When Watford were dropping out of Championship playoff contention during the closing weeks of last season, it was an open secret that Chris Wilder would be leaving Vicarage Road at the end of his short-term contract.
A replacement was quickly found in the form of Valerien Ismael who, in never lasting more than 50 games in any of his 10 managerial roles, is probably the ideal fit for ownership who do not waste time in changing head coaches if things are not working out.
Ismael’s squad will have a distinctly different look to the one under his predecessors, the likes of Craig Cathcart, Mario Gaspar, Tom Cleverley and Joao Pedro already departing the Hornets.
Coming through the arrival door have been Tom Ince, Jorge Cabezas and Rhys Healey, the likes of Ince and Healey in particular having potential to emerge as important members of the group.
More signings will follow in due course as Ismael attempts to put together a squad capable of enforcing his style of play, something which did not materialise during his last Championship stint with West Bromwich Albion.
Having blew a two-goal lead at Notts County in last season’s National League playoff semi-finals, Garrard needs to find a way of lifting his players to try to win a league that is wide open now that Wrexham and Notts County are back in League Two.
This game is the first of a stellar pre-season lineup, Boreham Wood also having games versus West Ham United and Brentford, as well as a Chelsea XI and Arsenal XI.
With this game being their first of pre-season, each starting lineup is a complete unknown, particularly in the case of Watford who have been back in training for two weeks.
The quartet of Ryan Porteous, Imran Louza, Ismael Kone and Yaser Asprilla have recently been representing their respective nations on international duty and are unlikely to be considered for action.
Ismael may err on the side of caution with Healey, who only returned from a serious knee injury in June, but Samuel Kalu, Edo q and Tom Dele-Bashirumay come back into contention after barely featuring in 2022-23.
Meanwhile, Garrard may not rush the involvement of his recent additions, who will have only had a couple of training sessions ahead of this fixture.
Three players – Will Evans, Josh Rees and Mark Ricketts – who featured in the squad for the playoff semi-final have departed the club.