Oliver Phillips explains how he has filled the void in his life created by no longer covering Watford's fortunes

Troy Deeney in action against Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Picture: Holly Cant

Troy Deeney in action against Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Picture: Holly Cant

First published in Sport Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by

One of the most regular questions I am asked when I bump into Watford fans is simply: Do I miss it?

Yes, there is a part of me that fondly remembers the start of the season; the lush green of the new pitch, the camaraderie meeting up with long-established fans and pressbox colleagues and the fascination of seeing how the new signings fit into the picture.

I loved my job and never had a Monday morning feeling. Yet I also recall every mid-July, either flying or driving back from holiday, when I would be regretting the fact the football season was coming round too quickly once again. I have always thought the break is too short.

Do not get me wrong, I loved covering Watford but it was a very intense, time-consuming activity, because the match-day was just a part of it. Perhaps I was too intense, never taking a holiday during the season; never intentionally missing a game for 34 years of the 42 years I covered the first team.

You took the job home with you, fretted over the validity of rumours; tried to find a balance between criticism and optimism. I would read my match reports over time and time again, to see if I had been fair, which was just as well because I had a dressing-room reputation for being far too critical, so I doubt that my first take on a match report would have gone down too well, before I modified it: tuned it down a tad here and there.

In that respect I was and am no different from your average fan. I would get annoyed or frustrated; angry or elated by what I had seen but while the average fan could go home and rave and rant or head for his local pub and drown his sorrows with a pint and a string of expletives, I had to take the more objective route. I would cross the border into subjectivity, and I think that helped with regard to credibility, but it was a fine line.

There was always that every-day anxiety that went with the territory and frankly I don’t miss that. I watch football on the box and I am as vocal from my armchair as the most robustly vociferous fan. “I take it Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck were not up to much,” my wife will say with a certain degree of understatement when I come to bed at the end of an evening.

However, the next morning, I do not have to think how to temper my criticism of Samir Nasri or Ashley Cole. I read the reports online and get on with my life. So from that point of view, I do not miss it.

I was frequently surprised how people would watch their club for years and then withdraw totally.

I used to talk to a Gillingham fan in my local in Sarratt and he would discuss their travails and go down to watch every home game. Now he does not go near the Medway. He says it was because of disenchantment with Paul Scully, the Gillingham chairman whose name could have been far more closely linked with Watford back in 2007. But really, the fan had reached that stage where he needed that excuse, that tipping point.

I should imagine drug addiction is along similar lines. You cannot imagine life without a fix but that day finally arrives. Of course you are an addictive personality, deep down. You have to be watching Watford or whoever, week after week, year after year. My wife knew I needed an antidote and shrewdly suggested I find a “folly”, which I did. I threw myself into landscaping an orchard into a garden and then have repeated the process in part at our new house.

When that was completed, I wrote two books of fiction, straight off. I suspect neither of them is any good, but I will carry on and write a third. You have to fill the void in your life, left by Watford.

So yes, deep down I admit, I miss it but I have moved on; I have been weaned off it by distance, disenchantment with the Simpson-Ashton era, and finding other obsessions.

I never thought I’d get to the stage where I do not know where Watford are playing this Saturday, but I took it in my stride when it happened. I had been cured of that drug.

Yes, I watch out for their result and am delighted if they have won. I will read the report, note who has played well and then move on with my life.

I look forward to seeing the Hornets, particularly if they keep their forwards, but also I will be looking through the team, trying to spot a couple of players who I would be grateful to find next to me in the trenches.

Now the season is underway at Vicarage Road and the Hornets have got off to a good start. Will this be the year? Have the management achieved the balance between grafters/ battlers and the skilful/inventive? Will Troy Deeney be off to pastures new or will he stay to help Watford reach the top flight?

There is a groundswell of optimism at the start of every season and the broadly positive vibes coming through the columns of this newspaper are positive.

I cannot add an opinion. I saw enough of the Play-off final team to marvel at the fact they came close to footballing their way out of the Championship, because invariably there are times when you have to win ugly and battle for success in this league. Has the current side got enough heart to battle it out ‘oop north’ on a wet Tuesday night? It is a necessary requirement and the proof, as ever, will be in the pudding.

As for me, I am keeping my prediction powder dry until the deadline passes. If they get through that unsullied, then they have a truly good chance.

This article was first published in Friday's Watford Observer and written prior to confirmation of Troy Deeney's new contract and the transfer window shutting.

Comments (12)

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7:59am Thu 4 Sep 14

Surbiton says...

Always interesting to get Olivers view and take on things. May he have a long and happy retirement. In Frank Smith he has a worthy replacement who is growing in stature every season.
Always interesting to get Olivers view and take on things. May he have a long and happy retirement. In Frank Smith he has a worthy replacement who is growing in stature every season. Surbiton
  • Score: 28

8:17am Thu 4 Sep 14

SAHornet says...

