Watford's experience with the transfer tribunals, set up to settle on a transfer fee when the two clubs could not agree, had not been good.

The classic was when Oldham Athletic insisted on a fee for Paul Atkinson, Watford offered lower and the tribunal met and decided the Hornets should pay more than Oldham had asked in the first place.

So when Watford and Gillingham went head-to-head over the transfer of Andy Hessenthaler, they were relatively pleased when the tribunal insisted Gillingham paid a fee of £235,000.

However, instead of settling the saga, the tribunal decision upset Gillingham who then got in touch with Watford and offered a fee less than the tribunal had dictated. Watford would have none of it and stuck by their guns with Gillingham finally agreeing to pay the £235,000.

Originally Watford had wanted in excess of £300,000 but appreciated the market was not as fluid as hoped. Gillingham had offered around £30,000 then had increased their bid to £50,000 with a further £30,000 dependent on appearances. Watford were not going to consider such an offer, which they believed was derisory.

Gillingham had used the tribunal five times that close season and were known for their tendency to try and cut corners.

Graham Taylor, in the meantime, was concentrating on the general manager’s role and trying to bring in investment. Of course everyone knew the club could only progress once Jack Petchey was removed from the scene and Graham admitted: “I have more chance of changing the ownership from inside the club than outside.”

Refurbished dressing rooms and hospitality boxes were Graham’s first achievement but in the long term removing Petchey from the scene was his top achievement that year.

That was an essential target if they were to achieve his general target of “Premiership in five years”. In fact Graham achieved the top flight status in under five years but there is an argument that perhaps it would have been better to have taken more time, because Watford reached the Premier with what was essentially a third-tier team.

Petchey was made aware that he was not popular with the Watford faithful. Whereas earlier in his tenure as chairman and owner, Petchey felt compelled to resign as chairman while still holding the purse-strings, following an invasion of the directors’ box, the businessman subsequently announced his resignation from the board after a post-match demonstration by fans.

Of course such announcements as his resignation as chairman and then director fooled no one. He was still in charge and asking far more than he had paid for the club in order to unload it.

He never realised what it was all about – being the chairman and occasional benefactor of a small-town club yet in his myopic world he probably thinks he did well. He was the only chairman up to that time to walk away with a profit, so the experience did not cost him whereas it blighted the club.

He once suggested that I should give up being negative and put a positive spin on everything. I thought this over; reflected on the results, the league position and the dearth of entertaining football. I said at the time, putting a positive spin on depressing situations was akin to being on the Titanic after its fatal collision and announcing: “That’s a stroke of luck. We had just run out of ice at the bar.”

A couple of years earlier, colleague Grelle White, who wrote much and edited the newspaper’s Go Magazine, was invited down to the Vicarage Road directors’ box to sample the delights of Saturday afternoon theatre. It was a far cry from her normal. It was a novel experience for her and she wrote about it in surprised and at times enthusiastic tones.

“Why can’t she cover the matches,” Petchey asked. I suggested she would be bored stiff within the month.

Clearly he saw me, and not his policies or profile as the big stumbling block to progress. I suggested winning chairmen and managers had not had a problem.

Eventually, once Graham was established in his seat, Petchey sent a memo asking if it might now be pertinent to ban me. Did he really think that would make his squad winners?

The memo’s contents were ignored or not acted upon. Graham thought the idea stupid and continued to look around for people who might be able to buy out Petchey and pay his unwarranted asking price. Elton John would have done just that but was not prepared to pay Petchey the £2m loan the new owner had kept on the books when he paid around £850,000 for the shares. Elton had told him to wipe off the loan.

After the third defeat in their opening four games, I left Vicarage Road at the start of the 1996-97 campaign with a photograph in my briefcase. It had been handed to me by an officer of the law, and the police had affixed a caption.

The photograph captured a man with hand on head, staring towards the pitch, a doleful expression on his face as he stared at the pitch. It was so doleful, it appeared the corners of his mouth hung down below his navel.

Apparently the police were checking that their surveillance cameras could penetrate into the stands. They had captured the glum-looking face and thought it too good to miss. Despite the grainy content it was clearly recognisable. I knew that person. Indeed the photo of glumness and the caption said it all that night. It was a moment Jack Petchey would never understand.

The caption read simply: “We know how you feel, Oli.”