So what can supporters of the Lilywhites - Ashes hero Freddie Flintoff included - expect? According to Billy Davies, avoid relegation and possibly scrape into the top half of a division that includes the likes of Luton, Crewe and Plymouth Argyle, not to mention a Watford side beaten quite comfortably.
Davies' crushing lack of ambition is backed up by a belief that they are once more minnows in a division full of sharks, or at least some big fish. "When you look at Wolves, Norwich, Crystal Palace, Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday, we're nowhere near that league.
"You've got to be realistic. The fans have got great expectations, but we certainly haven't."
For all that, Davies can still count on virtually the entire team that underperformed against West Ham in May, and has only lost the winger Eddie Lewis. He has also brought in the experienced Danny Dichio.
What Adrian Boothroyd, Davies' counterpart, would give for such stability. Clarke Carlisle was still acquainting himself with his new defensive partners at 1.30 on Saturday afternoon, the second of two transfers in the space of 48 hours.
The first was Darius Henderson, who headed home cleverly during a period of Watford dominance that was ended by David Nugent's well-taken effort from 20 yards and Dickson Etuhu's waltz through the home defence that concluded with a firm shot.
Yet Flintoff and his ilk should not be deceived by Davies' apparent lack of confidence: things are looking good already.
Goals: Henderson (9) 1-0; Nugent (22) 1-1; Etuhu (37) 1-2.
Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Doyley, Carlisle, DeMerit, Stewart (Bouazza, 79); Young, Blizzard, Bangura, McNamee (Chambers, 61); Henderson, King. Substitutes not used: Chamberlain (gk), Diagouraga.
Preston North End (4-4-2): Nash; Alexander, Mawene, Lucketti, Davidson (Davis, 82); Sedgwick, Etuhu, O'Neil (Jones, 75), McKenna; Cresswell, Nugent (Agyemang, 70). Substitutes not used: Dichio, Neal.
Referee: I Williamson (Berkshire).
Booked: Watford Young, Bangura; Preston Davidson, Mawene.
Man of the match: McKenna.
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