Watford away. Usually meh. Not today. Today was Joshy Day: the return of the Messiah! I was singing from the moment I sprang out of bed to my specially-selected alarm tune of ‘She’s Electric’ (a song we’ve adapted for Joshy).
‘He’s electric / His long hair and white boots eccentric / He does things I never expected / And he scores for the Pool’
‘When I saw Josh Bowler / I went to my wife and I told her / He did a left and a right foot step over / And he scores for the Pool’
I mean, it’s a terrible song really and, as with most of our chants, makes no sense. After all, what’s eccentric about long hair and white boots? And how many of us have wives these days? But today this was a song of pure joy as it symbolised Joshy’s return to the Mighty Tangerine Wizards on loan from Nottingham
Fucking Forest after his four-month fucking pointless exile on loan at Olympiacos.
‘Joshy Joshy Joshy!’
‘Oi oi oi!
‘Joshy Joshy Joshy!’
‘Oi oi oi!’
I wasn’t sure how much of this Lee could stand but I was EXCITED dammit!
We headed out in the rain to meet the BSA coach at Kirkham. I don’t know why I bother straightening (or even drying) my hair sometimes, as I looked like a drowned rat before we’d even set off.
The journey was pleasant and productive. We’d managed to bag the front row seats, which had extra legroom (something that’s generally favoured, apparently, yet totally wasted on someone with short legs like me) – and a cup holder.
We’d come armed with a cool bag packed with healthy snackage to see us through the day. This included the usual eggs, cheese, ham, beef, sausages, satsuma, watermelon, cherry tomatoes and grapes. I also had my flask of apple and cinnamon overnight oats and six cans of Tango Very Peachy.
I’m a super-efficient machine in 2023 thus far, grabbing writing and reading time wherever I can slot it in. Today’s southbound journey was spent completing the latest session in my writing course, devising a six-month plan for my writing projects, writing my Cleveleys and Bispham Pubs blog and finishing off the book I was reading.
Once I’d got my head round this being a series of newspaper articles, I found myself getting invested in Harrogate Town’s promotion charge from the National League. Obvs I knew they won promotion but this was given away by a photograph in the middle of the book of them celebrating promotion before I’d got to that bit in the book. Why do books do that? I must remember to save looking at the pictures until the end.
Our pre-match pub stop today was in St Albans. I couldn’t remember having been there before. I hadn’t got round to researching it and decided on this occasion to go with the flow and be surprised by what I found. Well, within reason. I did, of course, have a pub earmarked…
It had been raining all the way down but miraculously stopped just as we were pulling into St Albans. Still we didn’t trust the weather so decided to head for the pub as opposed to having a mooch round the city. Here’s what we spotted along the way.
This pub was big on its signage and we were well-informed before we’d set foot inside.
Here was what greeted us on the bar.
I’ll confess I wasn’t wowed by the beers on offer – and even contemplated the ciders – but I opted for a half of the Wantsum Imperium, having had a traumatic experience with Harveys in Crawley(?) a few years back and not generally liking IPAs. I later moved to the fridge and had one of these.
I picked this pub because it was (a) in the Good Beer Guide; and (b) offered ‘board games, table skittles and a traditional jukebox.’
We’d enjoyed playing Obama Llama in Nuneaton ahead of the Cov match; it passed the time nicely, was a great laugh and – crucially – distracted me from drinking and thus protected my weight loss. What games would we have in store today?
Table skittles was a game I’d never played – and had only really seen at the odd beer festival. Lee taught me how to play and I soon got into the swing of things (see what I did there). Too late I realised the key was to swing the ball slowly so it knocked more pins down – and Lee won comfortably. Hmph. What else could we play?
Right. I stood a chance at this one. I knew my geography. It was a fun game and we particularly enjoyed the randomness of the question cards, which included guessing the punchline to the Tommy Cooper jokes. There was something to do with strategy cards as well but ain’t nobody got time for that (why do they make board games unnecessarily complicated with all these layers?) and the game worked well enough without them. Anyway the ultimate aim of the game was to capture five bordering countries. Somehow Lee managed to win this game, too – and in record time.
Now to the important stuff: the loo review.
Right – onwards to Vicarage Road!
Watford v Blackpool
I was pleased to spot a fanzine seller outside the ground and of course bought a copy, as I always support fellow fanzines when I see them.
The stewards were jolly and I got into the ground with no trouble. Once in there, I found myself squashed into a very narrow and busy concourse. Grr. I decided I’d skip the refreshment kiosk and headed straight for the Ladies. Dear reader, there were THREE cubicles for ALL the ladies in the away end. This was a hark back to the old days (anyone remember the solitary cubicle at Col U’s Layer Road?).
Next I headed up into the stand, where the stewards were happy to let me sit where I chose, as opposed to directing me somewhere I didn’t want to be, which is too-often the case these days. I selected a seat close to the edge of the stand, where I was hopeful of being able to remain seated for the duration of the match (again seemingly retro). I was soon joined by Chris, who I hadn’t seen since West Brom away. Chris and I used to travel to matches (and visit GBG pubs) together when I lived in the West Midlands.
Watford did something both impressive and twee before the match kicked off.
There’s something Fulham-esque about Watford. They’re both a bit middle class. Nowt wrong wi’ that though. They’re harmless enough.
Anyway Joshy was in the starting line-up so I was happy. First half was pretty entertaining but there were no goals forthcoming.
Having established that I was remaining in my seat at the break, Chris foisted his Telegraph crossword onto me to complete while he did whatever his business was at half time. We used to do the crossword together on the train (and in the pubs) on our away trips back in the day and we’d usually complete it. This was the case again today, as I completed the final answer just before the second half kicked off.
The game was pretty decent on the whole, with both sides having attacking flurries. Sadly it was Watford who put the ball in the back of the net and they came out 2-0 winners. Boo. I was actually livid with them on leaving the ground because they had been play-acting a lot and that’s just not football. I’d have been quite sweary had Lee interviewed me directly after the match for his match vlog, which you can watch here.
Back on the coach, I tucked into some comfort food and engaged in as little football chat as I could get away with before escaping into my reading material. I read the Watford fanzine, which contained a few articles of interest, including the story of a ball boy in the 1960s – and a controversial piece that I’m inclined to write a response to in the next issue of the Blackpool fanzine. If you’d like to read that and find out more, you can subscribe here:
I also read the introduction to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Selected Tales, before switching medium to my current audiobook, Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki. I’m about to get to the fantasy section of my Open University module, so I’m getting in the zone ahead of time.
I was dozing a little when Lee woke me to tell me we were 15 minutes away from the services, news that I thought could have waited an extra 15 minutes. I struggled to stay awake for the next 15 minutes before stepping off the coach into Norton Canes services for a comfort break.
I was excited to spot the Meg and Mog books – the first books I ever read and fell in love with when I was even littler than I am now.
Back on the coach, I settled back with my audiobook, which accompanied me the rest of the way home.
So we had no points (no change there) but Joshy was back, I had a plan in place for the next six months, had a blog written, finished a book, almost finished another and started a third. So, all in all, it wasn’t a bad day. I’ve learned that the football must not be the be all and end all of an awayday for the sake of my mental health – especially in winter when we’re in a bad run of form. Hence the coming weeks will produce a whopping THREE Football Tourist Guides, as I immerse myself in as much enjoyment as I can jolly well find in Southampton, Middlesbrough and Reading…
Next up: A Football Tourist’s Guide to Southampton.