“It was like discovering Narnia – we were dumbstruck!” says Ali Shah, as he recalls the moment in 1978 that he and his brothers accidentally discovered Vicarage Road.
“My Dad had gone to see a friend in Watford hospital and told me and my brothers to wait. Being typical kids, we ignored him, went exploring and found a fence with a hole in it. When we stumbled into Vicarage Road we felt like we’d discovered Narnia.
“ My kids have had a very different experience of being a football supporter to me. It’s changed dramatically and is much better and safer.”Ali Shah, Watford Fan
“It took weeks for us to persuade our Dad to let us go to a match but we pestered and pleaded with him and eventually he relented. I remember the smell, the noise and the excitement of that first match so well.”
Ali’s daughter Sana, 24, is also a long-standing Watford season ticket holder. She goes to as many home and away games as she can and remembers her first match just as vividly.
“When I was ten years old, my Dad took me to my first game. It was a night game and I was so excited. I instantly recognised Heidar Helguson as I'd seen him at the supermarket right after he signed for us.”
It’s not lost on Ali how things have changed in almost four decades of support, “My kids have had a very different experience of being a football supporter to me. It’s changed dramatically and is much better and safer.”
And Sana’s friends think her football-mad Dad is great, “My friends always tell me how cool my dad is, and I guess they're right. I love seeing his passion on match day. We both love the build-up, the walk to the ground, the banter with opposition fans, the songs and the absolute scenes when Watford score! Seeing Leicester do so well this season has given hope to us all.”
Ali adds, “For me, football has always also been about the elements around it - the clothing, the music and the camaraderie as much as the game itself.”