Gracia: “Players Want To Keep Going And Improve”
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia felt his history-making side showed just how deep their resolve runs after coming back from the brink to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in a breathless semi-final at Wembley.
The Hornets were dead and buried at 2-0 down with 12 minutes to go and staring down the barrel at a sixth defeat in seven matches at the home of English football, but then Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney inspired one of the great FA Cup turnarounds.
“It's not easy for me to explain the game,” said the Head Coach. “Before coming we knew it would be a tough game and very demanding.
“When everything was lost, the team was able to show our character, our personality, our ambition and we believed we could win it until the end.”
Gracia said he had no doubts that Deeney would slam in the equaliser from the spot in a highest of pressure situations. There were seconds left on the clock, then a delay while referee Michael Oliver checked VAR and yet still the captain rammed it past John Ruddy.
“Troy is our captain and important on the pitch and out of the pitch it as well,” he said. “In that moment, I had full confidence. I was calm as I knew he would score the second goal.”
The game provided a real test of Gracia's nerve and his coaching credentials. He set out his team very narrow and compact and then had to ask them to add some width into the game after they found themselves two goals down after 63 minutes.
“During the game there were different moments, difficult moments,” he added. “In the first half when they scored, we had some chances.
“In the second, we had more possession, more control of the game and we scored at the end. It was something amazing for us. We are very happy, very proud of the players and of all our supporters. In that moment we have lived together.”
Gracia reached a cup quarter-final with Malaga, a cup-semi final with Ruben Kazan and now he has a final in the greatest cup competition of them all to look forward to.
“There are always new moments and whether it is the best moment, you never know,” he said. “It was something special, yes. I just enjoy every day and my job is to do my best for Watford, for the supporters.”
The team have been given three well-earned days off before returning to prepare for the visit of Arsenal on Monday in what promises to be a celebratory atmosphere at Vicarage Road.
“We have time to enjoy this victory,” said Gracia. “But we have six games left in the Premier League and I'm sure the players don't want to stop.
“We want to achieve the best position in the Premier League. We saw today their character. They want to keep going and improve every day.”