So, what’s he like then?

When you’ve got Watford-supporting sons aged 20 and 17, and you tell them you’re going to interview the club chairman, they suddenly take an interest in what you’re doing. And, even more rarely, they wanted to ask me about work when I got home the Friday before last, having spent two hours with Scott Duxbury at the club’s training ground.

I ought to explain how that interview came about. Once I’d agreed to help out the Watford Observer while they hire someone to permanently cover Watford, the first call I made was to the club’s head of communications and media relations Richard Walker.

Richard and I have known each other for nearly 30 years, and we worked together at Vicarage Road. He knows I’m a fan, he knows I can write pretty well and that I’d be looking to build a relationship from a positive but also objective standpoint.

So that was the first call I made, asking Richard who I could interview at the club as I wanted to try and be a conduit – albeit temporarily – between the WO and WFC. I’d just missed out on speaking to Rob Edwards so I was a bit miffed, but Richard said Scott Duxbury might be up for being interviewed. Music to my ears.

He said he’d come back to me and, in the meantime, I wrote other content for the WO including an opinion piece about how the club needed to try and find a way of rebuilding its relationship with the supporters.

I now know Scott read that piece and thought it was very fair and balanced, and so the following week we made arrangements for me to meet him.

It must be said that at no point were there ever any attempts to put caveats on the interview. No, it was very much an ‘ask what you like’ interview, and so I spent a few days reading social media, comments on websites, forums etc, and tried to compile a list of topics that I thought other fans would have at the top of their lists if they were afforded the same opportunity as me.

After all, that is what I am first and foremost – a fan of Watford FC. I was among those who felt very distanced from the club last season, I was in danger of whiplash because I spent matchdays furiously shaking my head and I was always struggling to understand some of our player recruitment.

Now I had the chance to sit opposite the man who has spent the last ten seasons with his hand on the tiller and quiz him. Was I nervous? No, I’ve done some big interviews before, though admittedly not for a few years. My feeling was more of intrigue and excitement.

Watford Observer:

The Hornets chairman has vowed Rob Edwards will be supported through 'hell and high water'. Picture: Action Images

So, back to my opening line. What’s he like? I can only speak as I find, and to me Scott was very friendly, very relaxed and very open. He certainly did let me ask anything, and often follow up on his answers to dig deeper. There was never any attempt to duck a question, move the conversation on or look at his watch and remember another meeting. He had no hint of an ego, he was light-hearted at times and certainly far more affable than other interviewees I’ve encountered of similar seniority.

Again, this can only be my view, but he came across as very passionate and very willing to reflect on mistakes made as well as the need for the club to change, both on and off the pitch. I’ve seen a few people comment that he didn’t actually take responsibility for any of the past errors. Maybe that’s my fault as I didn’t pointedly ask him if he did. Though even if he had, what would it have changed? To me at least, the key thing was that he very quickly pointed at what had been the causes of last season which he described as “a disaster”: constantly changing coaches, short-termist signings, losing the club’s culture etc. I didn’t have to push for those, he volunteered them.

I’ve seen people understandably say they have heard a lot of talk before. I don’t think the comments he made after our previous relegation from the Premier League were helpful – I didn’t at the time and I still don’t. So I can fully appreciate why fans will need to see rather than hear the sort of changes he has highlighted.

As always, trust is earned and judgment is made based upon actions and deeds. We’ll all be scrutinising the transfer activity. Each new player will be studied to see if it has the hallmark of Rob Edwards on it. What will happen if we make a slow start and are not near the top six by the time the clocks go back in October? What does supporting the new head coach through “hell and high water” actually constitute?

Nonetheless, I feel we can’t really start marking Watford’s scorecard quite yet, even though I know many feel the club has had more than enough time already.

My response to that is firstly the last ten years have, on the whole, been good. Premier League football, an FA Cup Final, some very notable victories. It is easy to forget that having sat through week after week of turgid dross last season.

Also, as with many older fans I suspect, I often allow the dream journey that Graham Taylor took us on to rose-tint the other periods I supported the club through. Dave Bassett (who I hear is not very well, so I send him sincere best wishes) dismantled a team that was comfortably mid-table in the top division in a matter of months, which led to years away from football’s top table.

In fact, the years after that were largely grim. I saw the other day it was the anniversary of us winning at Oxford United to stay in what is now the Championship, and I recalled the wild celebrations at the time...for us staying in the division we are in now.

Watford Observer:

The Hornets almost went into administration after the season under Luca Vialli. Picture: Action Images

I worked at the club through the Vialli season, so not only did I have to watch us hugely under-perform I knew how much it was costing the club to do so. Then followed the collapse of ITV Digital, Watford being on the brink of administration and ultimately the cost savings required to help secure the future of our club cost me my job!

So yes, last season was abysmal. Yes, there have been many things I have questioned and criticised as a fan which I am now able to do as a journalist. And, as with the majority of supporters, I’m in the camp of ‘I want to believe but I’ll feel better when I see it’.

However, my considered, independent view of Scott Duxbury, what he said and his overall approach was one of honesty and positivity. Had I sat and listened to more platitudes about how we were ‘going again’, our new coach who was very highly thought of in Armenia and the potential signing of a 30-something striker on a fat wage having spent all last season sat on the bench in the Premier League, I would have been writing a very, very different piece right now.

Many fans have said they’ve heard it all before – I disagree. When I read back through each article, there were many admissions, many ideas, many plans that I’d not heard uttered by anyone at the club in the last decade. And the key word, above all else, was said repeatedly: culture. That was what made my time working with the great GT so special: he understood, supported and advocated the importance of Watford’s culture. And if you don’t believe culture is king, we all watched the culture that was so special shrivel like a salted slug during that Vialli season.

I know many fans have read every word of the articles from my interview, and I’ve seen the feedback. I’ve tried to interact where I can. Some fans clearly have lost faith in Scott and the club, others are totally on the Watford bus and many are currently ambivalent. However, the thing that has allowed us all to confirm, change or hone our opinions is that we have something to go on. We had nearly 6,000 words from the man who has been accused of not communicating.

It doesn’t solve everything, it can’t eradicate the past and it isn’t a guarantee of a rosier future. But it’s a start and it gives us all something to refer to every time something happens (or doesn’t happen).

What did I tell my sons? Scott Duxbury seems a good bloke, he’s identified what went wrong and, importantly, what needs to change to put it right. I’m willing to believe in him and his ambitions to get the club back to where we all want it to be. But I’ll also need to see positive change before I accept it’s happening.