As a fledgling head coach, Tom Cleverley must be looking at the 24/25 fixtures and think the EFL super-computer has dealt him a fair start to the new campaign.

Of course, there’s that old adage of ‘there are no easy games’, a line which has been trotted out by countless England players alongside their manager in the last few days.

And it has to be said that there may well be many other teams looking at the fixture list, seeing when they play the Hornets, and thinking that’s going to be one of their easier games.

After all, since dropping out of the Premier League at the end of the 21/22 season, Watford have won only 29 of their 92 Championship fixtures.

Let’s not allow ourselves be blinded by loyalty: there is no scare factor for fans of other teams when they see Watford’s name as they peruse the fixture list.

Nonetheless, putting all that to one side, starting with Millwall (13th last season), Stoke (17th) and then newly-promoted Derby County is far more appealing and offers more opportunities to get early points on the board than could have been the case.

That first fixture at Millwall will clearly be a very emotional occasion, given it will be the first competitive match at The Den since the tragic, untimely passing of their goalkeeper Matija Sarkic, who died aged just 26 recently.

That definitely casts a very different light on that first match of the season, although the opening trio of games still look more palatable than what could have been served up.

Chris Wilder celebrating during his time at Vicarage RoadChris Wilder celebrating during his time at Vicarage Road (Image: PA)

It looks like the first truly stern test of Cleverley’s men could be the trip to Sheffield United on August 31.

Yes, they were cast adrift at the foot of the Premier League last season, won only three league games and conceded 114 goals.

However, Watford fans know how harsh the top-flight can be, and although the Blades will undoubtedly lose players, they have something Watford don’t anymore: parachute payments.

Chris Wilder has always spoken kindly of the Hornets and their fans since his short spell as head coach, but any ex-manager wants to put the boot into former employers on the pitch – and let’s be honest, there are a fair few previous head coaches that could form an orderly queue to show their feelings towards Gino Pozzo given such an opportunity.

Which brings us to Rob Edwards and Luton.

The two games with the Hatters are among the first any fan will have looked for yesterday morning, and the wait isn’t too long as the trip to Kenilworth Road is Watford’s tenth league game of the upcoming season.

There is absolutely nothing positive to be gained from thinking back to the last time we visited ‘The Kenny’ (as they seem to like to call it now) as it was a truly pitiful performance but, at the risk of clutching at straws, playing Luton in October has been good for Watford.

October 23, 2022, won 4-0 at Vicarage Road . . . October 4, 1997, won 4-0 at Kenilworth Road . . .

That Luton away game comes in the midst of a pretty awful sequence of road trips next season.

The fixtures have handed Watford, once again, some long midweek treks and the first of those is to Preston on Wednesday, October 7.

After the Luton game, the Hornets have a midweek trip to Leeds, and will then visit Sheffield Wednesday, Swansea (midweek), Plymouth, Cardiff, Hull (midweek) and Burnley all before Christmas.

Attending all seven of those away games after the Luton trip means travelling more than 2,600 miles (if you live locally) in the space of two months.

Overall next season though, fans who travel to every Watford away league game will probably cover less miles than last season, as we reported in this story.

With international breaks in September, October and November, the first few months of the new season will have a somewhat staccato feeling to them.

Four league games, then a break; five league games, then another break; six more Championship fixtures, then a further pause.

Indeed, there are 15 league matches in the first three months of the season and then a burst of six more in just three weeks.

Giorgi Chakvetadze in action at Loftus Road last seasonGiorgi Chakvetadze in action at Loftus Road last season (Image: PA)

The festive fixture period has fallen quite kindly for Watford, with three games at home and the only away trip being to QPR.

Having said that, the Christmas/New Year fixtures looked relatively appealing last season and yet the 4-1 drubbing at Vicarage Road by Bristol City on Boxing Day proved to be the start of a run of just one win in 11 league games.

Personally, I never find it easy at this stage of pre-season to decide which games in the coming campaign are going to be the toughest, and the Championship feels to me, at least, to have a more open look about it than last season.

However, one block of games that did catch my eye was the February fixtures.

Consecutive Saturday away trips to the North-East to face Sunderland and Middlesbrough, a midweek home game with Leeds – the bookie’s favourites to win the Championship – and then the home match with Luton.

The trip to Oxford in March means a new ground for many Watford fans as the only previous competitive visit to the Kassam Stadium was for a league cup tie in 2020, and anyone fancying a nice Easter break will doubtless be looking at hotels in the Portsmouth area given Watford are scheduled to visit Fratton Park on the Bank Holiday Monday.

Oxford's Kassam StadiumOxford's Kassam Stadium (Image: PA)

Ending the season at home to Sheffield Wednesday will doubtless bring back gloomy memories of the 1-1 draw with the Owls at Vicarage Road on the final day of the 2014/15 season, when victory would have meant Watford were crowned Championship winners.

Should Watford have the chance to be automatically promoted again, though, when that game is played on Saturday May 3, not only will it be a surprise of epic proportions but I dare say Watford fans wouldn’t mind if they missed out on being crowned champions just as happened a decade ago.

The release of a new fixture list is always a day of much anticipation each summer, and while the dates and times provided by the EFL are now subject to change as Sky Sports get their mitts on them, at least we now know where we will be going in our support of Watford, and roughly when.

Of course, with the new TV deal comes the risk of many fixtures being played at random times on random days – which you can read about here.

There will be a lot of games at 12.30pm on Saturdays, quite a few on Sunday, and Sky have the option to broadcast Championship games on Friday and Monday nights – as well as what is surely the graveyard slot on Thursday night.

The latter brings back memories of the ill-fated ITV Digital, whose short lifespan surely can’t have been helped by showing games on Thursday nights.

I distinctly recall, when I was working as the club’s head of communications, going to Preston for a game on a Thursday night in September 2002 (a 1-1 draw, Paul Robinson scored).

Clubs were provided with viewing figures for live games, and although I can’t remember the exact detail, I do know the axes on the graph had to be changed as the numbers were so low the bars on the graph couldn’t be seen.

I think I worked out, back then, it would have been cheaper for ITV Digital to pay for the travel and tickets of those who watched the game on their platform to actually go to Deepdale, such was the cost of the live outside broadcast versus the number of people that watched it.

We can but hope that Sky and the EFL – who will announce all live games with dates and times of matches being broadcast up until early January before the season starts – put travel time, costs and atmosphere generated by fans at the forefront of their minds when they make their decisions.

But similarly, we can also hope we all get six numbers on the lottery and can watch the upcoming season in the luxury of early retirement.

Unless we are very lucky, there will be one or more Watford matches in the coming months moved to a random and ridiculous day/time (Middlesbrough away at 12.30pm on the last day of last season is recent hard evidence of that).

For now, though, sync the fixtures to the calendars on your phones, write them in your diary or use whatever your chosen method is of reminding yourself of the excitement/tedium (delete as applicable) that now lays before us over the next ten months.

It’s t-minus 45 days and counting…