The amount of work and attention to detail that was concentrated into training days at Vicarage Road in the 1970s-80s far surpassed any previous drilling experienced by Watford players. Training sessions were meticulous, with Graham Taylor working from a book he had composed, itemising what his team should do at any given moment.

Such was the repetitive nature of the drilling, if the action was frozen, any Watford player could point blindfolded as to the position occupied by each of his colleagues. In principle, you did not leave the training field until Graham was satisfied the lesson had been absorbed, totally.

As a result, although there was an opposition to contend with, Watford’s players knew exactly what to do at a given time and instance. So playing was almost simple in that they had the fitness, which alone was superior to the oppositions; they had the game-plan, which was second nature, and they had the confidence and team spirit, which had been honed by the Division Four success.

Very early in the 1978/79 campaign, they hit the top with Ross Jenkins grabbing 14 goals by the time they had completed their 13th league and cup match.

“We had no right to be playing as well as we did,” Graham was to reflect on the first half of the campaign. “I knew we were a top-half team and thought we might be able to make the top six. Although we had done a year together, I didn’t know them that well. I did not realise their potential in terms of winning the championship. Had I realised that, I might not have driven them so hard in the first six months of the season and we probably wouldn’t have done so well.”

Later he would blame the big freeze in winter that disrupted a few fixtures as the cause of the side’s lost momentum. “If that had not happened, I think we would have won the title by March.”

Others would cite the club’s League Cup run to the semi-finals and Taylor’s transfer investments as cause for concern.

The Hornets were doing well when Graham brought in tough-tackling, defensive-minded left-back Steve Harrison to replace the more gifted Keith Pritchett 10 matches into the campaign. He then recruited the then club-record, £50,000 signing Ray Train in late November. Next came the gob-smacking signing of centre-half Steve Sims for a new record of £175,000.

These were astronomical sums in the light of Watford’s past and Sims’ signature cost a Third Division as well as club record fee at the time. But were they really necessary, it would be asked? Watford were well-drilled, leading the Third Division with confidence and their first 14 games included a 2-1 League Cup victory at Old Trafford.

There is the old adage: if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. However, Graham was looking to the Second Division and he brought in players who he believed would take them further along the upward trail.

No one can doubt Sims’ ultimate contribution to the Watford campaign in the years ahead, but he, Harrison and Train were not instant successes. If you had a straw poll among supporters in April 1979, that trio would have been voted the most disappointing of the Watford staff.

I cannot recall which Sunday newspaper asked me to provide a report on a home game around the time the newcomers were part of the team. I wrote the report and phoned it off, forgetting that their pages also contained marks out of ten for each of the players on view. I asked the local reporter covering the opposition to provide marks for his team and I awarded the marks to the Watford players. The lowest marks happened to be for Sims, Train and Harrison, who, by general consensus, were the weaker links.

The following week, I went out with our Editor, Max Kingston, and we took Graham for lunch. On the way back he revealed that he had phoned the Sunday newspaper enquiring who had given his players marks out of 10 the previous Saturday.

“That was me, Graham,” I interrupted, never thinking that a national newspaper would reveal its sources.

“I know,” said Graham.

I thought no more of it but, the next home game, it was noted in his programme notes that he related the story of the low marks for his recent signings and then admonished me for not extending a proper welcome to the newcomers.

I could have taken issue with it, stating that it was not my job to welcome new signing by tailoring marks and making them feel more comfortable by giving them a higher rating than I thought they deserved. However, I decided to leave it as it was.

A few years later, Graham wrote in his programme notes about the speculation and inaccuracies that appeared in the national press. He then stressed that if the fans wanted to read something believable, they should turn to the Watford Observer. If they read something in a national newspaper, they should not believe it until they read it confirmed in these columns.

The irony was that he also commented in that programme piece that probably I would be very surprised at his observations in the light of previous run-ins in earlier days. Certainly right up until promotion to the top flight, Graham was a touch wary of me as indeed he was of Ross Jenkins. It changed upon achieving promotion in 1982.

When I retired I was very surprised to read in a “condolence or congratulations book” a comment from Luther Blissett who I had never put down as being a particular fan of mine. We got on well but I was touched to read his statement: “You always told the truth and some people didn’t like it.”

In the final assessment, I think I’ll settle for that one.