A Watford FC superfan is celebrating after the bar he built in his back garden during the first nationwide lockdown was crowned Fray Bentos Home Pub Of The Year.
Paul Thompson, 44, who manages a branch of Poundland in Milton Keynes, transformed his shed into a temple to his beloved Hornets while pubs were forced to shut back in spring.
Kitted out with a bar, stools and optics from eBay, the winning home pub wowed judges with walls adorned with memorabilia reflecting a lifelong love for the Championship club.
Paul said: “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.
“Obviously there’s been plenty of ups and downs over the years – but I’ve always remained faithful to them and, as a season ticket holder for a number of years, I’ve enjoyed some truly amazing times following them.
“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.”
Lorraine Rothwell, marketing director at Fray Bentos, comments: “With our hunt for the Home Pub Of The Year we wanted to celebrate the backyard bartenders of Britain who have been showing their creativity during these challenging times.
“All the entries we received were incredible, but Paul’s wonderful shrine to Watford FC really stood out. It’s the perfect place for a football fan to enjoy the classic Fray Bentos pie and pint combination.”
Decorations include photos of Paul’s eleven-year-old daughter Layla and son Cameron, eight, in their Watford kits, alongside an extensive collection of memorabilia including framed shirts, tickets and programmes.
But pride of place is taken by 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.
Paul added: “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.
“Building this bar in the back garden has provided a wonderful trip down memory lane. As we go into lockdown again I can kick back, relax and enjoy the delights of the beautiful game with my year’s supply of Fray Bentos pies.”
Paul takes home the first prize of £1,000 alongside a year’s supply of Fray Bentos pies.