Book Review: Watford FC on This Day

Posted by on Nov 29, 2009 in Book Review, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Watford FC on This Day
By Matt Rowson
Published by Pitch Publishing (Brighton) Ltd.
August 2009, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1-9054114-7-4

Memories are often conjured up by sensations. As Proust’s nameless hero bites into the madeleine, the physical rush of the tea soaked cake brings childhood reminiscences flooding back. Hence for Watford fans, a wander down a Mediterranean sidewalk in blazing sunshine might remind them of the time they took a cheeky peek at a day old English newspaper in a Greek newsagent’s to discover that Tony Coton had joined Man City for a cool million pounds in 1990; a chocolate egg devoured might remind them of an Easter Monday thumping of hated rivals Luton in 1983, with those twin heroes Barnes and Blissett instrumental; a Boxing Day hangover might evoke a subsequent win over the Hatters three years later, with Kevin Richardson and Gary Porter on the scoresheet. Our footballing memories are inextricably interwoven with the time of year that games were played – the “where were you when Ramon Vega signed” mentality.

Matt Rowson, steward of the peerless BHaPPY blog, has reacted to this with Watford FC On This Day, a trawl through the days of the year and the events that befell Watford Football Club thereon (in case you’re interested, the Hornets went down 3-1 at Derby on February 29, 1992). It’s an ingenious format and is a great book to dip in and out of. Of course Elton, Ross, Luther, Aidy, Kevin and Graham are all present and correct, with the Cup Final appearances, second in the Land finish, and play off triumphs all featured, once again underlining Watford’s ability to punch above their weight as a club; but this reader took as much pleasure at recalling the names of half-forgotten individuals (to non-Hornets at least) such as Neal Ardley, Jan Lohman, Nordin Wooter and Malcolm Allen.

The snippets are accompanied by a Foreword from long standing custodian Alec Chamberlain and the now disgraced Brendan Rodgers is intriguingly thanked in the acknowledgements. Unlikely to be a book read all the way through at one sitting, the episodic format nonetheless rewards occasional browsing and events are described in Rowson’s typically well crafted prose. Part of a series of books published by Pitch Publishing including Rick Cowdery’s Plymouth Argyle on this Day and Matt Bozeat’s Leicester City on this Day, it’s the first in a double offering from the author, a follow-up being planned for the new year. It’s a no brainer Christmas present for any Golden Boys fan.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 50 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.


  1. Matt R
    November 30, 2009

    Thanks chaps.

    Rodgers had originally “written” the foreword. Much as it seemed sensible to seek an alternative given the summer's events it would have been churlish not to acknowledge his earlier co-operation.

    That said, had his tedious tapping up of Tommy Smith come to light before the book went to press, his name would probably have been missing from the acknowledgements…

  2. Lanterne Rouge
    December 1, 2009

    Interesting. One of my chief Watford memories is very much bound up with the day it took place – a wintry march round the Allotments for a Boxing Day early kick off which ended up being called off (a fate that has also befallen me for a December 26 fixture against Luton). Other than that, a 4-1 late season thumping in a night match with Connolly and Phillips on fire, a 5-3 win in the now forgotten League Group Cup at Elm Park (with Gary Donnellan getting a hat trick), a 2-2 comeback after a McGhee tactical switch (when sitting in the bottom tier of the Rous Stand), Ben Foster and Marlon King's excellence in that 2-0 May defeat in 2007 and Stuart Attwell's intervention last year (stationed at the other end of the ground, I thought Scott Loach must have palmed the ball out from behind his goal-line and didn't find out the truth until half time. Plenty of nil nils too.

    Lloyd's too young to have witnessed George Reilly's semi final goal but it's etched on his heart nonetheless, as is Hameur Bouazza's quarter final fizzer of a three or so years back.

  3. Matt R
    December 1, 2009

    The 4-1 was a 4-2 wasn't it? And I think you'll find that David Connolly and Devon White, no less, were the architechts… your memory plays tricks on you, Phillips missed the end of that season (we were relegated) with injury,

    The Attwell thing was obviously peculiar, not least because it earned us a point. Reading were caning us at the time, had you scored an innocuous goal you'd have won at a canter. As it was, the burning injustice lit a hitherto unsuggested fire underneath team and supporters and we should probably have won it.

    One of my most distinct memories was losing 4-1 at Elm Park, Lee Nogan diving to get erstwhile teammate Nigel Gibbs sent off (later rescinded) and some lad called Kevin Phillips coming off the bench to score the first of many league goals. The day that Man U beat Ipswich 9-0 I think. And then you tonking us 3-0 with a reserve side late in the season in ?2004?. A lad called Henderson was involved, I think.

    Plymouth… I was listening to the 1984 semi on World Service from Germany, jumping around Dad's bedroom at Reilly's intervention. Otherwise, a splendid trip to Devon in August 2005, lying in the sun on the cliffs near Noss Mayo and then watching a spirited fightback to 3-3, the first suggestion that the season might deliver something. And Adrian Littlejohn delivering a wake-up call at Vicarage Road in 1996 just after we'd been relegated…

  4. Lanterne Rouge
    December 1, 2009

    You've just recounted my stock argument on the Attwell game entirely – we were indeed in complete control, but as you say, the injustice spurred Hornets on.

    My bad on the David White thing – Phillips always caused us major problems, so that's probably why I got confused. I remember the Phillips goal at Elm Park but missed the game as a mate had persuaded me to go to Dunkerque against Marseille on the ferry on that day! I also missed the 3-0 win with weakened sides when Darius scored.

  5. Lanterne Rouge
    December 1, 2009

    Make that DEVON White rather than David – sorry for the mistake in the last comment.

  6. Lloyd
    December 1, 2009

    Being unborn at the time, there's not much that I recall from '84. To my everlasting shame, I always confuse the year with 1986, too.

    Memories of Argyle v Watford? Having to crack on with my dissertation after watching the recent Quarter Final from my sofa in Reading with the deadline looming later that week. I was so depressed… making my first trip to Vicarage Road in September '08 to witness an ugly 2-1 win which set us off on a run which would keep us safe. I started the night in the big pub to the right as you leave the station. Noss Mayo in the summer it ain't… I too was at that 3-3. Cracking game where we were lucky to avoid an impromptu hiding. Ashley Young was superb.

    Further back when we were both in what was Div 2, I remember seeing, via teletext, that we'd gone one up in the 89th minute or something at Vicarage Road on a cold December night when we were truly terrible and you were at the top. Cue a friend of my dad's who was staying with us at the time running out of the door and down the street like a madman after a bet made on the game 5 minutes previously. You'd equalised by the time he returned.

  7. Matt R
    December 2, 2009

    I was at the September 08 game; my wife called me from Watford town centre to say she'd locked herself, her Dad and our eldest daughter (then 2) out of her car. I left the game ten minutes early to rescue them, and had to learn of David Norris' interjection later. The Flag is the pub near the station.

    Tommy Mooney scored that late equaliser in Nov or Dec 1997. That was a blinding season.

  8. Lloyd
    December 6, 2009

    Going to have to correct you there, Matt. Norris, who scored a last minute winner the season earlier, had left us by then, and it was Karl Duguid and Luke Summerfield (pen) with the strikes. Aidy left shortly after as I recall.

    Let's hope that the good run at Vicarage Rd continues later this season. God knows we'll need it.


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