A Day in the (After) Life

Rumours, nostalgia, and being back in the Championship.

Henry Grover gives us a glimpse of daily life in Hornet Heaven.

Henry Grover died in 1949 at the age of 83. In 1881, he founded Watford Rovers — the team that later became Watford FC. In Hornet Heaven, he’s known as as The Father Of The Club.

I always start my day the same way: by grabbing myself a programme and popping through the ancient turnstile. I always go to the same match because I like to keep myself regular. My current choice is a 3-2 home win over Everton in 2016. It’s highly nourishing, with a special sprinkling of Stefano Okaka flakes.

After that, I’m ready for whatever another day in Hornet Heaven can throw at me as Father Of The Club.

Since relegation from the Premier League, quite a few residents have needed jollying up. I do my best to keep things cheery, but a lot of people’s self-esteem is affected by which division we’re in. Personally, I’m delighted that the club is at a higher level than a kickabout in Cassiobury Park — which is how I got things started in 1881. I try to persuade people that, even in the Championship, we’re still punching above our weight. Then I remember that we’ll be playing Wycombe Wanderers twice this season and I doubt myself.  

In the middle of the day, I enjoy an excursion. I can’t go outside Hornet Heaven, of course, because we’re locked down for eternity. But a trip through the ancient turnstile to an old game helps me see something of the world. This tends to be Selhurst Park a lot, admittedly, but it’s good to get out.

My choice of midday game depends on my mood. If I’m after a bit of good old nostalgia, I’ll go to something like the first leg of our League Cup semi-final in 1979 when Ross and Luther took the game to Nottingham Forest on a pitch that appeared to be a tributary of the River Trent. Or, if I have a curious itch I need to scratch, I might revisit an incident that has passed into myth — like Albert McClenaghan’s throw-in against Southport in 1977 — to find out what really happened. If I need perking up, I’ll go for something prescription-strength like the Kaiserslautern game.   

In the afternoons, I like to find out whether any new residents have joined us in Hornet Heaven. They arrive with news and gossip that we normally miss out on because all we get to see are the matches themselves. New arrivals can tell us who’s said what on Twitter or Instagram. It’s good to be given a peek behind the veil even if what’s underneath is dreadfully ugly. (Which, I’m given to understand, is a very good description of Twitter.)

If the day’s a matchday, I keep an ear cocked for the cry of ‘Programme’s In!’ — which means we can all hurry through the ancient turnstile to see a brand new Watford game. Sometimes, brand new Watford games look very similar to recent Watford games. (You know the thing: we look sound defensively, and promising going forwards, but we don’t actually create any chances.) But we’re always on tenterhooks to know the outcome of the latest episode in this soap opera that none of us can escape. Often it’s a splendid outcome. If you want my advice, there’s nothing so nice as taking three points off of Luton.

In the evening, I like to wind down with a few friends. I have a regular booth in The Gallery restaurant in the south west corner of the stadium. Most nights, I’m there with my oldest pal — Charlie Peacock — who played in the original Cassiobury Park kickabout in 1881. Hornet Heaven is wonderful in lots of different ways, but it’s the friendships with other Watford fans that mean the most. Matches may be wretched, and relegations may hurt, but our love for the club keeps us all together. It always has done, and always will do, for eternity. 

Having said that, Charlie is totally wrong about the new kit.

The latest episode of Hornet Heaven is out now. Listen at www.HornetHeaven.com or wherever you get your podcasts.