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A selection of Watford fans' memories of the East Stand at Vicarage Road
11:29am Thursday 24th October 2013 in Latest Sport
MY first game at Vicarage Road was the 4-0 drubbing of Hull City to gain promotion to the second division I think back in 1979. I was six.
Thirty-five years later I still remember the floodlights glistening above the stands, seeing and smelling the burger fan on the corner of Occupation Road, the general excited hubbub of the fans all wearing scarves and then climbing the East Stand wooden steps to see the most beautiful sight I have ever seen to this day (no offence to the wife).
As I climbed the steps, I saw the pitch first, the dew glistening in the bright floodlights and then a whole new world literally opened up in front of me. It took my breath away – the ground seemed massive, as big as the Camp Nou, and from that point I was hooked.
To see four goals, the likes of Blissett, Jenkins, Bolton and Joslyn and a massive pitch invasion at the end was incredible.
I have an awful lot to thank my Dad for, but above all else I thank him for taking me that night. – John O’Shea, Braintree, Essex
I have a few memories of the East Stand from a young age, back in the mid-80s.
Me, my brother and friends always used to convince the stewards one at a time that we needed to get through to that area of the ground from the Family Terrace where we were season-ticket holders to quickly do something. We always ended up sitting in the back of the East Stand behind the blind supporters and their guide dogs until five minutes before the end of the game, when we then returned to our parents in the Family Terrace.
Another time I remember being at the coldest game I have ever been to in the cup against Torquay and all I wanted to do was go home. But I endured the cold for 90 minutes, standing at the back of the East Stand freezing half to death.
After 90 minutes it was level and then straight away in extra-time Gifton Noel-Williams scored and I could not even move to cheer the goal it was that cold.
Maybe a memory of the East Stand that was not so good was when we sat in there and you used to hear a recording of the crowd from previous games. The stadium was very quiet and there was not many in the Vic so they did this when they were reporting on the radio (or at least that is how it seemed). – Daniel Sayell, Watford
My first visit to the East Stand was not long after moving to Watford in 1996 and taking my son (probably about five at the time) to his first football match.
He had been to watch badminton and golf before so it was quite amusing when the ref’s whistle went to start the match and my lad looked up to me and asked, ‘do we have to be quiet now dad?’.
We watched a few more matches from the East Stand before becoming hooked on the Hornets and taking out family season tickets. We have renewed every year since. – Don McDougall, Watford
November 1971 will conjure up many bad memories for those who were supporting Watford as we won only five matches all season.
I sat in the East Stand for the league match against Luton when Colin Franks scored a goal which was clearly offside and it stood. Luton were furious. Lovely moment.
When you experience such lows as we did in 1971/72, you are continually drawn back to the club like a strong magnet despite watching Arsenal play in the European Cup.
I missed the Portsmouth game that season.Watford won and I was back in the East Stand for the Fulham game with torrential rain and a 2-1 defeat so I understand the saying ‘Watford ’til I die’ as nothing compares – and nothing ever will.
Brentford conjured up a different kind of memory in April 1977 when we failed to score two penalties and subsequently lost our unbeaten home record It was Huddersfield a week or so later and those who were there experienced a real ‘Roy of the Rovers’ moment when Watford had Tony Geidmentis and Alan Mayes sent off. Keith Mercer then played as a lone striker and scored two goals to secure the win. Unbeknown to Watford fans, Mike Keen had been sacked and they chanted ‘Keen in’.
My wife and I (and later my daughters in the newly established family enclosure) held season tickets in the East Stand from 1976 to 1981 when we moved abroad.
Upon on our return, we never went back to the East Stand as we preferred to sit in other parts of the ground. However in the East Stand we experienced the defeats of Southampton and Forest in the League Cup in 1980 and so much more. – Paul Ford, Linslade, Leighton Buzzard
My father first took me to Vicarage Road in 1945/46 when I was four years old. We used to stand at the end that Watford were kicking towards, changing ends at half-time by walking in front of the old Shrodells Stand. Not being able to sustain my concentration for the full 90 minutes, I used to watch the flock of pigeons that used to circle incessantly over the East Stand. I wonder if anyone else remembers that?
The first time I actually went in the East Stand was when Watford played Manchester United in the fourth round of the cup in 1949/50. Watford had knocked Preston, Tom Finney and all, out in the previous round in a replay at Deepdale and there were hopes that they could pull off another giant-killing feat.
