Beating the Traffic: Fourteen Minutes
Neil Dunham is claiming a place in the Guinness Book of Records...
I don’t leave the football early. I’m one of those people who stays behind and finds something to clap about, even after the worst, most savage of beatings. In my 40+ years of supporting Watford I’ve left the game before the final whistle less than a handful of times, and always for very good reasons. Except once…
6 October 2018. There are some disadvantages to living 45 miles from the ground. Late out of the blocks from home due to issues with the heating, we were still on course to get to the ground long before kick-off, if all went well. It was achievable… if not for the miles of new roadworks on the M4… and the accident on the M25… and, of course, the Watford ring road. Did I mention the queue for St Mary’s car park?
So, it wasn’t in the best of moods that I arrived at the gates of the Rookery half an hour after kick-off, in the full knowledge that, despite Watford having had the lion’s share of the play, Bournemouth had already gone 1-0 up.
I need to be clear. I hated playing Bournemouth in the 2010s. Under Eddie Howe (a Watford boy) the Cherries became supremely adept at diving, fouling, time-wasting and other miscellaneous skulduggery. Their ‘special power’ was getting Watford players sent off for practically nothing.
Anyway… we arrived. We climbed the Rookery steps with little optimism and slinked our way to the seats (Excuse me! Yes sorry, the traffic was awful! etc). As we arrived, I looked to the pitch. Josh King, later of this parish, was on the attack, but it was OK – Christian Kabasele was on the case and, as hoped, made a lovely clean contact with the ball and knocked it out for a corner. Job done. The referee, however, saw something quite different. King’s expertly executed and almost certainly well-rehearsed swan dive, started before Kabs had even made his challenge, convinced the man in black that it was a horror challenge. The only course of action was to send the Watford man for an early bath and award King the penalty he so desired. Josh casually knocked the spot kick in and gently goaded the Watford faithful in the time-honoured fashion of arseholes of yore, like Steve Claridge and Chris Armstrong before him.
So, what did we have? We’d been at the football for 2 minutes, we’d missed a goal, seen a dodgy penalty scored, complete with piss-taking celebration, and were staring at 58 minutes of ten-man misery. I admit my mind was three-quarters made up even before King headed in Bournemouth’s third on the stroke of half-time.
Could I cope with what was to come? Would the players miss my solitary ghostlike figure clapping away like a demented seal at a fish convention at the final whistle? No, I wasn’t having that. We wished everyone around us a merry half-time and a happy second half and returned to the car. When the trouble-free journey was complete, we found out that Howe’s vile crew had only managed to score one further goal, which was nice.
So, can we claim the record? As our reward for three hours of travelling, arriving 31 minutes late and leaving at half-time, we witnessed just 14 minutes of ‘football’. We surely deserve something for the effort?