Apparently I surprised a few people when I wrote a year or so back that I had been attracted to Manchester United as a teenager and become a follower rather than a fan. It was, and is, simply because I was excited by a succession of their players: Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, George Best and on through Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.
I also used to watch Spurs’ matches when the opportunity afforded itself in mid-week and I witnessed the double side – a vision that remains among my most precious football memories.
They did not diminish my enthusiasm for my home town and more importantly its club: Watford.
Make no mistake, when Stewart Scullion’s rasping shot found the net at Old Trafford in 1969, I had to try and contain my delight in line with objective pressbox decorum. It was not easy.
The foregoing is by way of establishing my credentials before you direct howls of mental derision towards me when you read the following sentence.
Luton Town won in mid-week, moved nearer to the Conference title and a return to the Football League looks increasingly likely [this was confirmed last night when Kidderminster beat Cambridge]: I was very pleased for them.
I’m pleased for the normal, everyday fans who inhabit Dunstable, Luton and other Bedfordshire outposts, who enjoy the game and are discomforted not only by their status in the football pyramid but the fact Watford are three promotions above them.
I’ve never believed that, in general, Luton fans wear their hair long in order to disguise their horns, and their passports contain the telling stamp: sub-human. But I would suggest they have same among their midst who one could describe as Mindless of Bedfordshire, whose brain to functioning-body ratio is akin to a two-stroke-engine in a 4x4.
I know we have the Brainless of Herts, who attach themselves to Watford on occasions, particularly during local derby games and I can understand the views embraced by the police and families, that they are glad the local derby games have been put on the back shelf by reason of Luton’s fall from somewhere short of grace.
I also suggest that my Watford credentials cannot be challenged: I was born within earshot of the sheep being driven down past Clements in the High Street. But because I am not a neanderthal, the like of whom threatened their own manager, Lennie Lawrence, around the time the fourth Watford goal hit the back of the net at Kenilworth Road, I can see derby games for what they should be.
I have had two acquaintances-cum-friends who are diehard Luton supporters. I mention the word “acquaintances” because I do appreciate that in order to be a true Watfordian, you risk having your qualification downgraded if you actually admit to having a Luton fan as a friend.
We would meet up and exchange banter and tease each other over our fortunes. On occasions they would visit Vicarage Road if a good game was in prospect and talk about it objectively and fairly.
Then, when the derby fixture came closer, they would lose that objectivity and mumble incoherently on what was about to happen. After the game was over, they would quibble, concede or rejoice, according to the result and the manner in which it was obtained.
Whatever had been removed, in the case of the football fans’ equivalent of a temporary lobotomy, would be returned to restore them to being able to embrace normal, erudite and objective discussion on the price of season tickets and the state of the game in general: until the next time.
They ‘hate’ Watford and I ‘hate’ Luton. It is a given, caused by an accident of birth and geography, which dictates our role playing and we enjoy it for what it is.
I look out for Watford’s, Burnley’s, Wolves’ and Bristol Rovers’ results every week with Sean Dyche, Kenny Jackett and John Ward in mind and, towards the end of the updates, I feel pleased if Luton have also won.
I feel totally at ease with my pro-Luton stance. Their current position and status is not the result of any failure on the pitch but because of Football League-imposed points deductions, which left them up the creek without the proverbial paddle. That was because of “financial irregularities” way beyond the control of Luton’s supporters or the players in the dressing room. The fans and club suffered and were punished: not those who transgressed.
It was as a result of the Football League not ensuring the right men are allowed to take over football clubs.
Happily we have seen the league block the attempted takeover of Leeds United but Luton and others could have done with such an intervention.
So I think it is great Luton look likely to be back where they belong, in the Football League. I will be very pleased for them. The average, every-day Luton fan did not deserve the demotion.
Of course, there will be those who say that it is immaterial they were deducted points; it is just great to see Luton down in the dirt.
Well you’ve all seen the recent headlines; you’ve all read not so long ago that Watford are owed a certain amount by their former owner. And we know that Lord Ashcroft, Graham Simpson and co, so wisely overturned the board’s recommendation to turn down Laurence Bassini’s bid to take control of the club, and duly handed him the reins.
When I look at the goings on at Vicarage Road in recent years and look at Luton’s penalty, I think of that old historical observation: There but for the grace of God, go I, or the biblical one about caring not for the mote in your brother’s eye.
Good luck Luton, I’m pleased for you, but, as I reach for the hat accorded me at birth, may you stay kicking about down the bottom of the Football League, where you belong.
This article was published in the Watford Observer on Friday, March 28.