Sunday’s victory over Woking saw Watford midfielder Tom Cleverley make his first start for almost a year.

The former Manchester United man is now challenging for a first-team place again, following what he described as a "long hard year" and for him to complete his first 90 minutes marks an important milestone in his recovery.

Speaking after the 2-0 FA Cup victory, he said: “It’s a big game for me, especially from a confidence point of view, it’s 90 minutes under my belt.

“It’s been a long hard year, a long road back, but it’s a big moment for me and a good win for the lads.

“Post-surgery it has been better, I’ve had a time frame and light at the end of the tunnel, but the first four months were a bit unknown and it was hard. This is the mental toughness that a footballer needs to show to get through.”

While Sunday’s opponents provided no real threat for the Hornets during the match, for Cleverley they did provide a bit of poignancy, with a strong family link making the return that little bit sweeter. The midfielder’s Great Uncle Reg Stratton played 123 games for the Cards, scoring 64 goals.

Cleverley said: “There’s a picture of him down there playing at Wembley in the FA Amateur Cup, it’s a good story. Unfortunately he passed away last year so he couldn’t be here today.

“My dad’s got pictures of him playing for Woking up in the house and it’s nice that I could be able to come here and follow in his footsteps.”

The FA Cup victory sees the Hornets through to the fourth round and, with them currently occupying a comfortable league position, it presents an opportunity for them to have a real go at a cup run.

Having played in the 2015 FA Cup Final with Aston Villa, Cleverley knows just how much some cup success could affect the club, while games like Sunday’s against Woking provide the players with an opportunity to enjoy unusual experiences.

Cleverley is also all too aware of how much the luck of the draw plays a part and, if it can be helped, he says would like to avoid one of his former clubs.

He said: “The fan interaction walking from the bus to the changing room is something you don’t get in a Premier League game, but it’s nice.

“It’s what the FA Cup’s all about. I’ve grown up watching FA Cup finals and cup shocks so I think it’s important. It shows how far Watford have come as well.

“Ten years ago when I came here on loan, I don’t think Watford would have got this attraction but now we’re a Premier League club and we’re doing really well and it’s nice to see we can draw some fans.

“From my experience what a cup run did for Villa when I was there, to get to the final, was massive and it improved our league season and it improved the vibe and the atmosphere around the club.

“I know it’s game by game and you need a bit of luck in the draw, but we will be looking to have a bit of a run.

“I probably wouldn’t want to play Man United now, especially with the form they’re in, but a home draw would be nice.”