One of the most regular questions I am asked when I bump into Watford fans is simply: Do I miss it?
Yes, there is a part of me that fondly remembers the start of the season; the lush green of the new pitch, the camaraderie meeting up with long-established fans and pressbox colleagues and the fascination of seeing how the new signings fit into the picture.
I loved my job and never had a Monday morning feeling. Yet I also recall every mid-July, either flying or driving back from holiday, when I would be regretting the fact the football season was coming round too quickly once again. I have always thought the break is too short.
Do not get me wrong, I loved covering Watford but it was a very intense, time-consuming activity, because the match-day was just a part of it. Perhaps I was too intense, never taking a holiday during the season; never intentionally missing a game for 34 years of the 42 years I covered the first team.
You took the job home with you, fretted over the validity of rumours; tried to find a balance between criticism and optimism. I would read my match reports over time and time again, to see if I had been fair, which was just as well because I had a dressing-room reputation for being far too critical, so I doubt that my first take on a match report would have gone down too well, before I modified it: tuned it down a tad here and there.
In that respect I was and am no different from your average fan. I would get annoyed or frustrated; angry or elated by what I had seen but while the average fan could go home and rave and rant or head for his local pub and drown his sorrows with a pint and a string of expletives, I had to take the more objective route. I would cross the border into subjectivity, and I think that helped with regard to credibility, but it was a fine line.
There was always that every-day anxiety that went with the territory and frankly I don’t miss that. I watch football on the box and I am as vocal from my armchair as the most robustly vociferous fan. “I take it Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck were not up to much,” my wife will say with a certain degree of understatement when I come to bed at the end of an evening.
However, the next morning, I do not have to think how to temper my criticism of Samir Nasri or Ashley Cole. I read the reports online and get on with my life. So from that point of view, I do not miss it.
I was frequently surprised how people would watch their club for years and then withdraw totally.
I used to talk to a Gillingham fan in my local in Sarratt and he would discuss their travails and go down to watch every home game. Now he does not go near the Medway. He says it was because of disenchantment with Paul Scully, the Gillingham chairman whose name could have been far more closely linked with Watford back in 2007. But really, the fan had reached that stage where he needed that excuse, that tipping point.
I should imagine drug addiction is along similar lines. You cannot imagine life without a fix but that day finally arrives. Of course you are an addictive personality, deep down. You have to be watching Watford or whoever, week after week, year after year. My wife knew I needed an antidote and shrewdly suggested I find a “folly”, which I did. I threw myself into landscaping an orchard into a garden and then have repeated the process in part at our new house.
When that was completed, I wrote two books of fiction, straight off. I suspect neither of them is any good, but I will carry on and write a third. You have to fill the void in your life, left by Watford.
So yes, deep down I admit, I miss it but I have moved on; I have been weaned off it by distance, disenchantment with the Simpson-Ashton era, and finding other obsessions.
I never thought I’d get to the stage where I do not know where Watford are playing this Saturday, but I took it in my stride when it happened. I had been cured of that drug.
Yes, I watch out for their result and am delighted if they have won. I will read the report, note who has played well and then move on with my life.
I look forward to seeing the Hornets, particularly if they keep their forwards, but also I will be looking through the team, trying to spot a couple of players who I would be grateful to find next to me in the trenches.
Now the season is underway at Vicarage Road and the Hornets have got off to a good start. Will this be the year? Have the management achieved the balance between grafters/ battlers and the skilful/inventive? Will Troy Deeney be off to pastures new or will he stay to help Watford reach the top flight?
There is a groundswell of optimism at the start of every season and the broadly positive vibes coming through the columns of this newspaper are positive.
I cannot add an opinion. I saw enough of the Play-off final team to marvel at the fact they came close to footballing their way out of the Championship, because invariably there are times when you have to win ugly and battle for success in this league. Has the current side got enough heart to battle it out ‘oop north’ on a wet Tuesday night? It is a necessary requirement and the proof, as ever, will be in the pudding.
As for me, I am keeping my prediction powder dry until the deadline passes. If they get through that unsullied, then they have a truly good chance.
This article was first published in Friday's Watford Observer and written prior to confirmation of Troy Deeney's new contract and the transfer window shutting.