LATEST EPISODE: Back To The Future

It’s a podcast of two halves recorded at Tales From The Vicarage Live. In the first half, Jon, Jason and Mike discuss the first four Watford games with Slav Jo as Head Coach. Then, after a half time Doom Bar, they get special access to talk to Tales from The Vicarage authors Lionel Birnie and Adam Leventhal plus guests from the event – Ray Lewington, Tommy Smith, David Holdsworth and Nick Wright.

Email us: podcast@fromtherookeryend.com

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

PODCAST 5: BACK TO THE FUTURE


Where can you hear an interview with an International goalkeeper, a chat with a successful author and the world premiere of a song written for hot shot striker Marvin Sordell? The answer is simple – the fifth ‘From the Rookery End’ podcast.

The latest edition is out now and features an exclusive interview with Watford and England goalkeeper Scott Loach. Scott talks to us about a number of subjects, including what is hidden under his goalkeepers jersey…

Jason, Mike and I have a treat for you. A trip down memory lane as we are joined by Watford fan and author Lionel Birnie, whose book ‘Enjoy the Game’ revisits one of Watford’s most memorable periods – the 1980’s. Lionel met with many of the clubs most prominent figures in researching the book and he was only too happy to share some of his stories with the podcast team. You can buy a copy of the book from Lionel's website.



We have been lucky enough to have had two great chats this month, one about Watford’s past with Lionel, whilst in talking to Scott Loach, we’ve had our eyes very firmly on the future.

Watford’s past is a big part of what makes it such a great club and it was a real delight to talk to Lionel, a man with huge passion for the club and some fantastic stories. Scott was terrific too, his commitment to both improving as a player and to doing his best for Watford was really clear to see, which as a fan is really pleasing.

It’s also worth saying we recorded a section of this podcast after the Scunthorpe game in the old east stand – that is definitely a piece of history I’d like to see the back of!

As well as the two interviews, we talk about Watford’s continued great start to the season, look ahead to the challenges the squad may face and yes, love them or hate them there is another song, this time for Watford’s in form, award winning striker, Marvin Sordell.

-- Jon

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Sunday, 24 October 2010

IF HAD A MILLION DOLLARS...



This post was originally published in the Watford vs Scunthorpe Matchday programme on 23rd October 2010.

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The huge Euro Millions lottery prize was unclaimed. Luckily for Mums of the Watford players, Mike Parkin of ‘From the Rookery End’ hasn’t got the winning ticket…

We’ve all daydreamed about it. We’ve all talked about it with friends and colleagues. We’ve all got our ideas of what it would be like and with a first prize of over £100 million still unclaimed, the question is being discussed more often than ever. What would you do if you won the lottery?

In answering this question, I imagine I’m much like you. We share a passion (some may say affliction) that means our thoughts don’t immediately turn to the houses we’d buy for ourselves and our family. Neither do we imagine a visit to the local Bentley dealership or a trip to an exclusive travel agent. Such frippery is not for us. We are Watford fans. We of course, would invest in the club. Sorry, what’s that? You wouldn’t? You do want a Bentley and a trip to the Seychelles? Oh. Fair enough, it’s just me then. If I won £100 million on the lottery, I’d buy Watford FC.

All new regimes make changes and mine would be no exception. If you are reading this, don’t panic Malky, I like the cut of your jib and your job is safe. Carry on big man. You will see some differences though…

Firstly, our beloved mascot Harry the Hornet. You may not see a grown man in a costume as a priority. You obviously don’t have a 20 month old daughter. She simply can’t get enough Harry. I can’t help feel that she is being short-changed though, with previous incarnations of our furry friend boasting far superior features – an early 90’s version even got an on pitch wedding! It’s time we invested in an asset that has been neglected for far too long. Sorry Malky, that new player from Arbroath can wait - the first thing my money will be buying is a massive, imposing new tail for Harry the Hornet.

