First Team 21/04/2019

Gracia: “We Have To Improve & Be More Demanding”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below.

By Kevin Affleck

The ever-demanding Javi Gracia said there is much work to be done in the race for seventh spot and that he will have to iron out the lapse in concentration that saw the Hornets concede a consolation at the John Smith’s Stadium.

The Golden Boys jumped from 10th to seventh on the back of the 2-1 win at Huddersfield and they could take an iron grip on the position if they win their game in hand on Tuesday night.

“I am happy,” said Gracia. “But, in this moment I’m not thinking if we are going to be able to keep that position or not. To be honest, I am focused on playing in three days and we have to recover these players and prepare as best as possible. It is the only way. 

“We are doing something really special in this moment, but it is not the time to think about the end or the final. This is the moment to be focused.”

Gracia is a glass half full kind of coach and there was much to be admired about the workmanlike win in Yorkshire, but he was not happy about the way his team switched off to allow Karlan Grant to ghost in between two defenders and head in a goal that denied the Hornets a first clean sheet since February. 

“I was very, very [angry],” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. Huddersfield played a good game and showed their pride. I want to be respectful of them and the situation they are living, but we have to improve in that moment and be more demanding. It’s my job to remind them of what they have to do.

“The team will keep playing and trying to get good results. You can achieve this kind of thing when you are living all the season as a team.”

Jan Siewert, the Huddersfield coach, was mightily impressed with Gracia’s side. “They were very well organised and there is a big reason why they are in the FA Cup final and in a good position in the league,” he said.

The respect was mutual. Gracia knew the Terriers were not going to roll over on their own patch and he had warned his players just what a tough time they gave his side at Vicarage Road.

“We knew it would not be an easy game,” he said. “It is difficult to play in these circumstances and I think they showed pride and they tried to do their best. We had the possession, we had the control and after scoring the first goal, we tried to kill the game.

“We suffered knowing that with one set-piece and on one counter-attack they could score. We killed the game with the second and after we played, until the last 20 seconds, more comfortably. 

“It was a demanding game. The day was hot and the players were really tired at the end. We now try to be focused on the next game. We have to be ready.”

First Team 20/04/2019

Balague: “You Are Going To See The Best Of Deulofeu”

Guillem Balague believes we are going to see the very best of Gerard Deulofeu at Watford.

The Spanish broadcaster and pundit has followed the fleet-footed forward’s career since he was a teenager, and now sees a more mature Deulofeu who is determined to succeed.

The former Everton and AC Milan man came off the bench at Wembley against Wolves in the FA Cup semi-final to score two goals and help Watford complete a remarkable, stunning comeback.

His first goal can only be described as exquisite. The second sent the Hornets into the Cup final. That quality has always been there, according to Balague, but perhaps it is only now that we are beginning to see the potential of Deulofeu’s talent becoming fully realised.

Deulofeu's best, believes Balague, is yet to come.

“I remember Fernando Hierro - the former Real Madrid legend, when he was the director of the Spanish Federation - said ‘there’s this 16-year-old guy who’s the best player I’ve ever seen, and he could be huge’.”

It was Gerard Deulofeu.

Deulofeu playing for Barcelona at the age of 17, against RCD Mallorca in 2001

“I’ve kept an eye on him since then,” said Balague.

“When I spoke to Deulofeu, he said; 

‘When I was in Barcelona B in my mind I was like ‘I’m going to be a superstar,’ but maybe that was a problem.

‘I played for Everton but my heart was in Barcelona. Barcelona is the past for me now. Now I am here, I am an ambitious player, and I want to help Watford - let’s see what happens.’

“It is only now I feel that his mind, his attentions, are in the same place. Now we will see what happens. Everything that comes now will be because of hard work.

“He is listening and he is in the here and now. He’s matured, he enjoys his role as a striker and he seems to be in a very good position. 

“I saw him smiling and relaxed, he looks like he’s enjoying life.”

Javi Gracia and Deulofeu spoke to Balague for The Premier League Show

It surely helps having someone as nurturing as Javi Gracia leading him along the path, being in Hertfordshire - close enough to London, but removed enough to shut away the noise when required - and to finally feel settled.

That comfort does not mean he is resting on his laurels, however. More that he has finally found somewhere to progress uninterrupted.

“He hasn’t been in a place like he is now,” continued Balague. “He hasn’t been in a place where he feels like he’s treated differently, where he’s a bit special. The coach has identified that maybe that’s the way to get the best out of him.

“He feels important, he is not a promising player anymore. He is a player who scores important goals, but there is still a lot of room for improvement and he is aware of that.

“It’s good that he knows the most important thing is the next training session, the next game, and with that you will maximise your potential. Some people reach that conclusion when they are 17, some find it when they are 24. He has that now. 

“I think you are going to see the best of Deulofeu very soon.”