The absence of fans will be the most obvious difference when Watford resume playing at Vicarage Road later this month, as long as the restart of the Premier League goes ahead as planned, but the games will also be taking place on a new pitch.

The football season would normally have been finished by now and work would be underway on preparing the playing surface for the start of the 2020/21 campaign.

As with so many things though, the Hornets’ pitch maintenance calendar had to be rethought when the Premier League was suspended in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic and the club had to weigh up relaying the pitch much earlier than usual or potentially not be able to lay a new surface at all this year.

Having weighed up these factors, it was decided to proceed with a process which took about a week, involved 125 tonnes of sand being spread on the new playing surface and seeding it in six directions. It has been irrigated every day since to try and keep the seed damp and allow it grow.

However, carrying out the work earlier in the year has posed its challenges, as Watford’s head groundsman Scott Tingley explained when he spoke to the Watford Observer on Friday.

He said: “The issue that we’ve had is the fact that it’s been cooler at night, so once we seeded we had a couple of overnight frosts which for us a big no, no.

“We normally renovate the pitch now (at this time of year), so we’re seven, eight weeks ahead of schedule, so that’s brought its challenges in terms of overnight temperatures.

“Also the day temperatures, even when we’ve had 22, 24 degrees, it’s not stayed like that all day up until the last week or so.

“The last week it’s definitely moved on a lot, so I’m hoping another week and we should be pretty much where we want to be.”

Explaining the biggest disadvantage of relaying the pitch in April was “the unknown” of not having laid a new one that early in a year before, he continued: “We’ve only ever done it in May and June and in the close season we always know our end date and when we are preparing for.

“When we did this we never knew what we were preparing for. It could have been football in four weeks, it could have been football in seven weeks, maybe not at all until September or something. That’s been the biggest challenge, the not knowing and the day and night temperatures.

“The benefits to doing it is we didn’t know what window we might get. If for argument’s sake the restart didn’t happen until July, maybe we wouldn’t get an opportunity to do it all and that would be quite detrimental to us in January or February of next year, or the busy Christmas period.

“The work that we do now gives us the opportunity to make sure that the pitch is strong enough going into the winter period and also is weed-free and algae-free as well.”

Watford’s head groundsman and his team do not yet know when their new pitch will host its first Premier League game – the earliest it could be is the weekend of June 19 to 21 when the first full set of fixtures are due to played after the restart – but he is relieved to now have a firm date to work towards.

Tingley said: “We like to work to small goals, so almost say ‘we want to be at this point by here’ and set goals and achieve them. But that’s been very difficult all the time when we’ve not known when the restart’s coming.”