Next up, food. If you like pizza pods, I’m sorry. I really am – your taste buds must be shot, presumably after wolfing a scolding hot portion of aforementioned foodstuff. Anyway, they are gone and in their stead I shall be borrowing from the noble sport of cricket. Cricket teas are legendary, containing all manner of fine food and drink, none of which is conducive to playing sport, but all of which tastes delicious. These wondrous meals are usually put together by the Mother of one of the players, lovingly prepared the night before the match. Well, that’s what is going to happen at Vicarage Road. Each home match day the players Mums, on a rota basis, will receive a generous allowance from me to provide home cooked food for us loyal supporters. Michael Bryan will be entitled to a plateful too – having a player weigh in at under 7 stone surely has to be against some FIFA regulation.

Next up. Music. Z cars will remain. Some traditions are sacred. However, any ‘celebration’ music will be axed. Fans’ cheering a goal is the sweetest sound in sport, it doesn’t need a soundtrack to kick-start it. As for pre-match, my regime will see the reintroduction of brass bands playing on the pitch. The sight and sound of these mighty musicians reminds me of standing on the family terrace and the fantastic noise they generate provides far more motivation than hearing Kasabian again…

Obviously the East Stand would be rebuilt and renamed. I will resist the temptation to name it after myself, neither will I use it to promote the podcast which I co-present (next edition available after the Scunthorpe game!). Instead it will be named after an ex-player. No, not Blissett, Barnes, Jenkins or Mooney. I am prepared to ignore history in the vain hope of getting a laugh. It will be named after Jamie Hand. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, The Hand Stand.

Malky will get a few quid to spend of course, but apart from that, I wouldn’t change much at all. If it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it. This club of ours is in pretty decent shape and the people we have in charge are doing a mighty fine job, even without my fictitious winnings and crackpot leadership.

We don’t need to spend millions to be a special club. We already are a special club. You still won’t catch me having a pizza pod though.

Come on you horns!

-- Mike

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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

At Your Place


I can’t remember the last time I went out in Hemel Hempstead. I have a nasty feeling it involved a bottle of gin and a night at the infamous ‘Undertaker Disco’ at the civic centre as an unruly teenager, but (probably due to the gin) I can’t be sure. So, it was with vague memories and no little curiosity that I parked the car in the town centre and made my way to the ‘Function Rooms’ for the Watford FC ‘At your place’ event last week.

Despite remaining badly traumatised by his penalty miss at half time in the Middlesbrough game I had persuaded my brother to come along and as we walked to the venue we admitted to each other we didn’t really know what to expect.

The night was billed as an informal evening, a chance to get to know Malky Mackay, Julian Winter and a few of the players through a questions and answers session in a relaxed, ‘off the record’ atmosphere. We hoped we’d learn a few bits and pieces about the club that we didn’t know previously, but above all I think we just wanted to find out what the guys who represent our
club are really like. We weren’t to be disappointed.

For those that don’t know it, the Function Rooms is effectively a bar or small nightclub, and the event took place in the ground floor room, which by the time we arrived was buzzing to the sound of about 150 Watford fans enjoying a couple of pints and a chat. Shortly after 7:30pm Malky Mackay, Julian Winter, Danny Graham and Lee Hodson took to the stage, each receiving a
well deserved and warm welcome.

The next couple of hours flew by. Questions were answered with a refreshing mix of honesty and humour and not a single issue was side stepped or swerved by any of the four guests. The assembled supporters clearly felt comfortable enough to ask searching questions, some directly questioning Malky’s tactics and substitutions, with others choosing to quiz Julian Winter on
subjects as diverse as the state of the pitch, the Red Lion, Saracens and the search for a new owner. He didn’t get off lightly!

Detailing the nuts and bolts of what was discussed isn’t the purpose of this article, but I feel it would be remiss of me to mention a couple of nuggets of information that I learned in Hemel that evening.

Malky Mackay (who incidentally, was happy to confirm that he does indeed enjoy a beer and a pie) has used the loan system to impressive effect, with Cleverley and Lansbury making a memorable impact last year andJordon Mutch and Andrew Taylor doing likewise this. The Manager took this
opportunity to dispel some common myths about these deals, most notably about the cost.

