Meet the Watford FC superfan who transformed the shed at the bottom of his garden into a Hornets shrine during the first national lockdown.
Paul Thompson, 44, who manages a branch of Poundland in Milton Keynes, transformed his shed into a temple to his beloved football team while pubs were forced to shut back in spring.
Kitted out with a bar, stools, kits and optics from eBay, the bar reflects a lifelong love for the Championship club.
The 44-year-old’s creation has been named was Fray Bentos Home Pub Of The Year, after judges were wowed by Pauls’ impressive collection of memorabilia.
“I’ve been a fan of Watford since I saw them lose to Everton in the 1984 Cup Final when I was eight years old”, Paul, who grew up in Hemel Hempstead explained.
Paul enjoys DIY projects and had previously undertaken one to decorate parts of his home only using Poundland products.
“My grandfather bought me back a jersey from the game, that’s what sparked my interest initially.
“I started going to games fairly regularly and then became a season ticket holder. I used to follow them home and away and carried on doing so right up until about 15 years ago when I met my wife. It’s part of my way to carry on that connection to Watford.
“Obviously there’s been plenty of ups and downs over the years – but I’ve always remained faithful to them and I’ve enjoyed some truly amazing times following them.”
Paul’s obsession with Watford began in the 80s.
Pride of place in Paul’s bar are two special items – a framed ticket to the 1999 Wembley play-off final that saw Watford promoted to the Premier League – and a poster from 1977 depicting Elton John’s vision for the club’s future in the First Division. It sees the Rocketman riding on a hornet while Anfield beckons in the distance.
The superfan, whose favourite player of all time is Heurelho Gomes, reckons the Hornets have made an encouraging start to the season, despite a few losses against sides he expected Watford to beat.
“There was a downward slide from last season that we seem to have stopped”, he said. “And if Ivic can be given enough time, then I think we will do alright and be near enough the top come the end of the season.
“The eighties were really our glory years – with Elton coming in as chairman and Graham Taylor being appointed manager. They really were a dream team.”
He says he is delighted to win £1,000 and a year’s supply of pies.
Paul added: “I’m absolutely delighted to have won the Fray Bentos Home Pub Of The Year competition. I’ve been a fan of Fray Bentos for as long as I can remember. The contest was the perfect opportunity to combine my love for The Hornets with my passion for every footie fan’s favourite combination – a good old pie and a pint.
“The winning feeling’s almost as good as watching Nicky Wright bury that overhead kick into the back of the net during the 1999 Play-Off final at Wembley.”
Paul takes home the first prize of £1,000 alongside a year’s supply of Fray Bentos pies.