Gracia: “All My Players Want More & More”
Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia struggled to keep the broadest of smiles off his face after his side pulled one out the bag to floor Leicester City with a late, late show.
The Head Coach probably thought he had seen it all in the come-from-behind win over Tottenham and the rousing nature of the one over Everton, but his side had Vicarage Road bouncing once again here when Andre Gray cracked in an injury-time winner.
“When you score at the end, it's always something different,” said Gracia. “I think the team had a good performance, better in the first than the second. We had to do different work. In the first half we controlled the game, attacking and trying to create chances.
“They had more possession in the second, the more control and playing on the counter-attack. We defended well and tried to score the second – and we got it at the end.”
The fact they got it was down to a herculean performance from Troy Deeney. He scored the first, ran his socks off, skittled over Leicester defenders and then summoned a piece of quality at the end to hook a pass into the path of Gray for the winner.
“It's not unusual,” said Gracia. “He's always the same. The assist for the second goal was important but today he was challenging with Morgan, with Evans, with Maguire and this was not easy. He showed his quality and he is very important for the team.”
Gray is also starting to underline his worth. He has three in his last seven appearances and all of them have come in a winning cause. The most recent two have come at Vicarage Road against teams coached by former Watford managers.
“Against Everton it was the same,” said Gracia of a player he brought on with 21 minutes remaining.
“When he plays, it is always good for the team. He is always thinking about a way to help the team. He has scored two important goals for the team and it is important to know the players are ready for the rest of the season.
“They all deserve to play more minutes, but I have to choose. I know his quality and I trust them. All of them, without exception, are working really hard, showing a high commitment with the club. I am enjoying this situation.”
It must be great for Gracia to know that he has a readymade pair in Gray and Deeney if, for whatever reason, Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu don't hit it off in a game.
“They started playing together, winning four in a row,” said Gracia.
“We know they are a very good option for us, but in other moments, we got good results with other players. My job is I have to decide and it is not easy. I have to choose why it is better to play with Troy and Andre, or Troy and Gerard, or Isaac or Peña. It's my job.”
Gracia prepares meticulously for games, but his plans were thrown into disarray this week when Leicester changed coaches, forcing him to show his agility and adaptability mid-game.
“We always try to prepare for the games the same way,” he said. “It was different because Leicester had a new coach and we didn't know their way, the shape, they players they will choose.
“They started three at the back and we tried to adapt quickly. In this moment, when we played better in the first half, we adapted very quickly. We scored and created more chances. In the second, we tried to defend close to our post, tried to be compact, this way a very good team.”
The fans were up in arms at some of the decisions of referee Jonathan Moss and he was booed off at full-time. Even the mild-mannered Gracia lost his composure during the game.
“I respect all the referees when we have a good or bad result,” he said. “I know it's very difficult for them but I try to support them always. During the game I was thinking and trying to speak with the assistant and explain my point of view. That's all I can do.”
The Head Coach was more keen to focus on what is shaping up to be a thrilling end to the season.
“We have a good balance in the team and this is the perfect atmosphere to play the rest of the season,” he said. “Five of the games are at home and we have an FA Cup quarter-final. I think it's good for us and all my players want more and more – they are ambitious.”