In the light of Watford’s financial crisis it seemed odd that after cutting so many staff and off-loading several of the dressing room high earners, they kept on Terry Byrne as general manager. It was not a post Watford had filled often in the past – Graham Taylor being the previous occupant before he admitted the role “bored me stiff” and returned to football management and achieved two successive promotions in 1998-9. The vacancy he left was not filled.

When I was trying to fathom the logic of the appointment of Luca Vialli and the enthusiasm with which the decision was greeted, I found the appointment of Byrne as even more bizarre.

A former cab driver, with experience as a youth footballer, Byrne had been a Chelsea fan from his earliest days, but his hopes of becoming a professional were dashed. He then abandoned cab-driving and took a one-year course in sports massage. He applied to Chelsea when they advertised “help wanted” but was not taken on full time. He was hired as a part-time masseur in 1992 and became a full-time masseur, the first in English football, when he combined the job with that of kit manager under Glenn Hoddle.

Hoddle took him to the England set-up when the Chelsea manager was appointed England boss and Byrne continued as part-time physio at Chelsea, combining the two jobs for three years.

It was on England duty that he became a sounding board for the young David Beckham and acted as a listening post for those players not in the team.

In 2001, after working with Vialli at Chelsea, he was brought to Watford when the Italian was appointed. Byrne became general manager at Vicarage Road. His exact role was never defined but he acted as Vialli’s gopher and it soon became obvious that he and reserve team coach Ray Lewington were the most approachable men in a season in which Vialli played the cards so close to his chest, even on occasions Ray Wilkins did not know the team selected before the players were told.

I did find him helpful and sympathetic but I suppose initially I resented him a little for Vialli used him as a shield to keep me at bay.

So I had to include an inordinate number of quotes from someone who was not at the cutting edge of Vialli’s decision making.

When Vialli and his staff were culled, Lewington and Byrne were the sole survivors with Graham Simpson appointing Byrne as director of football, in charge of scouting, the academy and players’ contracts. Lewington became manager and they enjoyed a close working relationship.

“I realise we got it all wrong with you, thinking the national press was all that mattered,” Byrne said to me at the outset of the first Lewington season, reflecting on how Vialli tried to keep me at arm’s length.

We got on well but I did think, with Tim Shaw as chief executive and having been involved in negotiating players’ contracts, maybe Byrne was a bit of a luxury. There I was wrong for he proved to be the cement helping to bind together the manager, staff and the players, all of whom found themselves in an uncomfortable and strange position, operating under the shadow of a financial crisis.

“I think Terry earned the respect of the board during the year under Luca and although I never knew him before, I quickly came to respect him. He was the most honest man I have ever met,” said Lewington.

“He was brutally honest. He would tell Luca and Ray Wilkins exactly what he thought and tell them when he thought they had made a mistake. He didn’t pull punches but he had a way of stating his views, which did not cause Luca or Ray to react angrily. The people round the club liked him and there was a genuine fondness for him.”

Lewington was able to rely on Byrne and it was the director of football who took over after the manager had dropped the bombshell about wage suspension, and explained what was needed and why to the players.

“He, more than me, was responsible for persuading the players to accept a 12 per cent cut,” said the former manager.

In fact the dressing room contained more harmony than the boardroom at times. The directors were often at odds with one another and when Lewington attended meetings he was somewhat surprised.

“I had to catch a tube in. The board meetings started around 7am and it was strange. The directors sat on swivel chairs and sometimes two or more would have their back to us as they studied the Financial Times, etc,” Lewington remembers.

Asked if he witnessed a lack of harmony, the former manager remembers that on occasions directors “had a pop” at each other.

The strain was showing and understandably so.

There was harmony within the commercial department where Ed Coan and his troops continued to work in the community.

“They always impressed me. They were doing things for the right reasons,” said Ray.

“I know certain clubs just went through the motions but at Watford, they really believed in it. The result was a fantastic connection between the fans and the club – more than I have ever known at any football club.”

Coan was to recall gratefully that at one event, attended by Lewington, the manager said: “Hey. You really believe in this. The whole staff believe in it. That’s what makes this club different.”

The players took part on a rota and perhaps they were not so convinced as to the value of the connection as had been the case during the halcyon late 1970s and early 1980s.

Even during Taylor’s second spell at Vicarage Road, one player asked for petrol money for attending a children’s hospice.

He was an exception but clearly you couldn’t win them all.