It was not to be, of course, and I remember my disappointment when Arthur Rowley scored in a one-on-one with the Watford goalie Geoff Morton. Nevertheless, it was a not-to-be-forgotten memory for an eight-year-old, now 72 and still a season ticket holder. – Colin Hearsey, Wokingham
My East Stand memory – other than freezing to death at the Auto-Windscreen game against Torquay – was when I worked at the club shop.
We had a couple of mini-store rooms there and one day my boss and I were trying to tidy a couple of them up. In one room we discovered that behind the mountains of clothes and merchandise were old awards, including the young player of the season. Seeing the names on the trophy was pretty amazing, but quite sad that they were forgotten about and just gathering dust in a small corner of the stand.
Not the most exciting I know, but it was a nice private memory only me and one other person had.
I loved the stand mainly for it being a great little maze under the seats and definitely more interesting that the new Ikea stands with just vast concourses. – Sean Fulton, Radlett
Steve Freedman and his wife, Francine, had their wedding reception in the East Stand before taking to the picture to have their photographs taken.
Twenty five years ago my soon to be wife and I were searching for a venue to hold our wedding reception but unbeknown to her, there was only one place dear to my heart – and part of the Watford FC package that came with me as a husband – that qualified as a suitable venue.
So after a little bit of persuasion she acquiesced and we held our party in the function room under the Main Stand.
A few glasses of champagne later, she needed less persuasion to have the wedding pictures taken on the hallowed turf. – Steve Freedman, Hatch End
My first experience of sitting in the East Stand gave me one of my favourite moments at The Vic.
On a gloriously sunny day in September at the start of the 1995/96 season the 'Orns faced Sheffield United. Being nine , a seat at the front of the East Stand at the Rookery end of the ground was an exciting experience.
Derek Payne scored a rare goal that day. A brilliant overhead kick that soared into the back of the net. I was sat in line with where Derek was as he shifted his body acrobatically to shoot.
I remember the clatter of the old seat as it hit the back rest and the roar of the crowd.
I’ve never seen a video of the goal, and I don’t intend to. It will never live up to how wonderful it was to see at the time. – Matt Churchill, Walthamstow
I watched my first ever game in the East Stand, in E block. I don't remember too much about it, but saw us win the fourth division, and get promoted from the third from there. At the tender age of seven, I remember sitting on the stairs and shouting for a penalty, without the slightest idea of what a penalty was!
I also remember chatting to the nice man who operated the scoreboard after a game, and he showed me, my brother and cousin how it worked – and put our names up on the scoreboard with the jumping men! A never-to-be-repeated moment.
Even as an adult, I struggled to climb those wooden stairs... – Kate Holmes, Penang, Malaysia
I remember many years ago when my two sons and myself went to the Vic to watch Luther Blissett in his first game for the England Under-21s.
We were waiting to buy tickets at the turnstile as you did then when I noticed this massive bloke with a big bushy beard walking along the line and looking at people. He got down to me, looked at my two boys and me and said with a voice like Ray Winstone, ‘are you three together?’ ‘Yes’ I replied timidly, ‘we are’.
Well the next thing I knew he had thrust three tickets into my hand and said ‘go in there’, which was the players and officials entrance. ‘Fantastic, saved a few quid there’ I thought, which was handy as I was a bit skint at that time.
Anyway, up we went to our seats, just the three of us, nobody else anywhere near us. I thought ‘this is not right, we are going to get turfed out soon’. I must admit I was worried and lots of things went through my mind but I had no need to fret.
The match started and then all these people sat round us, in front and behind and started chatting and shaking hands, and then all of a sudden it hit me. This was the England senior team playing at Wembley the following evening – Brooking, Thompson and the manager Ron Greenwood and all the other players whose names I can’t remember. But I do remember John Motson interviewing Trevor Brooking about the team for Wembley and Brooking being very cagey and careful of what he said.
It turned out to be a wonderful evening of talking and getting autographs. My boys were in their element and it turned out that the tickets we got were from the coach driver of the senior England team. – Alec Waring, South Oxhey
The only time I sat in the East Stand was at reserve matches when the terraces weren’t open.
Whenever I sat there, I felt I was right at the heart of the club – just behind the directors, and clearly able to see and hear what was happening on the bench. (This was when the bench was actually a bench – wooden and perched by the touchline).
My favourite moment came during a reserve game against Peterborough (I think) in the late 1970s or so. The ball rolled out of play behind the wooden bench on which the manager, trainer and substitute were sitting. They all leaned back to reach for the ball – and collectively tumbled over backwards.
