So it’s back. Just as we had put the World Cup to bed, the 2018-19 season is upon us and while I am not involved in covering the campaign, I still retain my long-held view that the season starts too early.

Back some 100 years ago, the season commenced in September and the final match was played at the dawn of May, followed by the FA Cup Final, which always seemed to be in first week of that month.

I liked that. It gave us a good four months to put the last season behind us, relax and enjoy the summer and by the end of it, I for one was looking forward to the new campaign.

Now the season kicks off in early August and continues well into May – an elongation of the campaign propelled by greed.

Of course there are many who cannot wait for the new campaign but I always had the feeling, even in the halcyon Graham Traylor days, that the new season came round too soon. Perhaps the nature of the job had much to do with my lack of enthusiasm for a mid-August start to the proceedings. I would finish the campaign, often with a reflective supplement in addition to the normal coverage, feeling much like a piece of wet lettuce.

Holidays with my wife and the children would follow soon afterwards, back in the day when you were allowed to take your children out of school for two weeks, which I would coincide with half term. Later we would go in early July, after the exams had finished but towards the end of that regimen, the move towards forbidding parents to do so was beginning to gather momentum.

So I would return from Spain in early or mid-June knowing that within a month I would be back on the treadmill again, watching practice games and then gearing up for the season itself. Our social calendar, in the shape of Watford’s fixture list, would be pinned by the phone in the kitchen, so Ellie would know what we could and could not do on Saturday nights.

Of course I loved my job and I was very soon back in the swing of things, enthusing over or being disappointed by the fare that was on offer. By October I was really in the groove but, come the Spring, my mind was beginning to look forward to May and the journey to our holiday destination.

While I referred it to as a treadmill, make no mistake it was one I thoroughly enjoyed but the fact was, I did not take holidays or weekends off during the season – it was one continual focus on Watford FC and their games.

I was the first local journalist to cover all Watford’s games during a season. When my first team career was underway in 1964, the tendency was for those covering the club for the Watford Observer or the West Herts Post, to give games north of Mansfield and south west of Bristol a miss. Ken Furphy was the first manager I dealt with on a regular basis although I had deputised earlier in respect of interviewing Ron Burgess and Bill McGarry, who were the bosses in the early 1960s.

Ken was of the opinion that the local man should see all the games, so he or she could gain a fair and overall judgement and, in 1965, I duly adopted that policy. I never regretted it and, with the commencement of the brief span of the publication of the Evening Echo in Hemel Hempstead, such an approach became de rigueur.

In the late 1970s, I ceased travelling solo to away games, for Watford were progressing and we had the need for more personal photographic coverage. Up until then, the practice had been for us to order three or four prints from the home-town paper. These would invariably feature the home side’s attack and looks or anguish or concern on the faces of such Watford goalkeepers as Dave Underwood, Jimmy Linton, Pat Jennings, Bert Slater, Micky Walker, Andy Rankin et all. The alternative would be to collect a roll of film of Watford’s attack after the game but this was often undertaken by the junior of the rival paper and the quality was variable.

I would return with said roll, having written down incomprehensible instructions on the darkroom development of the roll back at the Watford Observer.

It was the questionable quality of these photos that prompted the then chief photographer Malcolm Orvis and I to seek a more professional resolution to the problem. In 1975, we began to take a photographer to away games. That continued for many years, hence I no longer travelled alone.

I was reminded of those changes in the newspaper’s coverage by Malcolm’s passing in July. He and I and his colleague the late Peter Baker, travelled to many away games over the years. We were soon joined by freelance cartoonist Terry Challis and as anyone, who knew the characters involved, would attest, we were never short of laughs. It was a happy ship.

Sadly, Terry passed on – did they ever name a street after him as the Council promised? By then Peter Baker had died and Malcolm and his wife had retired, moving out to join all their immediate family in Australia. So Malcolm’s passing Down Under was particularly poignant. He was a good friend and a supportive colleague and there was never a dull moment for he could be testy and jovial all in one minute. Travelling to away games and the traditional pre-match curry were a delight. The regulars, Terry and Malcolm were brilliant company.

I see Watford are off to Burnley on Sunday afternoon. I can see, in the mind’s eye, the Burnley stadium, the need to get a curry in at Rusholme, Manchester, because of the lack of any lunchtime opening times in Burnley.

I can also hear Malcolm asking: What time are we setting off.

Then I knew the season had truly started . As Canned Heat would have it, we were on the road again.