“Sorry, I keep referring to Watford as we, I mean you,” Rene Gilmartin corrects himself, briefly struggling to separate three years of memories from his new career at Colchester United, having left Hertfordshire for the final time last month.

The 30-year-old has been a far more familiar face, and made far more friends - both inside and out of the playing staff - than many who have passed entered through the doors of Vicarage Road since his arrival for a second spell in 2014.

Goalkeeper Gilmartin was well aware even then he would be playing second fiddle - at best - to then number one Heurelho Gomes, and made the bench only 11 times in all competitions.

But his influence in the dressing room should not be overlooked, acting as the PFA representative for the Hornets, nor outside of it, and he was awarded the Community Ambassador award at Watford’s end of season ceremony in June.

Gilmartin often slips under the radar, through his work in schools and beyond throughout his time in Hertfordshire, but when contacted by the Watford Observer he was more than happy to come on the record and give thanks to the Hornets fans for his time at the club - who may see him again sooner than they think.

He said: “I’m just massively grateful for how they have been with me, and they have accepted me, and everything I have tried to do here.

“I wasn’t a big part player in terms of appearances, but I got involved as much as I could off the pitch and there were many great opportunities to get involved with, and be approached and have good conversations with the fans.

“Doing the community work, that was always there and dinners with the boxes and in the 1881 Suite, it was great and I hope to see those guys soon again.

“I worked closely with people at the club and all players go and visit schools a couple of times a year. I just made myself available a few more times and I wanted to give back to the club.

“When I had my injury, I did more things, speaking to fans pre-game just as a normal individual, and it just brings the barriers down a little bit.

“I know I don’t play for the club any more but I would still like to be involved in the community aspect going forward.”

Gilmartin was often involved in the squad even when not named in an 18 for a matchday, a mark of his influence off the pitch - and an experience which brought him some memorable moments along the way.

“The one that sticks out is the promotion, and the celebrations on the bus from Brighton on the way back,” he said. “I will never forget that. There’s some great games and performances, like going to Arsenal last season and winning, but seeing the club go forward so much since I was here the first time was amazing.

“Getting promoted with such a great group of lads, and all the fans who came out on parade day, was amazing, even as someone who didn’t play a game.”

That inclusion continued under Walter Mazzarri last season, the final of six head coaches Gilmartin worked under. While not drawn on what went wrong for the Hornets towards the end of the campaign, he agreed the squad had possessed more promise than it had shown in finishing 17th.

“Our objective was to stay in the Premier League, but we felt we had a lot more to offer. For whatever reason, it just didn’t click. There wer some performances where you look back and think, ‘wow’ - but also where you think, ‘what’s happened here?’ like West Brom away.

“There was no consistency where we were winning three or four games in a row. We did that last season, but probably peaked too soon.”

Many players dabble in coaching in their latter years but Gilmartin is already ahead of the game in that respect, earning his UEFA A licence earlier in 2017, years after he first began taking youth team sessions.

Now he has the chance to put that into practice at Colchester, having signed a player-coach deal in Essex, and he could not be happier with how things have worked out.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be honest,” he said, “especially with the role I have taken. I’m really grateful to Watford allowing me to work with the Under-18s and Under-23s, and being able to put this into practice now is perfect.

“I haven’t given up the idea of playing, but I relish the responsibility.”