It was a gloriously shabby moment, viewed from a gloriously shabby stand. It wouldn’t have been the same watching it from a bright red tractor seat. It was the best seat in the house. – Olly Wicken, London
My Watford journey started with my father in the Shrodells, followed by a friend taking me to stand ‘on the bend’ next to the refreshment hut, to the Rookery as a teenager. I graduated to the East Stand in the mid 70s and a season ticket by the time Graham Taylor arrived.
Here are some of my highlights, not necessarily in the right order.
Meeting Chris and Cliff and their families who remain friends to this day, and many others who I still see around Watford.
Taking my daughter as a five-year-old to reserve then first-team matches and sitting with families of the players and the players who weren’t playing. Too numerous to mention but Iwan Roberts and Tim Sherwood spring to mind.
Celebrating promotion against Wrexham and cutting my leg on the seat in front by leaping up to cheer another Ross Jenkins goal.
Taking my wife, her brother and his then girlfriend to her first football game – Watford 7 Southampton 1 – and her asking as we left the ground ‘is it always like that?’ Feeling intimidated when certain teams came to visit as they somehow managed to outnumber us in the stand.
Getting the most awful bovril from the refreshment bar underneath and buying it regularly.
I wouldn’t have missed any of it. – Stuart Platts, Ruislip
As a lifelong supporter of more than 40 years, I have many happy memories of times spent with family and friends at the Vic.
Few can match the happy pre-match and half-times spent in what was undoubtedly the smallest bar in the East Stand.
While this bar had no name, and was more akin to an antiquated air raid shelter, our small platoon of friends used to congregate before every game for the obligatory convivial pint or two.
This peaceful and quiet drinking hole became a heaving throng at half-time, with fellow supporters battling to queue, order, purchase and consume any food and beverages prior to the commencement of the second half.
Having endured the carnage for a season or two, we were struck by our very own ‘Eureka’ moment.
Having built a respectful relationship with the bar staff, through amusing banter and mutual appreciation, we suggested a theatre style pre-booking arrangement. While this took some persuasion, we were finally able to pay for and book interval drinks in advance. We were less than popular as we squeezed past the agitated and mystified queue before convening by the collection of ready poured drinks at the end of the bar.
This became a regular feature of ‘our hospitality suite’ and I could never quite understand how it did not catch on with the battle-hardened throng. Nonetheless, many good times were had, many pints were sunk, and many early second-half goals were missed, and I daresay WFC bar profits soared. – Richard Finch, Harpenden
East Stand memories: Block F, Row G, seats 141, 142 and 143. A second home to me, my Dad and brother from 1985 to 1997.
The Family Enclosure.
Anne Swanson, free programmes.
The chocolates table at the front of the stand just behind the dugout.
The original floodlights.
The dugout, green plastic chairs with no roof.
Graham Taylor, Billy Hails, Steve Harrison and John Ward in the dugout.
Leaking pipework in the roof, soaking the fans when it rained.
The Rookery to the left with the Watford Observer clock, ‘always at the top, tells more, sells more’.
Vicarage Road terrace to the right. The scoreboard and its happy jumping men saluting each goal.
View of the Rous Stand and its unfinished lower tier ‘garage’ doors.
Blackburn at home in the play-off semi-final. Staying down.
Birmingham and Palace at home in the play-off semi-final. Wembley and Cardiff bound… Going up.
John Barnes, Luther Blissett, Steve Sherwood, Tony Coton, John McClelland, Steve Terry, Steve Terry’s headband, Lee Sinnott, David Bardsley, Nigel Gibbs, Colin West, Nigel Callaghan, Wilf Rostron, Mark Falco, Gary Thompson, Robert Page, Worrell Sterling, David James, Kevin Richardson, Brian Talbot, Holdsworth brothers, Iwan Roberts, Kevin Phillips, Colin Foster, Tommy Mooney, Paul Robinson, Perry Digweed, Steve Cherry, Devon White, Craig Ramage, Paul Furlong, Bruce Dyer, Derek Payne, Lee Nogan, Ashley Young, Roger Willis and Peter Beadle.
Dave Bassett, Colin Lee, Steve Perryman, Peter Taylor, Glenn Roeder.
”Sit down Smith”, the East Stand’s welcome for Jim Smith.
Z Cars and Chariots of Fire.
Solvite and Iveco.
Hats, scarfs and rattles.
0-0 at home to Shrewsbury.
Beating Manchester United, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal, regularly.
Anti-Jack Petchy pitch invasion, during Grimsby at home on a Tuesday night.
Relegation from Division One.
To me (age seven when we first bought our season tickets), that stand epitomised football in all its naked glory.
A new era beckons. – Oliver Martin, Mill Hill
This feature first appeared in Friday's printed edition of the Watford Observer.
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