First Team 26/04/2019

Foster: “No Team Likes To Work As Watford Do”

Ben Foster says this Watford side are the “most hard-working team” he’s ever been a part of.

With the race for a European spot in the Premier League looking like it’s going to go down to the wire, it could be Watford’s work-rate that could make them the best of the rest this season.

The former Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper knows something about hard-working sides – having worked under the likes of Tony Pulis, Sir Alex Ferguson and Aidy Boothroyd – but says the Hornets’ endeavour makes it a joy to come in to train every day.

“The season has absolutely whizzed by – and I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” said the goalkeeper.

“That’s a testament to the lads that I’m playing with. They just make it a pleasure to come into work every day.

“We’re a really hard-working team. The stuff that goes on behind the scenes – I’ve never been involved with a team that likes to work as we do.

“The lads are always in the gym and they are always doing extra on the training pitches.

“There’s players that haven’t played in 15 or 20 games and they are still giving it 110 per cent every day on the training pitch.

“The cup run has been incredible for us because it keeps everyone on their toes, because they know even if they don’t start this Saturday or next Saturday, they are one injury away from being in the starting XI come the cup final.

“When everybody is like that and everybody feels part of the team, that’s when you get your best results on a Saturday.

“But we take every Premier League game as it comes. You never, ever, look past the next game – I know it’s a cliché, but that’s the way it goes.

“You look at who you are playing in the next game, you look at their strengths and weaknesses, but the most important thing is that we focus on ourselves and we look at our strengths and what we need to do.”

Part of that preparation involves looking at the two previous meetings with Wolves this season – both of which have ended in victories for the Golden Boys.

Watford have already broken the club record for the most points accrued in a Premier League season, passing the 45 amassed under Quique Sanchez Flores in 2015/16 in the club’s first season back in the top flight.

Now Foster and the lads have their sights set on a highest-ever Premier League finish.

“It’s been a fantastic season so far, but we can’t let it go to waste now,” said the former England stopper. “There’s four teams vying for that seventh position, and we’ve got ourselves into a position where we can genuinely go for it.

“If we do what we know we can do, we should get seventh. It is huge for us; we want to give it all we’ve got and finish strongly.

“We want to beat Wolves on Saturday and then we’ve got two more ‘cup finals’ before the FA Cup final at the end of the season.

“The manager is meticulous; he’s probably looked at the last 20 matches that Wolves have played.

“We know what to expect from them, we did really well in that second half at Wembley and we can put that into practice on Saturday.”

First Team 26/04/2019

Gracia: “The Fans Give The Players Extra Motivation”

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia wants the fans to recreate the wall of noise they generated at Wembley and help inspire his side to victory in what is shaping up to be a humdinger of a game against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Vicarage Road.

The ground has been bouncing ever since the pulsating win over Everton in February and there is no doubt the consistency and volume of the support has played a part in the number of late, late shows at home and in north London in the second half of the season. Gracia is expecting another crackling atmosphere on Saturday, especially as the Wolves fans are likely to make a real racket in the away end.

“We need them, [our fans],” said the Head Coach. “Maybe this is the game when we need the most noise, passion and support from the fans. We need them. I am sure at this moment of the season all the teams are a little bit tired and then is when you need to feel the support of your fans. I think this gives the players extra motivation and it helps you to do better.”

There no doubt the demanding Gracia will send out his players charged up for a game which has subplots left, right and centre. Much will be made of Wolves seeking redemption for the semi-final defeat, but Gracia will argue his side’s need is greater as they are desperate to get the pursuit of seventh back in their own hands.

“They will be motivated but we are as well,” he said. “All of us want to win the game to achieve a better position, so I don’t need any extra motivation to play tomorrow. We have two chances to achieve seventh but, in this moment, the league is our target. When the league finishes, we have time to prepare for the final. We want to play as better as possible in the next game to try and better our position. We will try to achieve the points as we know how important it is to have a good chance to achieve seventh place.”

The Hornets have already racked up the most third most top-flight points in their history and a win on Saturday would match the haul of 53 Graham Taylor’s side achieved in 1985/86. It would also leave them in the box seat to claim that sought-after position just outside the top six.

“It will be good,” said Gracia. “I think during the season we’ve been in a good position in the table. I have spoken about this before but the end position will be a consequence of all the things we have done before. If we focus just on the next game, we have more chances to achieve this position.”

It’s an approach that has yielded 14 league wins, six in the cup, including the league and cup double over Nuno Espírito Santo’s side. Now the Hornets are gunning for a hat-trick of wins over the team from the Black Country.

“We are playing against Wolves but they are a different team from the first two matches,” said the Head Coach. “In the first game they played with a midfield two and then three in front. Then, in the second one, they played with three in midfield plus two in front. I thought it was better to play the way we did in the second game [with a diamond]. Now I have to decide what is best for my players to play against them, but the most important thing is ourselves, what we do. Both games have been very tough, very equal games and we know it will be the same in this situation.”

Gracia loves pitting his wits against Espírito Santo. This will be their sixth meeting and Gracia is 3-2 in front in their head-to-head record.

“I knew him before coming to England,” said Gracia. “He worked in Spain at Valencia, so I knew him before. It is not a surprise what he’s doing at Wolves. They are a well-organised side team and they deserve the results they are getting. We’ll see in this next game what will happen.”