Malky explained that in nearly all instances, a loan fee is payable to the parent club. He went on to explain that more often than not, not only are the wages the responsibility of the club on which the player goes on loan to but often, the wages paid are higher than those he receives at his parent club. This is a direct result of the competition for top quality loan signings and provides an indication as to the difficulties that Malky faces when trying to bring in new
faces – even on loan.

Those fortunate enough to be present were also left in no doubt that an element of luck comes into sealing deals. Malky concluded the enlightening discussion about loans by talking a bit about the circumstances of the Tom Cleverley transfer. Suffice to say that had Nigel Pearson, at that time manager at Leicester City, not argued with Sir Alex Ferguson about the financial aspect of a proposed loan deal for Cleverley, he would have spent the season at the Walkers Stadium and not Vicarage Road. I think this indicates that Malky is prepared to work at deals and to make sure that they are done correctly, building relationships with potentially important allies such as Sir Alex at Manchester United and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Pearson played the tough guy and lost, our man Malky played the long game - and won.

Mackay also spoke refreshingly honestly about referees, and revealed that on six separate occasions last season, the assessor had called him after a game to apologise for mistakes made by the officials in charge. He also made it clear that it is unlikely we’ll see the substitute referee that took over in our home game with Coventry at this level again…

Whilst the manager and CEO Julian Winter understandably fielded a high percentage of questions, Danny Graham and Lee Hodson played their part too. Both players spoke eloquently in telling a captivated audience their views on diving, their targets for the season and their feelings on that pitch invader at Millwall! They also provided some really interesting insight into what happens when a new player joins up with the squad and how an away match day unfolds.

The event was a rare opportunity to hear first hand some genuinely interesting stories from inside Vicarage Road, there were lots of laughs too, with Malky delighting the crowd with tales of conversations with Elton John, whose contact with Malky has increased markedly since his concert at Vicarage Road during the summer. The most impressive and exciting aspect of the
evening for me however, was the realisation of what a good, solid bunch of people we have involved at our club. At no stage in the evening did Julian, Malky, Lee or Danny show any signs of not wanting to be there – in fact the exact opposite was true. Each of them was engaging and enthusiastic, and most importantly of all, happy and proud to be involved with Watford.

As fans, we should be grateful that the club hold these events. It isn’t every football club that would host a night at which you can have a beer and a chat with players and the management team. Especially not for free. We should be equally grateful that the same players and staff are clearly in it for the right reasons. They understand why we love Watford, because to me and the others that were there that night, it’s clear that they love Watford too.

Another person who was back in love with all things Watford by the end of the night was Andy, my brother. After his half time attempt at a penalty the previous Saturday, he had taken some persuading to come along to a Watford event. Still haunted by the sound of the Rookery serenading him with a chorus of ‘You’re not very good’, he was a broken man. Despite being dogged by flashbacks of his spot kick disappearing over the bar, he dusted himself down and joined me in Hemel. By the end of the night, he was glad he did.

My brother doesn’t mind a flutter, so when he learned of a raffle, he was straight in. He disappeared to the bar with a glint in his eye and returned clutching a strip of tickets. Naturally we thought nothing more of it. Until of course at the conclusion of he evening, Julian Winter drew the winning ticket.

Andy’s winning ticket.

After being introduced to the crowd as ‘the man that missed the penalty’ Andy stepped up to choose his prize. He chose an absolute belter. Some time in November, he will be spending a morning at the training ground with the squad, followed by lunch with Malky Mackay. If Andy can persuade Malky to let him take a penalty during training, he may just be able to redeem himself and finally banish those Vicarage Road ghosts. Maybe.

Anyway, this wasn’t a one off event, there is another planned in Garston on 1 December 2010, so if you want to the chance to hear first hand from some of the most important people at Watford, or even just a crack at the raffle, get in touch with the club and book your place. You won’t regret it!

Come on you Horns!

Mike

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Monday, 4 October 2010

Let’s all laugh at Robbie…


I’m not quite sure why I did it. I think I was a bit tipsy after spending a day at a birthday party with friends. The fact that it was a third birthday party had made the need for a few drinks more urgent, so when I got home in the early evening I was well on my way. Combine this with an exciting day’s golf at the Ryder Cup and yet another superb away win for Watford, it was fair to say I was feeling pretty happy with my lot. With my daughter asleep and my long suffering girlfriend tired of my incessant eulogising about the job Malky Mackay is doing, I had to find a different audience with which to share my sense of satisfaction.

