The team do backing vocals on the song "Georgia" A classic! It was featured on "The Big Match" with Elton praising right back John Stirk. Stirk and Keith Pritchett were on my paper round when I was a kid!


Gary Coster

It wasn't one of Elton's biggest hits, so if it doesn't ring a bell then below is the video of Elton singing with the players back in 1978. Listen out for the wonderful harmonies from the Watford players! 

We only made one FA Cup final and we never had a cup final song. So this is as close as we have got so far! Thanks to Gary for emailing in the suggestion and if you have any other Elton John related Watford items we could put in the list then please email them in -

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Saturday, 5 November 2011

WFC In 100 Objects - #13 - A Watford Mug

Our search for 100 Objects that define Watford football club continues. As you may know the objects can be historic and relate to an important on pitch moment, or be related to a fans personal relation ship with the club. This weeks object is one such personal object. We had an email from Tim Turner. Tim writes a blog called "Albert McClenaghan's Throw In (And other stories)" and was inspired by our challenge and has done a run down of all the Watford memorabilia he has collected over the years. You can read his full list of Watford memorabilia here.

After his first email I asked Tim is there was one particular item he wanted to put in. This was his reply.

If I had to nominate one item for your list, it would a coffee mug that must be nearly 40 years old. It still gets used regularly - maintaining the link between the 11-year-old boy who got it as a present years before I ever tasted coffee or tea, and the 48-year-old me, still watching the same team at the same ground drinking out of the same mug.

Alternatively, as a symbol of the futility of football merchandise, I give you the ashtray. It's quite a smart one, as it happens, made of some sort of brushed metal. But, unlike the mug, it's never been used, since I don't smoke and never have. Presumably my mother was struggling to find something to buy me for Christmas in the club shop and this was all she could come up with.

All the best

Tim Turner

We have wanted to put a Watford mug into the list and Tim's mug seems the perfect one to put in. You can see how loved it is from the chip on the rim and the slightly faded paint work. I had contemplated putting in my Dad's unused Watford mug. I say unused because he had a theory that whenever he didn't drink out of it Watford won. He never drank out of it and Watford lost, drew and won many, many games. It lived on the top of a kitchen unit in our old house. I have no idea where it is and I hope we didn't forget about it when we moved out.

We still have a LONG way to go in our list. So if you fancy having a look through your own collections then you may find an object that means a lot to you that you want to put in the Watford in 100 Objects list. Please Email any of your ideas you have to

Oh, and here is the ashtray Tim's mum got him for Christmas as a child. Back then the Hornet shop couldn't of had the selection of child friendly merchandise it has today.


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Thursday, 3 November 2011

POD 2.4 - Growing Up

Q: What do you get if you combine Two Scotsman, a Republic of Ireland international and an American Watford fan who has travels 4684 miles to watch the Hornets?

A: The latest edition of the From the Rookery End podcast!

After an enjoying back to back wins against Peterborough  and Brighton, there is more good news for Watford fans as a bumper edition of the podcast ‘From the Rookery End’ is released.

The latest edition features interviews with two Watford players; summer signing Craig Forsyth and up and coming star Tommie Hoban. Craig Forsyth speaks about making the transition from Scottish football to the cut and thrust of the Championship, whilst U19 International Hoban talks about life as an Academy graduate, his debut at Preston and his hopes for becoming a first team regular.

As controversy continues to rage about the new ‘Elite Player Performance Plan’ (EPPP) the boys take a timely opportunity to talk to Watford’s Head of Football Business, Ross Wilson, about the impact the new scheme could have at Vicarage Road as well as getting an understanding of Wilson’s role in the day to day operations at the club.

Mike, Jon and Jason with Head of Football Business - Ross Wilson

Jason, Jon and Mike are also joined by special guest presenter Curtis Petiford, a Watford fan based in Denver, Colorado who had travelled to England with the sole purpose of watching the Hornets take on Peterborough.

This is an important podcast for us as there were some really big issues to discuss. Obviously the start to the month was tricky from a footballing point of view, and the news regarding the EPPP was of huge concern to many Watford fans, myself included. The interview with Ross Wilson was a perfect chance to discuss exactly how the proposals will affect Watford and hopefully the interview will help give fellow fans a better understanding of where the club stand.

