An American to Watford to experience Premier League promotion

Last weekend I wrote about the experience of watching a team achieve promotion into the Football League when I went to see Barnet defeat Gateshead to clinch the Conference Title. A week later I was back in North West London to watch a team achieve promotion out of the Football League and into the Premier League. This time the venue was Vicarage Road Stadium, as Watford were promoted to the Premier League after a 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday.

This was not my first journey to Vicarage Road this season. On Boxing Day, unable to get tickets to the day’s Premier League matches (Chelsea vs West Ham and Arsenal vs QPR), but wanting to experience the festive nature of Boxing Day football, my father and I made the journey to the end of the Metropolitan Line for Watford’s Sky Sports induced 5:30 kickoff against Wolverhampton Wanderers. We battled torrential rain, flooded streets, 40-degree weather, pitch-black streets due to poor floodlights and howling winds but we still managed to come away with a favorable impression of Watford and Vicarage Road. There was something endearing about the public address announcer coming out onto the pitch and directing the fans to sing various Christmas carol’s before kickoff and the very intimate setting of the smaller ground devoid of the tourists that infiltrate venues such as the Emirates, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane. Watford lost the match 1-0 and my father and I had to battle the elements again to return to Central London but we figured that was all part of the experience of festive football. I vowed to return again at some point this season if my schedule permitted.

My second trip to Vicarage Road was also on a holiday, but this time the weather was much more favorable. With Watford closing in on the top two and a lunchtime kickoff on Easter Monday against fellow promotion rivals Middlesbrough, I figured it was too good of an opportunity to miss. I could feel the tension in the air as the match would go a long way to determining which teams went up from the Championship. Middlesbrough came in top of the league, but only two points ahead of fourth placed Watford. The atmosphere was fantastic – the Watford 1881 movement (basically a bunch of teenagers trying to create atmosphere at matches) sang for the whole 90 minutes, directed by a drummer who effectively served as their conductor. The opening exchanges of the match were greeted with chants from the Middlesbrough fans of “we’re top of the league”. Watford went on to win 2-0 and as a result they they led chants of “we’re top of the league”. By the end of the day, however, AFC Bournemouth were top of the league after defeating Birmingham City 4-2 in a later kickoff. That’s how tight the Championship was this season, full of all the drama that the Premier League lacked. The passion from the fans was a great advert for Championship soccer as all the fans in the ground were emotionally invested in the outcome of the game. After the match, I immediately bought my ticket for the final day of the season with the hope that I would see a tooth and nail final day scrap for a promotion place.

Unfortunately, Watford clinched promotion a week early after Middlesbrough and Norwich slipped up against Fulham and Rotherham (both teams that were fighting off relegation from the Championship, another example of how competitive and exciting that league is) respectively. So instead of witnessing a nail-biting affair complete with drama and scoreboard watching where every goal could possibly mean millions of pounds, I ended up witnessing a coronation and a party.

Exiting the London Overground at Watford High Street, I could tell that the whole town of Watford was joining in the festivities of their football club’s promotion. People were getting out of cars in full costumes carrying inflatable objects to bring to the match. There were signs all over town congratulating the team on the promotion, but it really started to sink in about 200 meters away from the stadium. Literally every shop was selling merchandise that said something along the lines of “We are Premier League” or “Back in the Big Time.” Special Premier League scarves were created as well as a special matchday program.

As I entered the stadium, the celebratory mood was enhanced as the public address announcer made comments like “are you ready to party today?” and the music played was all songs that would normally be played at a birthday party or a wedding. Before the players walked out onto the pitch the fans were greeted with a message from the club’s former chairman and famous musician Elton John (for whom a brand new stand at Vicarage Road is named after), who congratulated the players, fans and the Pozzo family on their incredible accomplishment. As the players walked out onto the pitch, every supporter in the Rookery End held up a placard which when combined read “WFC” and then beneath it “Going Up.” Meanwhile a lot of fans threw up yellow sprinkles in the air and they inevitably covered the pitch.