I called 606.

After what felt like a rather rambling explanation of what I wanted to talk about with the BBC researcher, I was promised a call back. Aware I was a bit worse for wear and that after too much Peroni I probably sounded worse than I felt, I wasn’t holding my breath. Moments later however, the phone burst into life and I was told I’d be on air shortly.

I tried to get my thoughts into some sort of credible order but quickly realised it would be more fun if I just went with it and said what I felt. So, after saying hello to presenter Mark Chapman and co-host Robbie Savage, I launched into what grandly (and misguidedly) refer to as my address to the nation.

In short (it was anything but short – I rambled on for what felt like half an hour) the point I wanted to get across was that as a Watford fan, there is real pleasure to be gained from supporting a team that isn’t constantly going for glory and silver-wear. There is satisfaction to be gained from being a fan of a team who works hard on the pitch as well as off it, organising events for the local community and being accessible, open and honest with the fans. I wanted to make the point that not all football supporters are obsessed with the Champions League and multi-million pound signings and for many of us, supporting a well run, family and fan focussed club was something to be proud of.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what reaction I’d get. I certainly didn’t expect what I got.

After an initial “Mmmhmm” of approval from Chappers, in ploughed Robbie Savage, with this well crafted little nugget:

“I don’t like Watford fans”

Oh. I see. I’m not your greatest fan either Robbie, but I wasn’t talking about the fans; I was talking about the club. I certainly wasn’t talking about you…Anyway, Mr Savage went on to back up his outburst:

“I broke my leg at Vicarage Road and as I was stretchered off, all the fans were laughing”

Personally, I would have thought laughter would have been a more welcome sound than the aural delights he is normally greeted with at away grounds, but there you go. His statement was obvious poppycock. I was there and I didn’t laugh. I have to admit, I didn’t shed a tear either, but I certainly didn’t laugh. I don’t recall anyone near me laughing either. So Mr Savage, not all Watford fans found humour in your demise. You’d be lucky (should that be unlucky?) if you found more than a handful that did.

Apart from the obvious factual flaw in his crass statement, of greater concern was Savage’s complete inability to grasp the point I was making. He immediately made the connection between Watford and his injury and from that moment forth used it as a chance to talk about himself. Again. There was fleeting recognition for Watford being well run, but he clearly felt that the nation would rather hear his personal and small minded opinions about Watford fans. It was pathetic.

Luckily it became clear that Chappers had experienced altogether more pleasing dealings with Watford and was quick to say so, readdressing the balance with altogether more constructive and relevant comment. Savage wasn’t having any of it though:

“That may be the case Mark, but I just don’t like Watford fans”

Thanks Robbie, I think we get it.

The frustrating part of it is that not all players have this self obsessed, short sighted and arrogant attitude. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several Watford players and they have been pleasant, humorous, approachable and friendly. I’m sure there are hundreds of professionals who are equally agreeable (Ashley Cole being the obvious King of the exceptions) and just as able to speak eloquently on the wireless. So why stick with Savage?

Admittedly, Chappers does a good job of keeping him in check and his forceful rebukes often make good listening, but this isn’t enough to warrant his continued place on the show.

Robbie Savage has managed to earn a good living. I don’t begrudge him that. It’s not easy to become a professional footballer and he will have worked hard to achieve what he has. In my opinion he is now damaging the profession that has treated him so well. With his consistent ill thought out and self centred comments, he’s making footballers look daft.

In a way, his strange outburst helped illustrate my point further. The range of virtues possessed by Watford that originally prompted my call? Well, Robbie Savage is a shining example of the polar opposite.

Mike vs Robbie - 606 Oct 2 2010 by RookeryEnd

- Mike

To hear Mike chatting with Robbie download the 2/10/10 606 podcast. Mike's call is 9 minutes, 20 seconds from the end.

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