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Up for a 9 am breakfast, where you can feel a bit of tension in the room. I can remember 7 years ago how I felt and although I am still involved, it is a different feeling when you are going to start the game. The enormity of the occasion and the outcome of the match start to hit home. In fairness, the manager has prepared us well to deal with this and Ben seems nice and calm in the room as the morning progresses. Time skips by and soon we have our pre match meal and get into our suits. The usual walk is cancelled because of the rain, so we are down for our final meeting before leaving for the stadium. The meeting is quite emotional and inspiring and we leave the room feeling 10 feet tall. We can do this!
The journey to the stadium is made easier by the police escort, which takes us past all the queuing traffic. We get a great reception from our fans on arrival at the Millennium Stadium. In the dressing rooms we have a quick look at the programme and then go out onto the pitch together to assess the pitch and take in the atmosphere. It feels quite humid with the roof on as we warm up and this will be a factor in the game. We feel that we are much fitter than Leeds and this could play into our hands.
After warming up, got to the pitch, near the tunnel and meet up with the mascot of the day - Ryan - my son who had been asked by Aidy to be mascot for the team. Ryan was loving it and not nervous at all. We managed to see some friends in the crowd (Anita, Greg and Charlie) and some of the family too.
Back in the dressing room and the manager once more rallies the troops. We leave for the pitch as prepared as we can be for such an occasion. It was a lovely moment to see Ryan lead the team out. Will he be Watford's lucky mascot? As we lined up for the introductions there was an almighty explosion which made me jump I must admit and I wondered how Ryan felt! Then the national anthem was played and I sang my heart out - which again reminded me of 1999. That time I was trying to release some tension, this time I was singing with pride of being part of a great team, knowing my son was at the other end of the line up. What a year this has been and what 10 years of memories I have had at Watford...
The game finally got underway and we seem to settle fairly quickly. The first goal was always going to be crucial and we looked the more likely, especially from set pieces. Their one real chance was the only mistake Ben made all game, coming for a long throw that wasn't his to deal with. Youngy got the all important touch though around the post and after that Ben was immaculate.
The first goal was indeed a set piece, a corner from Youngy met by a flying Jay Demerit! We were off and running and got through to half time without any more scares.
Aidy and his staff set the right tone at half time in what was a very confident dressing room. The players felt Leeds were there for the taking. So it proved!
All through the first half I had been warming up behind Ben's goal keeping him informed with instructions from the bench for him and the back four.This couldn't happen second half but I kept warming up to help calm the nerves!!
The turning point of the second half was the James Chambers piledriver! Once that went in you felt that it was our day, and then Darius sealed it with the third from the spot.
When the penalty went in we all felt on the bench that there was no way back for Leeds, and so it proved. We were respectful to the Leeds bench and then ran on to celebrate with the lads! I made my way for Ben and we had a moment together before all the big celebrations began. It was great for him to keep a clean sheet and play with such composure for someone so young.
We waited a few minutes while they set up the stage on the pitch for the medal ceremony and then got up to receive them. Gav was last so he could then receive the trophy.
Then it was lap(s) of honour to show the fans the trophy and soak up the moments that don't come along too often. It seemed like all the fans would have stayed as long as we kept lapping the pitch, but eventually we got back to the dressing room where the champagne was sprayed around in traditional style. I had already got an eye full of champagne from Doyley when the official photos were being taken, so kept away from the firing line!
Eventually we got showered and met up with our families in the Wrex suite along from the dressing rooms. It was great seeing everyone so happy and relieved!
Onto the coach for the journey back to the Vale of Glamorgan Hotel.The Watford fans who were celebrating in the nearby pubs all came out to give us a great send off from the ground.
We checked in to the hotel and after a bit of confusion with our rooms, got down for the party where all the staff from the club were invited.Aidy was making a speech as we walked in and presenting Doyley with the most consistent player award, which was fully deserved.
Hot and cold food, free bar, which is always a good ingredient for a great party, and we were off and running into the early hours.
Early start as family coach leaves training ground at 9.15 am. Once they are on their way to Cardiff, we can concentrate on final preparations for Sunday. Training is short, as all our energies will be needed for tomorrow. We then travel ourselves to Cardiff to the Vale of Glamorgan Hotel. We arrive half way through the Rugby Cup Final being played down the road! The pitch does not look great! Outside the room which Ben and I have, there is a pool table for the lads to amuse themselves on and downstairs is table tennis. Because of this, we have a steady stream of visitors throughout the afternoon.