Surbiton wrote:
Always interesting to get Olivers view and take on things. May he have a long and happy retirement. In Frank Smith he has a worthy replacement who is growing in stature every season.
Agree about FS. Think his journalism is very professional and insightful. We need investigative stuff like this and let's face it, Frank has been proved right on many occasions. Think those that believe there is some conspiracy going around re. WO and WFC are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. Like I said, just my opinion.
[quote][p][bold]Surbiton[/bold] wrote: Always interesting to get Olivers view and take on things. May he have a long and happy retirement. In Frank Smith he has a worthy replacement who is growing in stature every season.[/p][/quote]Agree about FS. Think his journalism is very professional and insightful. We need investigative stuff like this and let's face it, Frank has been proved right on many occasions. Think those that believe there is some conspiracy going around re. WO and WFC are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. Like I said, just my opinion. SAHornet
  • Score: 34

11:20am Thu 4 Sep 14

hongkongyellow says...

who Oliver. he old player
who Oliver. he old player hongkongyellow
  • Score: -8

12:21pm Thu 4 Sep 14

4boys says...

Come back, this new guy is pants
Come back, this new guy is pants 4boys
  • Score: -2

2:03pm Thu 4 Sep 14

Harry's Bar says...

Definitely toned down from the article where he slagged off about 20 different people but still painfully self indulgent.

Oliver Phillips didn't talk to anyone in Sarratt pubs unless they were in his clique. You couldn't just go over and speak to him.
Definitely toned down from the article where he slagged off about 20 different people but still painfully self indulgent. Oliver Phillips didn't talk to anyone in Sarratt pubs unless they were in his clique. You couldn't just go over and speak to him. Harry's Bar
  • Score: 3

5:20pm Thu 4 Sep 14

inexile says...

Surbiton wrote:
Always interesting to get Olivers view and take on things. May he have a long and happy retirement. In Frank Smith he has a worthy replacement who is growing in stature every season.
I agree. We were very lucky to have a talent like Oliver Phillips reporting on the club for so long. I don't know him personally but I do like hearing how he's doing. He really brought the games to life and one of the compensations for watching an awful match was the pleasure of reading Oliver's frank account of events, reaffirming just how bad it was ...one that sticks in the mind is him perfectly capturing the mood after a 3-0 home defeat to Grimsby in the Petchey era. He used to write some excellent features on departing players too.... bet he'd be good at writing obituaries! If his novels are half as good as his reports they will be well worth reading and I hope he has a happy retirement.

Despite some of the criticism of Frank Smith I think he is doing a pretty good job of reporting on the club and the advance notice on Sannino's departure and then providing some credible reasons for his exit was a coup. Inevitably many of the updates on the Wobby site are stating the obvious but it still offers something unique and long may it continue.
[quote][p][bold]Surbiton[/bold] wrote: Always interesting to get Olivers view and take on things. May he have a long and happy retirement. In Frank Smith he has a worthy replacement who is growing in stature every season.[/p][/quote]I agree. We were very lucky to have a talent like Oliver Phillips reporting on the club for so long. I don't know him personally but I do like hearing how he's doing. He really brought the games to life and one of the compensations for watching an awful match was the pleasure of reading Oliver's frank account of events, reaffirming just how bad it was ...one that sticks in the mind is him perfectly capturing the mood after a 3-0 home defeat to Grimsby in the Petchey era. He used to write some excellent features on departing players too.... bet he'd be good at writing obituaries! If his novels are half as good as his reports they will be well worth reading and I hope he has a happy retirement. Despite some of the criticism of Frank Smith I think he is doing a pretty good job of reporting on the club and the advance notice on Sannino's departure and then providing some credible reasons for his exit was a coup. Inevitably many of the updates on the Wobby site are stating the obvious but it still offers something unique and long may it continue. inexile
  • Score: 9

8:25pm Thu 4 Sep 14

PozzoHornet says...

Am I the only one who thinks this article is grossly irrelevant? No significant points are made regarding the club, or the current state of affairs. It seems more like a very long diary entry, or an extract from an auto-biography. Hardly news, and, partly because it's out of date, not a relevant opinion piece. Not worth putting up, imo. Sorry for those who enjoyed this, I just think it's out of place on the WO website. Oliver should start a blog to post this stuff.

Also, drug addiction and football fandom are hardly comparable 'addictions'. Drug addiction cripples people by leaving them physically dependent on the drug to the extent where they would get withdrawal symptoms without it, which are in some cases potentially life threatening. There is no point at which one can simply say "I don't fancy these drugs anymore" and go cold turkey. Losing your football club would just lead to a bit of sadness. It's a bit of an inconsiderate/uneduc
ated comment.
Am I the only one who thinks this article is grossly irrelevant? No significant points are made regarding the club, or the current state of affairs. It seems more like a very long diary entry, or an extract from an auto-biography. Hardly news, and, partly because it's out of date, not a relevant opinion piece. Not worth putting up, imo. Sorry for those who enjoyed this, I just think it's out of place on the WO website. Oliver should start a blog to post this stuff. Also, drug addiction and football fandom are hardly comparable 'addictions'. Drug addiction cripples people by leaving them physically dependent on the drug to the extent where they would get withdrawal symptoms without it, which are in some cases potentially life threatening. There is no point at which one can simply say "I don't fancy these drugs anymore" and go cold turkey. Losing your football club would just lead to a bit of sadness. It's a bit of an inconsiderate/uneduc ated comment. PozzoHornet
  • Score: 4

9:09am Fri 5 Sep 14

Harry's Bar says...

