“I can’t escape the feeling, as fantastic as it is and as lovely as it is, we’re saying thank you to them,” Dave Messenger mused as he looked up at the rows of NHS staff in the Rookery Stand. “They’re the heroes here, they’re the people that have helped this town get through the worst of the Covid pandemic. If we can play any small part in it, we’re more than happy to do our bit.”

The Clap Four Our Carers has become a feature of British life during the coronavirus pandemic as people have applauded the doctors, nurses, emergency service employees and carers who have been at the front line of the ongoing crisis.

Amid emotional and uplifting scenes at Vicarage Road yesterday though, the roles were reversed as some 700 NHS workers gathered as West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust hosted Clap For The Club to thank Watford FC staff and volunteers for providing a sanctuary and allowing them to relax and recharge, talk and get something to eat and drink.

The Hornets’ supporter liaison and disability access officer has been one of those volunteers and witnessed first hand what it has meant to be able to make a difference for the staff, many of whom are based at neighbouring Watford General Hospital.

Mr Messenger said: “From my time when I manned the reception desk and helped out with little bits and pieces around the place, it’s just that overall sense. There’s no particular moment you’d hang it on, it’s just that overall sense of making a little bit of difference to people’s lives.

“The first day I worked on the reception in the Graham Taylor Stand someone from the hospital came in and had clearly had a tough time and said ‘I understand there’s somewhere where I can have a shower and a cup of tea’ and 45 minutes she came out looking a little bit refreshed.

“That’s happened so many times, that story has repeated itself over and over in this period of time. It’s been a wonderful thing to be involved with in a small sort of way.”

He continued: “You can’t even begin to contemplate what these guys have been going through. Unless you work there and unless you’re someone who has that kind of experience you can’t really put a finger on how it must feel.

“Everyone’s had their own thing to deal with in this period of time, everyone’s had their own situation at home or whatever, but those guys were on the front line and they needed something to help.”

Although Vicarage Road will continue to provide a sanctuary and house some services including maternity and counselling, yesterday was the final day of providing meals as the club steps up preparations for the planned return of Premier League football next month.

The first family club, the legacy of Watford’s pioneering community work under Graham Taylor and Elton John continues to this day. Nothing has highlighted this more than the help and support the Hornets have provided to the NHS over the last two months and Mr Messenger feels the crisis has reinforced how important to it is for the club to remain a central part of the community.

Asked what he has learnt from the experience, he responded: “Not so much learn, more a case of refreshed our memory and refreshed my feeling of how important Watford is as a club within its community and how that link between the two is so ingrained in us.

“I think it’s easy to take that for granted and it’s easy to rest on our laurels a little bit of the Graham Taylor and Elton John era and how things were then, but those of that work for the club try to live by that and try to embody that spirit all the time.

“It’s not always easy in the modern world of Premier League football, but I think the one thing I’ve taken away from this more than anything else is understanding and further cementing how important it is that Watford remains at the heart of its local community.”