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Olly Wicken on the yellow subconscious mind

As Watford fans, it’s the things we do subconsciously that reveal the most about us.

I can give you a couple of examples. When Kiko lands a cross on Troy Deeney’s head, we all instinctively nod goalwards. That’s totally normal. And when, most nights, I dream I’m playing for Watford, I always score four in an FA Cup semi-final to take us to Wembley. That’s normal too. (Isn’t it?)

In the summer of 1984, though, not long after we actually did get to Wembley, my subconscious mind went the extra mile to say something about me.

I was travelling round California with my Hornet mates Mark and Dave. It was a sort of ‘Horns On Tour’ trip without any games to watch. So we packed our suitcases with t-shirts commemorating Watford’s glorious recent achievements. I also took a 1979-82 replica shirt along with red shorts and red socks (with black and yellow trim). It was in readiness for any sport we might end up playing, you understand. I mean, I would never wear full kit at any other time, would I? I’ve never been a Full Kit Wanker.

Anyway, we had a great time. I’ve still got a snap of us around a swimming pool with me in a grey 1982 promotion t-shirt. And one of my favourite photographs of all time is of Mark, in a yellow 1984 Cup Final t-shirt, standing behind Mickey Mouse at Disneyland with a look of total disdain on his face while he makes a masturbatory gesture towards the lovable American children’s character.

The trip involved a considerable amount of alcohol, of course — which impacted the tendency I had, in my early 20s, to sleepwalk after heavy drinking. (Two summers earlier, staying in a hostel, I’d woken up in a completely different bed from the one I’d gone to sleep in. A year later, on a camping holiday, I would wake up to find myself lost in a forest. I’m still wondering what these incidents say about me.) One night, towards the end of our holiday, Mark, Dave and I went to a baseball game where we watched the Oakland A’s and drank quarts of beer from massive cardboard cups. Later, Mark and I slept on the sofas in Dave’s apartment.

In the morning, I woke up to find Mark standing over me, saying “What the hell are you wearing?” I sat up and inspected myself. I was wearing my 1979-82 Watford shirt, red shorts, and red socks with black and yellow trim. “You went to bed in t-shirt and boxer shorts, and you’ve woken up in full Watford kit,” Mark said. He was correct.

I couldn’t explain it. I still can’t. The best I can manage is: “It was my subconscious, Your Honour”. But that’s an uncomfortable admission because, as I said at the start, it’s the things we do subconsciously that reveal the most about us. For me, it was the worst kind of wake-up call. It wasn’t just a Freudian slip, it was a Freudian slap in the face. It told me that, deep down — despite the front my conscious self maintains — I’m a Full Kit Wanker.

It was a moment of horrendous self-revelation. Ever since, I’ve been trying to come to terms with this dark truth about myself. More than 35 years later, Mark, Dave and I are still great Hornet mates, but whenever Mark’s with me and standing behind me, I always suspect he’s got a look of total disdain on his face and is making a masturbatory gesture.