After eating our meal in the evening and watching the TV for a bit (not Eurovision!), we get our heads down and dream about the premiership.
Trained with Sunday in mind, going through situations in 11 v 11 games. Also ran through set pieces. In the afternoon, we all had haircuts ready for the big event.
Trained and then got our allocation of tickets that we had ordered for Cardiff. Then the distribution started! Posted my sister Rachel's and a few others for friends. Spanish lesson and after 7.30 pm we had a steady stream of friends calling to collect their tickets ready for the weekend. The manager wanted all these issues dealt with well in advance of the game.
Day off so got a game of golf in with Stuart McGowan, the chairman of Ryan's football club. Watched the Champions League final in the evening.
Trained at the University of Glamorgan, where Cardiff train. It was in really good condition, but very humid. Then after showering it was off to the Millennium Stadium for lunch and a look around and a tour of the dressing rooms etc. Back home to Northampton about 7.30 pm.
Took Ryan to school and had the day at home until we left the training ground at 4 pm to travel to Cardiff. Stayed overnight at the St Davids Hotel, which is where the wives will stay at the weekend. Got there late so it was meal and bed.
Training in the morning and then came home to take the children out for lunch with our friends The Bowens. The two Janes went off for their belated Christmas presents to a local health spa for some pampering and tlc.
Back into training and then home to watch the cup final. Watched the second half at Dychey's and he rustled up a barbeque for us all after the game. It was a great final and interesting to see the stadium at Cardiff knowing we will be there next week!!
Another day off and Jane and I go into town to get some jobs done. In the evening Ryan's football club have their presentation evening, which is split into two groups. I end up doing the presentations for the younger groups and a certain Mr Dyche very kindly does the awards for the older teams.
Ben and I squeeze another game of golf in the morning before he travels up to Stoke. In the evening we have a Testimonial meeting after our next Spanish lesson.
In for a de-brief and training for the group that didn't play. The plan for the build up to Cardiff is also revealed. Ben fancies a game of golf on the way up north so calls in with Kate, his girlfriend, who stays with Jane. Jane cooks us a meal on our return and in the end they stay the night as its getting late.
Run through set pieces during training and then spend the afternoon at the Hilton in preparation for the evening.
The atmosphere within the ground is pretty special as the game gets underway. The idea of having our fans at both ends of the ground really works and the Palace fans are drowned out by the Yellow Army!
We do a great containing job and get through the game without too many incidents on the pitch. Off the pitch is a bit more tense!! The gaffer has his much publicised dust up with Fitz Hall and Rollsy, our phsyio, tries to come to his rescue only to be dispatched to the ground not once, but twice! He has had some stick about that, but fair play, he's took it well!
So, we are delighted to have got through to Cardiff but still know now is not the time to celebrate.
We have a meeting before training to decide our game plan for tomorrow night. Training is kept short and sharp as the two games are so close together.
In for the usual warm down and de-brief from yesterday's game. We realise that there is work to do but if we can start well then Palace will get more desperate as the game goes on. This in turn will give us opportunities on the break.
After getting home we all go to watch Ryan play in a basketball tournament, which his school comes third in.
Early wake up calls at 7:45am and we go for a walk in the park opposite the hotel before we have breakfast/pre-match. It's not long before we are off to Selhurst Park. It's fair to say that Palace have the better of the first half and we are delighted and a little relieved to come in on level terms. The manager makes a change tactically and we score really early on in the second half to change the complexion of the game. This is followed soon after by a brilliant free kick from Youngy and we are looking good. The icing on the cake is Springy's great finish and the tie looks ours, providing we do our jobs on Tuesday night. It is a very happy bus journey back to London Colney!
Train and travel to the Croyden area for the early kick off next morning. We are all in good spirits and you can sense the determination amongst the lads.
Back in to training for the build up to the semi final games with Palace. All the players are glad these games are finally here after all the waiting from when we qualified for the play offs. It is a different feel to the last time we were here but no less exciting! We have a good meeting before we actually train, in which the game plan is decided for Saturday.
Day off from training so relaxed at home and got some jobs done.
In later for training, Jane does some shopping near the training ground and picks me up to go home. We relieve Helen and Colin from their childminding duties and they head back to Ipswich.