For many fans, the weekend is a familiar ritual. They wake up late, after 9 at least, after a hard week of work and get ready to enjoy their time off. It’s all that gets them through the drudgery of the day job. That was actually why football was encouraged by the church at the time of its conception: they saw it as a way to keep the masses content and, more importantly, active. Their belief that it would lead men away from alcohol and escorts turned out to be spectacularly wrong, but they got one thing right: it does help to give people a focal point for their time and quite often for their lives.
That’s rather ironic, considering all of the quasi religious elements that are infused into footballing culture. In many ways, it is the secular man’s religion. The group dynamic, the irrational faith in something bigger than one’s self, the weekly congregation of believers bedecked in their polyester symbols of belief. Many clubs seem to hold a greater sway over their supporters than the churches of the area, their every word holds the crowd in sweet rapture. Watford is a club you wouldn’t normally associate with that sort of fanatical support but under Graham Taylor they became a club synonymous with an almost cult like belief. Fans would enjoy the same pregame frivolities, with beer, chips and Watford escorts all making regular appearances, but when the match kicked off they transformed into a totally different beast.
They were famous for their incredibly direct style, which was heavily based on the work of Charles Reep. Reep proposed that football was a simple game of chance. By taking a large number of shots, a team would greatly increase their chance of winning. Over elaborate play looked fantastic, but strings of 4 passes or more were needless: they didn’t create a chance. Teams should instead strive to get the ball into the area as soon as possible and to get as many shots on target as possible. It was an ugly style of football that, as well as being statistically ludicrous, was awful to watch. Watford fans became ingrained with a defensive stance as their team attracted more and more criticism. Soon they developed a siege mentality, where it was them against the world. They began chanting abuse at teams they had no history with and others began to dread travelling to Vicarage road. Local businesses and Watford escorts were distraught, slowly but surely the fans were beginning to make the area a dangerous place for outsiders.
Nowadays, the club has begun to soften. That culture of crude football condemned Watford to failure in the late 90’s and the fans have slowly begun to realise that everyone isn’t against them. With the ever smiling and utter charismatic Gianfranco Zola in charge, the image is beginning to soften. Perhaps more importantly, their football is becoming a lot more attractive as they learn to pass the ball along the ground a lot more. Perhaps this can be a new period for the club, as they look to reinvent themselves.
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