Tempers boiled over time and again, just as they did in the corresponding fixture at Vicarage Road in October, after which Troy Deeney was retrospectively banned, and it was something of a surprise the game finished with 22 players on the pitch.
Watford’s choice of Javi Gracia as Marco Silva’s successor might not have been an obvious one to many supporters but the 47-year-old Spaniard came with a sound record and a solid reputation and there were at least signs that the latest through the revolving door at Vicarage Road might be able to lift flagging spirits.
I’m here as the result of a phonecall from fellow former fanzine editors at Stephen Todd’s funeral back in October, suggesting that we take on the season’s least inviting midweek away trip in his honour. Toddy knew how to do football supporting better than pretty much anyone I’ve ever met; I’ve lost the knack, but something in the idea has remained sufficiently appealing that I haven’t wheedled my way out in the meantime. We arrive in Stoke at not long after four o’clock, settle into the local Harvester, avail ourselves of the salad cart, try to build a list of every goalscorer from the Pozzo era. Shenanigans and indeed misdemeanours from away trips of yore are mentioned; Dave keeps that flame alive by ordering gammon with egg and pineapple.
It wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t a game that we’ll recall as we lie on our death bed. What it was however was a game where we showed a vast improvement on Saturday, in both quality and character.
After a swift glass of red at the pub, we headed back to the hotel and spent a late night in the lounge with a large number of Watford fans. Everyone in attendance had thoroughly enjoyed the performance and were happy to have been part of a more positive crowd.