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Yellow Black & Red

The red debate isn’t just about shorts. Nick Catley explains why.


I’ve pretended to, of course. Any Watford fan who doesn’t have a preference between red and black shorts risks looking like one of those German spies in a film who speaks perfect English, but is exposed by grimacing when they drink milky tea. We all have an opinion. For the record, mine’s always been black shorts – a link to the earlier days of a club that changed radically and forever in the late seventies.

What I am very attached to, though, is the idea that we play in yellow, black and red. Matt Rowson (sometimes of this parish), writing on BHaPPY on the fourth anniversary of Graham Taylor’s death, said: ‘Every club thinks that their club is special, different. Graham Taylor is a big part of why we’re the ones that are right’, and he was spot on (as he usually is – but being the discerning reader you obviously are, you’ll almost certainly already know that). In my opinion, that combination of colours is another.

Firstly, they go so well together. My views on colour coordination shouldn’t be taken as gospel – I struggle to remember what colour my carpets are at home when I’m not there, for starters – but our colours look perfect when flying out of a car window, processing to the ground, or just hanging on a hook on an otherwise humdrum day. When we fill an away section (or occasionally even half of Wembley), the only team I can think of who look as visually arresting is the Netherlands. Bright (to the point that a friend of mine firmly believes we get more offsides given against us because assistant refs can spot us more easily), but not brash or clashing, they express beautifully the joy of a day at the football while avoiding the dull, washed-out neutrality of the white that makes up half of some clubs’ colours. I can’t think of a better mixture.

Better still, those colours are us. Red and white scarf? Join the queue. But unless Partick Thistle have been drawn at Boreham Wood in the Scottish Challenge Cup, there’s no mistaking the yellow, red and black. Spotted from a distance, you know exactly who we are.

And yet, as you may have noticed, yellow, red and black isn’t really a good description of our club colours any more. Our last predominantly red-shorts year was the last pre-Pozzo one, 2011/12, and of the nine kits (not just shirts) since then, five have featured no red at all outside the badge, maker’s logo and sponsor. Indeed, before looking into it for this article, I hadn’t realised quite how closely red shorts are associated with the Taylor era – unheard of before him, after switching in 1979 we wore them for all his 12 further seasons in charge, but only five others (1991-1993, 2001/02, 2006/07 and 2011/12).

So – red shorts or black shorts, I don’t mind. And, Gino, we appreciate what you’ve done for us. Enormously. But can we get back to red being a core part of our kit – our identity – please? If we don’t, we risk not only a new generation of fans that aren’t evenly split on the colour our shorts should be (something that’s become a part of our identity in itself), but one that doesn’t even understand the question. And that really wouldn’t be the Watford way.