Friday, 9th Dec 2011 13:53 by Tim Whelan
By the standards of Leeds away matches a trip to Watford tends to be a fairly relaxed day out, though of course you’re paying top southern prices for luxuries like car parking and beer. Read on for more essential info about the cultural capital of West Hertfordshire.
If you’re coming by car you need to leave the M1 at junction 5 and take third exit off the roundabout, A4008 (Stephenson Way), signposted Watford Town Centre. At the next roundabout follow signs to Town Centre, and immediately in front of you is the Harlequin Centre. Stay in the middle lane of the three lane carriageway on ring road, and after the second set of traffic lights (Watford Springs on your left), move into the left lane and take the turning signposted Hospital and West Watford. Then follow signs to Rickmansworth / West Watford A4145, take left hand lane and bear left at traffic lights and you’ll get to the ground. The floodlights are visible from some way off, but if you get lost you can look for signs to Watford General hospital.
There is virtually no street parking around Vicarage Road, as local streets are blocked by the police, and side streets fill up very quickly with home traffic. There is a public car park at the Hospital, which holds 700 spaces and costs £2.50, and it’s about a five minute walk away from the ground, but will take take at least 45 minutes to get out after the game. The Harlequin Centre also offers parking, though you might get held up by all those people who use Saturdays for frivolous things like shopping. There is a car park at Fishers Industrial Estate in Wiggenhall Road, which you can reach by turning left at the first junction you get to after turning left off the ring road onto the A4145. Its five minutes from the ground and very secure, but costs £4.
The main railway station is Watford Junction, on the main line from Euston, which is about a 20 minute walk. From here you take the main road straight opposite (Clarendon Road) all the up to the High Street. Turn left and go past past Wetherspoons (Moon under Water) on your right and then take the first right after 100 yards into Market Street. Continue along again crossing Ring Road to the next T junction. Turn left here, then take the next right into Vicarage Road. If you can’t raise the energy to walk this far you can get a local train one stop to Watford High Street, a ten minute walk away from the ground. There used to be a seperate ‘Watford Stadium Halt’ on the Croxley Green branch, but I think this line is now disused. Watford underground station (on the Metroplitain line) is about a mile away, but take note that it is outside the one-day travelcard zones and you'll get a £10 fine if you don't buy an extension before you get to the station.
There are a couple of decent pubs in the town centre, including the ‘Moon Under Water’ (see above) and the ‘Hogs Head’ in the High Street, while if you arrive at Watford Junction by train you can call into the ‘Flag and Firkin’ before you venture any further. Also recommended are three real ale pubs near the station, the ‘Estcourt Arms’, which you can find by turning left outside the station and taking the first left into St. John’s Road, the ‘Southern Cross’ in Langley Road and the ‘Nascot Arms’ in Stamford Road. The best option near the ground is 'Oddfellows' in Fearnley Street, which is small but welcoming. One to avoid is the Red Lion, which is strictly for home fans only. If you need to get some scoff, there is a food court in the Harlequin centre, but I’m told the best option in the town centre is Dominic's Snack Bar in Merton Road, which offers decent food at moderate prices. Next to the ground you can find the excellent Fry-days Fish and Chips on Vicarage Road.
To comply with the Taylor Report, Watford had to re-build both ends of the ground during the 1990's. Away supporters used to have a long walk to the away end as you had to walk around some allotments, but this is no longer the case, as we now have the Vicarage Road Stand at the opposite end of the ground. This stand is shared with home supporters, and the usual allocation is 2,200 seats, out of a total capacity of 19,900, though occasionally the larger clubs get the whole of this end.
Being a new stand, the view from here is pretty good. Unlike home fans, we don’t have the privilege of being able to buy alcohol in our section, and the food inside the ground has been dire for many years. Unfortunately we only got 2,000 tickets this time and these have now sold out, If you haven’t already got a ticket from Leeds then you won’t be able to get in, as tickets for the ‘home’ areas of the ground are only being sold to fans with a “recent booking history” on Watford’s database. Current ticket prices for away fans are £25 for adults and £15 for concessions.
The Club did have plans to re-develop the stadium, starting with the East Stand, which is the oldest part of the ground and is currently closed for safety reasons. The project will also involved filling in all four corners, one of which will eventually become the visitors’ section. But unfortunately this all had to be put on hold due to the ‘credit crunch’ etc, so it looks as though we’ll have to wait a while yet before we can look forward to a decent ticket allocation at Watford.
Photo: Action Images
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