Friday, 29 June 2012

WFC in 100 Objects - #25: Ben Iroha's Bunions

He played for Nigeria in two World Cups 
But then he got bunions and had to give up 
Ben Iroha, Be, Be Ben Iroha.

One of the all time greatest Watford chants and works in many of the important chant traits. It's personal to one player, it includes several fact, it's not abusive, it's based on a classic song (Lola by the Kinks) and (at the time was) very topical. 

So what circumstances encouraged the Watford faithful to put the World Cup and bunions into a chant about a Defender called Ben Iroha? 

Well Ben arrived at Watford in December 1998 from Spanish side Elche CF and played just 10 games as a Hornet. 

Surely someone who only played 10 games doesnt deserve a chant? 

Watford fans didn't let that get in the way of a comedy chant.

Why a world cup reference? 

Because Ben started one game in both the World Cups in USA 1994 (Nigeria's group match 3-0 win over Bulgaria) and France 1998 (Nigeria's 1-3 group match lose against Paraguay) and was an unused sub for Nigeria's other three games in each tournament. Nigeria won both their groups, finishing above Argentina in 1994 and Spain in 1998, but the Green Eagles didn't get past their Round of 16 opponents.

And why the bunions? 
Unfortunately Ben had problems with bunions which kept him out of a long period of time and they finally forced him to retire in March 2000.After retiring Ben moved into coaching and worked in the US as youth department of FC Dallas, he was an assistant with the Nigerian U-17 team that won the 2007 U-17 World Cup and he was even head coach of Nigeria's Dolphins FC. You can currently find him coaching at Heartland of Owerri in Southern Nigeria.

Download the latest podcast via iTunesPlus, get FTRE blog posts sent straight to your inbox. Simply enter your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column near the top of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

WFC in 100 Objects - #24: Steve Terry's Headband

Football is full of icons - iconic players, iconic stadia, iconic kits, iconic commentary and every so often we see a player with an iconic look. Edgar Davids had his mask, Peta Cech has his hat, but many years ago Watford had an iconic piece of head gear.

Steve was one of the early graduates of Tom Wally's youth team of the late 70's and the 1980's. He signed as an apprentice in 1979, playing centre defence, and broke into the first team under Graham Taylo as Watford rose through the Football League in the early 80's. Steve ended up player 160 games as a hornet and netted 14 goals before he left for Hull City in 1988. We spoke to Steve in Podcast 2.7 back in February 2012 and he gave us his story behind the headband.

Firstly, it technically wasn't a headband. Steve told us it was 'Sony Grip Foam' that he wore to protect 14 stitches that he picked up in a game against Norwich. The club brought him the 'foam' to protect the stitches so he could keep playing as it healed. However, with continued knocks (heading is a big part of being a centre defender) and his soft forehead tissue it didn't heal enough. If it looked like it had sorted itself out and he didn't wear it then low and behold he'd get a knock and the headband would be back on. He ended up wearing it constantly and even now if you see Steve at a game (he works for AP reporting on the games) you will see some light scaring on his forehead.

If there is another iconic Watford player that you would like to be represented in our list then please get in touch - and to hear our interview with Steve click here and scan through to about 29 minutes.

- Jon

Download the latest podcast via iTunesPlus, get FTRE blog posts sent straight to your inbox. Simply enter your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column near the top of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Thank You Graham. For everything.

I got an email from a (Spurs supporting) friend the other day. He was all of a dither.

What an amazing man.  What a gentleman. Nothing was too much for him, he signed about a million autographs, chatted to anyone that wanted to talk and posed for photos with all and sundry. 
I’m in total awe of him.”

He’d just spent the afternoon with Graham Taylor.

My friend was speaking after GT had spent the afternoon opening a new sports facility at the school at which he works and could clearly now be added to the enormous list of people whose lives have been touched by Watford Football Club’s greatest servant. Of course, the thing is, it doesn’t (shouldn’t) come as any surprise to any of us that Graham (I’m going to call him Graham, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind) continues to have this effect on people. We know that he is no ordinary man.