Despite all this congratulating and celebration, there was still a soccer match to be played. A soccer match that Watford needed to win if they wanted to go up as champions of England’s second tier. The opponents were Sheffield Wednesday, a team neither in danger of going down nor in the running for a promotion place, who brought down 2,000 fans from South Yorkshire. The travelling support, despite the fact that their team had nothing to play for, really brought the noise and greatly contributed to the atmosphere. After the first three or so minutes the Watford fans got bored of singing and the Sheffield Wednesday fans filled in the gaps. They constantly sang a song that went “We’re not going down, we’re not going up, we’re Sheffield Wednesday and we don’t give a f*ck” which led to many Watford fans laughing. Other songs included “we all hate Leeds scum”, “we’ll never be mastered by you Southern bast*rds” and “Oh Wednesday away,” amongst others. Their support of a team that had nothing to play for was yet another example of where the Premier League has gone wrong. The Wednesday fans tried to make things as uncomfortable as possible for the Watford fans by mocking their support with the typical jealous chant of “where were you when you were sh*t.” These particular chants were replied to with sarcastic waves from the Watford supporters sitting around me. When Watford did sing it was usually something along the lines of “we’re going up” or “we are Premier League” but also their classic song of “When I was young, I followed them, Watford F.C., the team for me la la la la la la la la” etc.

The actual match itself was relatively boring. The Wednesday goalkeeper was wearing a baseball hat which was quite comical as he often had to hold it in his hand as he attempted to head the ball. Watford played through balls through a Sheffield Wednesday defense that was worse at playing the offside trap as a Sunday League team, but somehow Watford failed to convert on a lot of their opportunities, while Wednesday created almost nothing. Around the 20 minute mark, the Wednesday fans started singing “they’re top of the league, they’re top of the league, AFC Bournemouth, they’re top of the league” which clearly meant that Bournemouth had scored in the other corner of London against Charlton at The Valley. I had a feeling that that chant would come back to haunt them as their side were being hopelessly outplayed by a Watford side that just lacked the quality to punish Wednesday for their woefulness. And on 26 minutes, they did. Superstar Watford striker Troy Deeney was through on goal the keeper saved it and the rebound was headed in by on-loan Udinese striker Matej Vydra. 1-0 to Watford and surely on their way to the title. The party atmosphere was back on as the Watford fans sang “We’re top of the league, we’re top of the league, we’re Watford F.C. and we’re top of the league.” The rest of the first half was also pretty boring as the game idled towards halftime.

At halftime there was a penalty shootout featuring little kids (final score 1-0), interviews with injured players and a presentation of an award to a Watford fan who continued attending every match despite the fact that her young daughter died two years ago. To me that sounds a bit nutty and misguided, but this is a sport where the fans are intensely loyal. The second half was just as boring as the first, with Watford continuing to dominate and the Wednesday fans doing all the singing.

That was until around the 80th minute when things started to become very interesting. First, some people in the Family Stand at Watford in the Vicarage Road end adjacent to the away supporters started “the wave”. This was most likely done out of boredom and it was the first time in 30 or so matches I had seen this done at an English soccer match. This was immediately met with a “what the f*cking hell is that” chant from the Wednesday fans. In around the 85th minute a fan from the Rookery End threw a flare onto the field well away from any of the players, which exploded into yellow smoke. As the match stopped, and a steward went to pick the flare up, another was thrown onto the pitch. A few minutes later the fans around me started to get out of their seats and move towards the pitch for the inevitable invasion.

25+ Channels With Sports & News
  • Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
  • Watch Premier League, Liga MX, MLS & World Cup
  • Includes ESPN, FOX, Univision, TUDN and more
Favorite Leagues At The Best Price
  • Starting price: $7.99/mo. for Live TV Package
  • Watch Argentine league, Brasileirāo and Copa Libertadores
  • Includes beIN SPORTS, GolTV, TyC Sports and more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
  • Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
  • Features LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, Copa del Rey & more
  • Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
Live TV, Soccer & Originals
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo.
  • Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & more
  • Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
  • Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
  • Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
Get All 3 And Save 30%
  • $13.99/mo. for ESPN+, Disney+ & Hulu
  • Includes Bundesliga, LaLiga, NHL & the home to UFC
  • Features Marvel, Star Wars + shows & movies for your entire family
Pages 1 2

9 Comments

  1. Paul Barwick May 5, 2015
  2. SWFC May 5, 2015
  3. jtm371 May 5, 2015
  4. Clive Chamberlain May 5, 2015
  5. Iancransonsknees May 5, 2015
  6. Noel Tillyard May 5, 2015
  7. CraigB May 6, 2015
  8. Eric Hall May 7, 2015
  9. DF May 7, 2015

Leave a Reply

Translate »