Watford's head groundsman Scott Tingley has become something of a minor hero at the club during the past season, with the pitch at Vicarage Road regularly heralded as one of the best in the division.

Supporters have referred to the ground team as the 12th man in their absence, while head coach Xisco Munoz singled them out for praise on more than one occasion, most notably after the 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest back in March.

"One thing I want to say is thank you for who is working on the pitch because today it was excellent," said Munoz. "I know they worked very hard the last two days because they didn't have a lot of time for the pitch recovery, and I think today it was excellent for us."

Those sentiments were echoed by midfielder Philip Zinckernagel, who said the turf at the Vic was "a joy to play on".

"When you play at home it's nice and good, but sometimes when we've played against Millwall and Blackburn, it has been really difficult because the pitches are a bit bumpy," said Zinckernagel.

"Great job to the people that take care of the pitch. It's a joy to play on that pitch, so that's nice.

"I think if all the teams had a pitch like this we would probably win more games, but it is what it is and we've just got to try to win all the games at home, and I think we're doing pretty well."

Tingley admitted he had been a bit surprised by the praise heaped on himself and his team, but feels it is indicative of the club's family ethos.

"People have called us the 12th man and stuff like that and it makes a big difference," said Tingley. "It's nice to have your work commended in that way. There's kind of a saying that if no one's talking about the pitches then there's probably not an issue, but I think this season we've gone the other way and it's encouraging.

"We're kind of seen and not heard, unless it's in a poor condition, but I think it's part of the family aspect of the club that everyone's involved and everyone's recognised."

While Vicarage Road was host to Championship fixtures last season, the work carried out on the pitch was more or less exactly the same as it would have been had the club not been relegated the season before.

Even though the coronavirus pandemic tightened the purse-strings somewhat, the biggest challenge was the short amount of time between each match.

"Realistically, we've not done anything different while we've been in the Championship to what we would have in the Premier League," said Tingley. "In terms of the funds, it's been very similar. We've cut back a little bit but that's because we've had to really with there being a pandemic and us having no real income, it would have been silly to keep exactly the same money.

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"It's been even more intense because we've had a condensed fixture list and had games Saturday, Wednesday and Saturday again, so from us the intensity's had to be higher to make sure that the pitch is in as good a condition as can be for each of those games, regardless of the gap in between because it's difficult for us to play our style of football on pitches that aren't immaculate."

One thing that did benefit the club during the pandemic was an opportunity to remove the old pitch and lay a new one ahead of Project Restart.

While it was seen as a bit of a risk, Tingley explains that it was an educated one that ultimately paid off.

"It was probably an educated risk, but we had an opportunity as far as I was concerned and it was probably the only opportunity we'd get, which pretty much transpired to be true," he said. "We took the opportunity and it's definitely paid off because had we not have done it we would have been in the same position as some of the other clubs in this league that have had one or two problems."

There's a much bigger gap now for Tingley and his team to prepare for the return to the Premier League, but they have already got a timeline in place to make sure the pitch is in just as good a condition next season.

"It'll be very similar to last year," he added. We'll start to remove this pitch week commencing the 17th of May. We've got a week of play on the pitch before and then we'll start to rip it off again basically, so we'll have eight weeks from seed before we possibly have some football, so a similar sort of period to last year but in a more appropriate portion of the season.

"We should have adequate temperatures rather than the issues that we had in April last year where it was a bit colder overnight. So the actual germination of grass should be quicker and the process should hopefully be a lot smoother."