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Big Game Day

Colin Payne gets lost in thrill of the occasion


As I walked past Watford High Street railway station, the fine but plentiful rain doing little for my spirits, a group of seven or eight men spilled on to the pavement. Laughing and joking, and dressed appropriately for the weather, they stood out as a little bit unusual. Speaking in a foreign tongue that could have been Swedish, Norwegian, or just as easily Esperanto, they were the ultimate representation of Big Game Day – football tourists. Folk who will travel hundreds of miles at great expense for little more than the joy of seeing a Premier League football match. I envy that non-partisan spirit, the value being in the occasion and event rather than the outcome. They had come to see Liverpool no doubt, but would, if odds were defied and Watford were to do anything other than leak a hatful of goals, be just as thrilled with the result.

In our new world, where Premier is everything, there are surprisingly few occasions anymore. City are too ‘new money’ (and always win), Arsenal and Chelsea just too damn familiar, Tottenham just too shite. In a Super League with a lot of very un-super clubs, only United and Liverpool still hold that magic as visitors to Vicarage Road (in my opinion at least!) My friends from Sweden, Norway or Esperanto-land clearly agreed, as they had come prepared to cheer on whoever was warranting their cheers, applaud whoever was worth it, just savour the joy of ‘being there’. 

Along Vicarage Road, the grubby touts, still surviving despite paper tickets becoming obsolete, were prowling the streets. “Buy or sell, buy or sell”, clearly finding enough demand to warrant not turning to trading crack to 13-year-olds instead. The half-and-half merchants, with their acrylic strips of utter ridiculousness, were blocking the roads adding nothing to life’s value – yet obviously selling enough for it to be worthwhile to produce the crap, have three men stand in the rain selling the crap, and earn enough money to not worry that they themselves are total crap. Peddling this year’s particularly lame version of a lame concept, the graphically inept rendering of two made-up shirts only pisses a tad more on all that is decent. Yep, roll up, roll up, put this vile object around your kid’s neck, it’s OK it’s part of Big Game Day! 

Once inside, the 1881 valiantly declared ‘Since I was young…’, yet with a slightly subdued fervour compared to normal, because as it’s Big Game Day we know that in all likelihood within fifteen minutes we’ll be stunned into silence, within thirty cussing our own players, and by half-time contemplating hitting the road. We come to see some of the best players in the world, in another team’s shirt of course, then spend the game resenting them, but not as much as we resent our own players. 

At the end of the match no one of a yellow hue went home happy. No one enjoyed the experience. No one will savour the occasion, bar perhaps 2,000 away fans and seven or eight happy Scandinavians dressed appropriately for the weather; but thankfully not a gobby wanker who happens to warrant a Watford player’s complimentary ticket because he’s good at kickboxing, and even more popular on social media.

Yep, Big Game Day, the real ‘cherry on the cake’. Roll on Manchester United!