It is my favourite place in the world and having not been there for three months I was suffering withdrawal symptoms. So it was lovely this afternoon to be back at the Vic. Its not changed really at all inside but the wrap around project has made great strides in the close season and is now visible in three corners of the ground.
I was surprised and impressed by the number of people in the Upper Rous. It seemed far more had bothered than the last couple of friendlies we've held at home (Willem II and Chievo). There was a good atmosphere too with the Rookery end reprising Hoist Up the Watford Flag, rehearsing various Brendan Rodgers' hating songs and trying out a new Jay DeMerit chant. Parma had brought some fans that I couldn't see but could hear. Maybe it was because they're Italian but their chanting sounded a lot more like a religious choir than ours.
Given the lack of subs that were made I'm guessing that Malky named his preferred starting XI with the exception of McAnuff who is still ill. Its been getting on for a month now that this excuse has been used with no other comment being made and I can't be the only one wondering what's up with him. Loach was preferred to Lee. Mariappa, Williamson, DeMerit and Doyley made up the back four. Jenkins and Severin were in the centre of midfield. Cowie and a warmly greeted Tommy Smith were on the flanks with Priskin and Graham in the middle of the attack.
Danny Graham looks like he will score a lot of goals for us. He was excellent this afternoon getting into all sorts of awkward positions and always looking like a threat. He is the total opposite of Ellington who I'm really trying to like and encourage when he appears as a sub which he did today. But Graham's constant movement, hassling and sharpness just highlights Ellington's lethargy, dis-interest and slowness even more so than Marlon used to.
The game was made fun by a particularly fussy ref who gave the majority of decisions our way, which gradually wound the Parma players up more and more. They didn't do themselves any favours though protesting and over-reacting as if it was the Champions League final rather than an early pre-season friendly (for them) at a club they'd probably never heard of before. This didn't stop them taking the lead when a well hit free kick was fumbled by Loach and a Parma forward reacted quickest slotting it home but kicking Loach's head in the process. He was down for quite a while but did continue and otherwise did well showing no signs of any hangover from his adventure with the Under 21's.
I wondered if we were in for a long afternoon but soon after we were level following good work from Mariappa who reclaimed the ball having lost it and hit a cross into Graham who nodded down for Priskin to strike. His shot was saved but fell in the path of Tommy Smith and a chasing Parma defender who appeared to hit the ball together into the net. Unsurprisingly the goal was given to Tommy.
Two minutes later and we were ahead. Smith raced down the wing ignoring the blatant shirt pulling which the linesman flagged for. The ref chose to ignore it too and allowed us to play on despite the fact the Parma players all seemed to have stopped. Tommy crossed it for Danny Graham to fire past the keeper. The Parma players were livid and surrounded both the ref and linesman much to our amusement. Play to the whistle lads.
At half time Radio Hornet made themselves the early leaders in this seasons oddest song to be played at a football ground competition with fans favourite Karma Chameleon. Maybe we could adapt it into a chant. "Tommy, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy, Tommmmmmiieeee Smith, please don't go, please don't go-oh-oh-oh".
Parma were still riled by the ref in the second half and tried a good few times to take it out on us including their keeper trying to hit Danny Graham at one point. It all made for a far more entertaining game than friendlies usually are. They disputed our third goal as one of their players went down in the area like he'd been shot in the back. We kept playing and Priskin poked the ball home.
They managed to keep their heads to get one back when the fantastically named McDonald Mariga hit a shot from about 30 yards. Have Parma taken sponsoring a player to new heights? There was nothing Loach could do as the ball flew onto the crossbar and in. The goal was that good that everyone applauded it.
There were a couple of nervous moments late on but we deservedly hung on to our lead and the players got a far longer and louder reception at full time than you'd normally expect in a friendly.
Bring on next week. It's good to be home again.