Gracia: “I Am Back With My Second Family”
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia is glad to be back among what he describes as his “second family” as the Hornets prepare to step up their pre-season preparations in Austria.
The Head Coach was at the front of the plane that left Luton for Salzburg this morning and he wasted no time in putting his players through their paces with a late afternoon session deep in the Austrian mountains.
The Hornets will spend nearly a week at the same training base they used last season, playing matches against Ajax on Thursday and Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
The players have been back in training for a fortnight but Gracia has been back at London Colney for a while, plotting how to improve on last season and devising a plan for the first game of the season against Brighton.
“I tried to enjoy the break by spending time with my family and now I am back with my second family,” said the Head Coach. “It’s nice to be back and see all the players again and all the people around the team. We are looking forward to the new season.”
Gracia and his coaching staff laid the foundations for last season’s highest ever finish in pre-season by creating a team spirit, tweaking the diet and training schedule and making it crystal clear how hard he expects them to work.
“It’s not so important as last season, because last season was the moment when we had time to train together and spend time together,” he said. “Most of the players were with us last season and then they know perfectly what we want, the way we work. It’s always good to remind them how important it is to work and be ready. All the players have already done very good work and now we have more weeks to prepare.”
The Golden Boys played an in-house friendly against the club’s Under-23 team on Friday at the training ground, but they ramp up things up this week by playing Champions League semi-finalists Ajax and then Leverkusen, who finished fourth in the Bundesliga.
“They are two teams that were training more time than us but it will be a good challenge,” said Gracia. “They are two good teams but in this moment I am not worried about the results of these games. I prefer to compete against two of the best teams in Europe.”
The goal is to hit the ground running when the Seagulls visit Vicarage Road on August 10 and get off to the sort of start that set the team up so well last season.
“We always want to improve,” said Gracia. “I think it’s something that lives with us and is inside us. We all want to improve, the players and the technical staff. The club is the same. The objective is to be more demanding than last season and although other clubs are stronger with new players, I think we are lucky to keep players we had last season and this is our strength. We now have to work hard, to be well prepared and after we will see.”