Watford coaching assistant Hayden Mullins was not expecting to be brought into Nigel Pearson’s first-team coaching squad when he was, but is relishing the challenge.

The former Under-23 coach was given the first-team job on a temporary basis following the sacking of Quique Sanchez Flores and was then retained by Pearson and kept on as part of his back room staff. Mullins said it was a surprise to have been offered the role, but that he is enjoying his new working environment.

“It was a surprise and it was a very good one,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic club to work in and obviously working within the Premier League, coaching on the first-team staff, it’s fantastic for myself.

“We’ll all have an input, we all chip in. It’s really good for me to see how Nigel works and how Craig Shakespeare works, being a young coach myself, it’s brilliant.

“There’s always conversations that we have, it’s not just me, he includes everyone in that, Craig Shakespeare, Graham Stack and myself, as well as the guys from the sports science team. We all have a chat and sit around and Nigel’s very open to stuff like that, he’s very good, he involves a lot of the staff.”

Since Pearson’s arrival the club has overturned a nine point gap at the bottom of the Premier League table to give themselves a real shot at avoiding relegation, should the league be continued.

Mullins feels that the key to this was improving the players’ morale and giving them the freedom to express themselves a bit more than they were previously permitted to do.

“The team were going through a period where they were a bit flat and results weren’t going their way and just trying to restore confidence,” he said.

“I think one of the main keys to that is restoring the faith in the players and restoring in their minds how good they are and what they can do to affect a game and how good they are as a side when they’re playing together. I think that was the key really, just kind of giving them a little bit more freedom to express themselves.

“They are a good side, we’ve got a really good squad of players. It’s just about giving them the confidence and the freedom to go out and play and express themselves, playing with a bit of enjoyment but also having the responsibility when we haven’t got the ball.

“It was pretty simple really, the players were wanting to go out and express themselves and they wanted to go out and win games and be more front-footed and be more attacking and it was just a combination of those things and giving them the licence to go ahead and do it.”

Looking ahead, Mullins knows there is still work to do in order for Watford to avoid the drop, if the season is permitted to resume later this year.

However, he believes his experience of working with the club for as long as he has means he is in a great position to help them stay in the top flight.

“We’ve been at the club for a while now, myself, especially, “ he said.

“I’ve been there four years now, I know the club really well, a lot of the staff and the players. Hopefully, if we can help in any way, then we will do. I’m sure that as a manager that Nigel wanted to try and keep it as seamless as possible with the staff when he came in and I think we’ve all seen the impact that he’s had on the squad. It’s been very good and we haven’t finished what we set out to do yet, but he’s had a great impact on the playing staff.”