Good Evening Watford!

Sunday 28th October 2015

Many of us have that ‘collecting’ bug and I am certainly one of them. It was football stickers and train numbers when I was a kid living near the railway line through Medway in Kent but even back then I would always keep anything I had involving the Arsenal.

That included match tickets and programmes of course, all kept relatively neat and tidy, definitely in date order and logged in a book.

If you do get involved in this kind of activity, gaps in your collection tend to niggle. Ridiculous really but they do.

The likes of eBay have been around for a while now but recently I’ve seriously got that ‘bug’ again and 2 weeks without football has seen me feed that particular addiction a little bit too fervently!!

Seeing this week was the anniversary of Mr Wenger taking the helm at our great club had me digging out the programme for his first ‘official’ game away at Blackburn. Seeing the notes welcoming him to the English League feels strange and the haircuts, players and fashions confirm it was a whole generation ago.

Mr Wenger's 2 nil opener

Mr Wenger’s 2 nil opener

9 major trophies, countless other finals, semi finals, runners up spots, a brand new stadium in London N5 and permanent European Football later and he is still our leader.

Time and age dictates he is now in the latter stages of that incredible career. I look forward to enjoying both that and hopefully our future under a new boss when it happens.

We all completely dread these international breaks for a couple of reasons. Firstly we have to go without a proper football fix for a fortnight and that fear members of our squad will return injured is extremely strong. Incredibly with so many involved we seem to have come out the other side with everyone relatively unscathed.

And the former had me almost biting at the bit to get out of bed and onto my London bound transport.

The 5.30 kick-off had our group making plans to enjoy the refreshment on offer in and around the Charing Cross/Leicester Square part of our great capital city, an area full of good traditional pubs before heading up to Euston for the short journey to Watford Junction.

Great company and banter as always and it meant we made our way in fine spirits.

Watford hasn’t been an annual destination over the years but depending how old you are, one we have visited numerous times. The recent rekindling of my programme collecting passion has made me decide to include some references to our similar fixtures from history as this season progresses, some I would have attended and some not.

A couple spring to mind on this occasion.

Back in September 1984 the likes of Charlie Nicholas and Tony woodcock looking bang in scoring form meant things were looking up for us Gooners after a relatively disappointing period and an exciting 4-3 win at Vicarage Road was one such example. It would be 3 more years of course before the silverware started to appear back on the shelf but it was a good win away at a Graham Taylor side fresh from going all the way to the FA Cup Final only a few months previous. Costs were a lot different back then too, 50p for the programme emphasising that. And if you were lucky enough to predict the 2nd ‘Golden Goal’ against QPR you went home with the princely sum of 30 quid!!

7 goal thriller from the 80s

7 goal thriller from the 80s

Roughly sixteen years on and Graham Taylor was still at the helm at Vicarage Road against an Arsenal side that although made it all the way to the UEFA Cup Final in Copenhagen were kind of ‘between trophies’ at that time. Another entertaining encounter saw 5 goals, a quite awesome individual strike by Thierry being the outstanding memory. I also recall there being one or two almighty thunderstorms around that afternoon, the kind that make it feel like the world is ending!! Cost wise we were up to £2.50 for the programme by then and 2nd prize in the ‘Gold Draw’ saw the winner pick up a tidy 500 quid. The top prize was given out to the lucky winner by a grown man in a huge hornet suit, a sign that mascots had well and truly hit top flight football by this time!

Happy Easter 2000 style

Happy Easter 2000 style

Back to the present and we played ok in the first half I felt. Certainly well enough to make me feel if we did the same again in the 2nd period we would win.

And we did. With bells on. And chocolate sprinkles.

It doesn’t matter how much a jostle next door to a JCB graced building site feels, it is always enjoyable away from home. And we got 3 of them. Lovely.

Top quality away end view

Top quality away end view

The perfect result from a highly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable day then, and a good way to prepare for our hugely tough home game with Bayern Munich on Tuesday night, a game that could pretty much decide whether we are still in with a chance of progressing from this year’s Champions League group.

The walk through my home town felt a bit odd yesterday morning, dozens of people standing on street corners carrying cameras not something I have seen before early on a Saturday. Then I remembered. It’s a real ale and vintage bus weekender! 40 odd examples of transport history taking enthusiasts not just to well known pubs in this part of the world but also to many not normally on a bus route.

Today, especially as yesterday’s result deserves additional celebration, I plan to get involved. Just for the transport reasons of course! 🙂



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