PozzoHornet wrote:
Am I the only one who thinks this article is grossly irrelevant? No significant points are made regarding the club, or the current state of affairs. It seems more like a very long diary entry, or an extract from an auto-biography. Hardly news, and, partly because it's out of date, not a relevant opinion piece. Not worth putting up, imo. Sorry for those who enjoyed this, I just think it's out of place on the WO website. Oliver should start a blog to post this stuff.

Also, drug addiction and football fandom are hardly comparable 'addictions'. Drug addiction cripples people by leaving them physically dependent on the drug to the extent where they would get withdrawal symptoms without it, which are in some cases potentially life threatening. There is no point at which one can simply say "I don't fancy these drugs anymore" and go cold turkey. Losing your football club would just lead to a bit of sadness. It's a bit of an inconsiderate/uneduc

ated comment.
Well yes, unfortunately for drug addicts that "day" does not arrive, more likely that a different sort of "day" finally arrives".
[quote][p][bold]PozzoHornet[/bold] wrote: Am I the only one who thinks this article is grossly irrelevant? No significant points are made regarding the club, or the current state of affairs. It seems more like a very long diary entry, or an extract from an auto-biography. Hardly news, and, partly because it's out of date, not a relevant opinion piece. Not worth putting up, imo. Sorry for those who enjoyed this, I just think it's out of place on the WO website. Oliver should start a blog to post this stuff. Also, drug addiction and football fandom are hardly comparable 'addictions'. Drug addiction cripples people by leaving them physically dependent on the drug to the extent where they would get withdrawal symptoms without it, which are in some cases potentially life threatening. There is no point at which one can simply say "I don't fancy these drugs anymore" and go cold turkey. Losing your football club would just lead to a bit of sadness. It's a bit of an inconsiderate/uneduc ated comment.[/p][/quote]Well yes, unfortunately for drug addicts that "day" does not arrive, more likely that a different sort of "day" finally arrives". Harry's Bar
  • Score: 0

12:16pm Fri 5 Sep 14

eastcoastorn says...

Oli,
What a shame that you have been missing the most exciting times at Watford since the GT years, and this season could be very special. I have been a Watford "addict" for 42 years and the thought of not being able to support my team would be unthinkable. If you now have to get your football "fix" from watching England on the box you might as well find another orchard to do.
Oli, What a shame that you have been missing the most exciting times at Watford since the GT years, and this season could be very special. I have been a Watford "addict" for 42 years and the thought of not being able to support my team would be unthinkable. If you now have to get your football "fix" from watching England on the box you might as well find another orchard to do. eastcoastorn
  • Score: 1

12:58pm Fri 5 Sep 14

lutondown says...

hongkongyellow wrote:
who Oliver. he old player
He boring man, talk like a drone, think its all about him.
like Frank though
He good fella
I'm good in Cantonese and double Dutch
[quote][p][bold]hongkongyellow[/bold] wrote: who Oliver. he old player[/p][/quote]He boring man, talk like a drone, think its all about him. like Frank though He good fella I'm good in Cantonese and double Dutch lutondown
  • Score: 0

2:29pm Fri 5 Sep 14

hongkongyellow says...

lutondown wrote:
hongkongyellow wrote:
who Oliver. he old player
He boring man, talk like a drone, think its all about him.
like Frank though
He good fella
I'm good in Cantonese and double Dutch
we sign frank lampard?
[quote][p][bold]lutondown[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]hongkongyellow[/bold] wrote: who Oliver. he old player[/p][/quote]He boring man, talk like a drone, think its all about him. like Frank though He good fella I'm good in Cantonese and double Dutch[/p][/quote]we sign frank lampard? hongkongyellow
  • Score: -1

5:30pm Fri 5 Sep 14

lutondown says...

Harry's Bar wrote:
Definitely toned down from the article where he slagged off about 20 different people but still painfully self indulgent.

Oliver Phillips didn't talk to anyone in Sarratt pubs unless they were in his clique. You couldn't just go over and speak to him.
Extremely so Harry and here I agree with you. All his articles loaded with me, I and myself.
And if you wasn't in his clique consider yourself lucky, after listening to his monologue at EOS awards dinner, I'd of paid to not have been included.
[quote][p][bold]Harry's Bar[/bold] wrote: Definitely toned down from the article where he slagged off about 20 different people but still painfully self indulgent. Oliver Phillips didn't talk to anyone in Sarratt pubs unless they were in his clique. You couldn't just go over and speak to him.[/p][/quote]Extremely so Harry and here I agree with you. All his articles loaded with me, I and myself. And if you wasn't in his clique consider yourself lucky, after listening to his monologue at EOS awards dinner, I'd of paid to not have been included. lutondown
  • Score: 0

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