Previously v West Bromwich Albion
Two moments of attacking brilliance from M’Baye Niang lit up this fractious and ill-tempered game, the Milan loanee scoring one goal and creating another in spectacular style while around him boots, and indeed bookings, were flying about wildly. His 20-yard curler in the 13th minute set Watford on their way to a win that pushes them up to ninth and all but confirms their top-flight place for another season, even if Miguel Britos’s sending off with 25 minutes to play meant the game became more a struggle than a celebration.
The day began with Walter Mazzarri being told by the Watford hierarchy that his job could quite possibly be under threat if he did not begin to make more of an effort to speak English to supporters and journalists. It ended with the club reflecting on a second successive victory, sitting in the top-half of the Premier League table.
Walter Mazzarri is nothing if not passionate, and the Watford manager was torn between pride and rage after seeing his side effectively guarantee Premier League survival after a battling win over West Bromwich Albion.
When I’m not working, sleeping, chasing children or watching football I enjoy am-dram. A week or two ago, in a restaurant before a show, I tried to argue to some football-sceptic acting friends that football could be thoroughly dramatic, exciting, inspiring, as much so as anything that takes place on a stage. It was a tumbleweed moment; I don’t think I convinced any that weren’t already sold.
A month into a new job, I don’t have many regular meetings but one that I do have is on Tuesday from 5 to 6pm. As the meeting came to a close, I was itching to get away. When the request was made for any questions, the response of one of my colleagues that she had one immediately took her off my Christmas card list. As soon as I was able, I made a rapid exit and was at Euston in time for the 18:30. With a brief stop to check in to my hotel, I made a beeline for the ground. As I reached the Rookery, it was lovely to see Gifton Noel-Williams outside chatting to someone. After entering through the turnstiles, I found that the concourse was deserted. In the stand, my family were in their seats but there were not many others there. Then I heard Tim on the tannoy announce that it was 25 minutes to kick-off. No wonder the place was so empty, I was ridiculously early … and I was going to have to watch this game sober, not a prospect I was relishing. My early arrival did mean that I got to see the warm-up. The notice on the big screen warning spectators to look out for balls flying into the crowd didn’t prevent a guy in the front of the stand being hit by an errant shot from Capoue. The Frenchman leaped into the stand in order to apologise. This had quite an effect on my niece, who is a big fan and came over all unnecessary, “I wish he’d hit me.” Another off-pitch distraction came by way of my sister’s niece, who is studying for a degree in football broadcasting. She had enquired about opportunities to gain experience at Watford and had been invited to shadow the media team for this game. She was thrilled, but I think her aunt(s) were even more excited than she was.
Well, just how do you sum up the events of last night? Not easily, that’s for sure, but I’ll try my best. My heart rate has finally slowed down after an excruciatingly tense night under the lights of Vicarage Road. We must have all come close to cardiac arrest at some stage during the final 20 minutes, but I’ll get to that later.