Allan Nielsen is confident that Watford have what it takes to escape relegation this season despite the competitiveness of the Premier League.

The Dane, who spent three seasons at Watford following his then £2.5m club record move from Tottenham Hotspur in 2000, thinks that Vicarage Road has become a fortress for the club since Nigel Pearson took charge in December, with some of the league’s best sides dropping points on their trips to Hertfordshire.

The Hornets inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Manchester United back in December while Liverpool’s hopes of ending the season unbeaten came to a halt after suffering a 3-0 loss at Vicarage Road last month.

Nielsen knows that building on that form is vital if they are to stay in the top flight.

“The Premier League is the toughest and best league in the world," he said.

"Can Watford do it? I believe they have the players and belief to do it. In the last couple of months they have come very far but time will tell.

“They have a home ground that is tough to play at for away teams with Liverpool losing their unbeaten record there, so yes, I do think that they have a chance but then again we have to bear in mind that Watford is a small club in the Premier League. Let’s be honest about that. You need strong finances because there’s so much to the game nowadays but I do think that they can stay up.

“It’s a ‘London’ club and we know how much competition there is at a ‘London’ club with all the big names and the money around so I think that Watford’s rise throughout the years is really unbelievable and remarkable.

“And all I can tell the attitude among the current players is to enjoy every single day, every single year you can and learn as much as you can if you want to stay up.

“Keep on pushing and keep on believing. It will be tough but if you keep pushing and believing I am sure the club will have many more years left in the Premier League.”

When Nielsen put pen to paper on a three-year contract two decades ago, Watford had just been relegated. During his three years in Hertfordshire, Nielsen made 66 appearances across all competitions, yet he and his teammates failed in their bid to secure promotion from the First Division, as they finished ninth, 14th and 13th.

The 49-year old admitted that he is proud of how far Watford have come since his days with the club, having “drastically improved not only on, but also off the pitch” after a spell of five consecutive years in the Premier League.

“I think that what Watford are going through now and the run they have had in the Premier League is phenomenal, if you consider the size of the club," he said.

“The ground, everything is unbelievable. During my visit at the beginning of 2020 I went to the training ground and there was so many improvements. The training ground and facilities changed beyond recognition. It is an absolutely unbelievable upgrade to the treatment room, facilities, restaurants, pitches, everything.

“It is key to have these facilities for the players and the staff, which are there to look after the players. It’s key to have these infrastructures if you want to perform at the highest level in football.

“The treatment, gym, spa, food that is served there, the pitches the players play on at London Colney everything is top top level, and that’s important for you to have your players to perform at the very best. They have come a long way since I was there.”

The former Denmark international returned to Vicarage Road for the first time in nearly 17 years when the club invited him to attend the Premier League fixture that saw Watford lock horns with his other former side Tottenham Hotspur last January.

Nielsen reveals that he felt “embarrassed” during his lap of honour at half-time, but any lingering doubts that he secretly had of Watford supporters no longer remembering him after all these years were soon dispelled.

“The reception I had when I walked around the pitch during half-time with my son Louis was unbelievable," he said.

"First of all I was thinking ‘What are you doing and why should you walk around? Nobody will remember you, Allan.'

“But you know, then again, I got an unbelievable reception and I want to thank the fans for that. On top of it Watford were playing against my former team Tottenham and, yes, as a Watford player walking on the pitch, coming down to the away-team supporters, who also applauded me, meant a lot to me. It was very emotional because you see the depth and warmth of the English football fans.

“They are supportive, passionate and make the Premier League an unbelievable place to play football. Every player wants to play in the Premier League and I was one of the lucky ones who had seven years altogether in the UK, three-and-a-half at Tottenham, six months at Wolverhampton and three years at Watford.

“It was some time that I had in England, I will never forget it. And that day in January when I returned to Vicarage Road I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of my former team members from Watford. It was great to meet them and catch up with them, great to have a conversation and to hear what they have been doing since leaving football and what they are doing now. It was an unbelievable day.”

Nielsen was brought to Vicarage Road by club legend Graham Taylor, following EURO 2000 and, on his return to the stadium, the Dane said that it was not only the reception given to him by the fans that left him feeling emotional, but that seeing Taylor's statue was also a moving experience.

“The whole stadium has had a big makeover since I left and my dear coach Graham Taylor, a legend, was not there anymore,” he said with a cracked voice.

“There is a statue of him there and I took a picture with it. It was a weird feeling to stand next to the statue of Graham Taylor. He was a manager I had many great conversations with during my first season at Watford. It was him who actually made it happen for me to go to Watford and I owe him a lot.”