GT doing what he did so wonderfully - making someone's day. FTRE Jason on the right.

As a Manager Graham Taylor utilised discipline, attention to detail, hard work and belief in his methods and players to bring success to the clubs he managed. As well as his incredible achievements with Watford, he will also be fondly remembered by Wolves and Aston Villa fans after bringing relative success to both Molineux and Villa Park.

In between his two stints at Watford and Villa he was rewarded with the top job and became England boss. It didn’t end well of course, but as Graham rightly points out, regardless of results, he reached the top of his profession and no amount of ill informed, malicious tabloid nonsense can take that away from him.

As a Manager he was tough. We’ve all winced at the tales of horrific pre-season training regimes and giggled nervously as we enjoy archive video footage of him telling his players in no uncertain terms that “You don’t get cramp at this club!”  In being a strict, demanding disciplinarian, he achieved what he craved – success for himself and the teams he managed, but perhaps more importantly than that, he delivered success for the supporters.

Graham has always shown empathy for football fans. He gets it. He gets us.  After being critical of Watford fans in the Watford Observer, there was an angry reaction from the terraces. At the next home game, Graham marched to the centre circle, held up a hand-made sign and showed it to all four corners of the ground. It had two words on it. “I’m sorry”.

Throughout the 80’s fans would often comment on the dugouts at Vicarage Road. Unlike most grounds, they were uncovered – if it rained, the managers and staff got wet. This was Graham Taylor’s decision; the dugouts wouldn’t be covered until the fans got protection from the elements too. He cared about Watford supporters and their experience, and it was this evident understanding and willingness to act in our best interests that made the bond between Manager and supporters so strong.

When it came to Watford, it wasn’t just the club and its supporters that Graham cared about. He was a big believer in the responsibility the club had to the town itself, and it is gratifying to see that so much of the community work that was pioneered under his stewardship continues today. Graham expected his players to get out there and meet the people whose town they represented, again showing his understanding of the wider importance and impact of football.

Following his two stints as Watford Manager, GT took on a number of boardroom roles, finally ending up as Chairman. During this time he and other like-minded individuals worked tirelessly to keep Watford afloat during some exceptionally trying circumstances. The issues Watford have faced have been well documented, flirting with complete financial meltdown on an all too regular basis. Graham helped to steady the ship, and in simply remaining part of the club, provide an air of reassurance to Watford fans that everything was going to be alright.

From an outsider looking in, I’d suggest the things Graham Taylor has done for Watford have entailed an awful lot of hard work and more recently, no little heartache. I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that Graham Taylor has dedicated much of his life to Watford Football Club. He’s been Manager, a community ambassador, Board Member, Chairman and has conducted countless personal appearances, giving his time free of charge to help projects, places and people that stood to benefit from the publicity or advice he could provide. He’s done all these things for a lifetime, and the entire time he has acted in a friendly, approachable, kind, selfless and gentlemanly way.  With football becoming an increasingly cynical, money driven, materialistic industry, for him to remain as committed and as generous of spirit as he does is a true sign of the man.

There aren’t the words to describe the gratitude I feel towards Graham Taylor. I feel  lucky that fate decreed he should become involved with Watford Football Club. I feel privileged. I feel happy. I feel protective of him. I feel proud. And when he resigned this week I felt sad. Not for long though – I don’t think Graham would have approved. He’d want me, us, the club to get on with it. So I will.

Given time to reflect, I’m glad he will now have some time to relax. To watch Warwickshire play cricket. To have a few glasses of wine in the garden. To take Rita out to the Theatre. Silly as this sounds, I just want him to be happy.

You’ll read and hear this a lot in the coming days, but it isn’t going to stop me saying it.

Thank-you Graham. For everything.

Download the latest podcast via iTunesPlus, get FTRE blog posts sent straight to your inbox. Simply enter your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column near the top of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code.