Ross also provided a valuable insight as to the challenges he faces when dealing in transfers, the clubs stance on loans and his hopes for the future of Watford’s emerging talent. It was really encouraging to be reminded how big an emphasis is placed on bringing through youngsters.

It was a privilege to talk to Craig and Tommie and to have Curtis with us was tremendous. The fact that he’s travelled 4684 miles just to see Watford is a reminder as to how wonderfully bonkers football can be. Without football, and more specifically Watford, we’d never have met him and it’s great to make new friends through football. He’s also never seen Watford lose, so we’re working hard to get him back on a more regular basis. Perhaps Sean Dyche and the lads could chip in for his future flights!

The podcast, which also includes the usual chat about the months football and details on the latest objects to be added to the “Watford in 100 objects” list. It is available to download for free from iTunes or the website And remember you can also interact with the podcast team by visiting

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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Keeping the dream alive

Mike explains why he fears for the future...

After enduring a tough start to the season, Watford find themselves, perhaps not unexpectedly, struggling at the wrong end of the Championship, and as us Hornets fans look back up the table towards our rivals, we could be forgiven for feeling that the Premier League has never been further from reach.

As we well know, The Championship has long been regarded as one of the toughest divisions to gain promotion from. A huge amount of financial clout and no little luck is required to secure passage into the top flight and stay there. In reality it’s nothing more than a dream for the majority of Football League football fans. Of course, whilst there is hope, no matter how feint, the dream remains, but recent developments in the world of football look like extinguishing not only the dream, but also the basic viability of those football clubs outside the elite.
It’s a little disputed fact that the big teams wield all the power. Manchester United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool et al are the big draw and they earn the big bucks. Fair enough you may say, they are the best - they deserve the trappings of success. Well, that would be fine, but evidently this isn’t enough. They want more. And more.

The money paid by Sky and the other broadcasters is split between those competing in the top division, helping them at least attempt to stay afloat as they pay 6 figure weekly wages to their players. Sounds like a fair deal doesn’t it? Liverpool disagree. In short, they say they are bigger and therefore deserve more of the TV cash. They want their own deal. In announcing their own self importance and worth, Liverpool seem to be forgetting that football matches need two teams to take place. Whilst Fulham, Bolton and Wigan may not sell as many shirts in Thailand as their illustrious counterparts, they are equally important to the league – who would Liverpool play if it weren’t for these teams? Liverpool need opposition to exist and as such, fellow teams should be treated with the respect and the financial rewards they deserve.
Some clubs, like Watford, realised a long time ago that they are never going to generate enough commercial income to compete (perhaps even exist) and so set about making alternative plans. The obvious income source is player sales, and as well as picking up and selling on ‘rough diamonds’ like Danny Graham, Watford recognised that by setting up and investing in an Academy they could create and nurture their own stars who could come through the ranks, learn their trade at Watford, before being sold to “bigger clubs”. The player progresses, whilst Watford are financially rewarded. For smaller clubs like ours, this is a lifeline. Or at least it was.

By threatening to hold back payments to lower league clubs, the Premier League has forced the Football League to vote in favour of the Elite Player Performance Programme. Whilst it may sound fancy, in reality it could prove fatal. The main causes for concern are the changes to the way in which compensation will be paid should a young player leave for a bigger club. As it stands, the two clubs would negotiate a fee. Under the new plans, a set fee would apply, with a portion of money payable for each year the player has been at the selling club. To put this into perspective, Milton Keynes Dons have just agreed a settlement of £1.5million with Chelsea after an Academy graduate left for Stamford Bridge. Under the new arrangement, the Dons would receive something in the region of £50,000. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the impact this could have on Watford. Our main source of income virtually obliterated in order to make young talent, OUR young talent, available to Premiership teams at a vastly reduced cost.

Whilst we enjoy watching the best in the business in action in the Premier League, the top clubs clubs and the people in charge of our game need to remember that the sole purpose of teams outside the top four isn’t to make sure the big clubs get bigger and more successful. Macclesfield are just as important to the fabric of football as Manchester United or City. Lincoln just as precious as Liverpool.

Everyone wants to keep football alive, but to do so, the dream must be kept alive too. It’s precariously close to disappearing for good.

PLUG: We talk to  Ross Wilson (Watford FC Head of Football Business) about EPPP and how it could effect the development of future Hornets - Download it via iTunes