First Team 03/04/2019

Gracia: “To Win Was The Best Way To Prepare”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for his thoughts from his press conference.

By Kevin Affleck

A relentless Javi Gracia has challenged his side to kick on from setting a new benchmark for the club’s best ever Premier League points tally, to really push on and turn a really good season into a great one.

The handsome win over Fulham took the Golden Boys up to 46 points, one more than they achieved in a full season under Quique Sanchez Flores. With six games remaining, including four at fortress Vicarage Road, Gracia wants the Hornets to reach for the stars.

“There are many games left, some of them at home where we are feeling really well,” said Gracia. “It is something special for us, amazing to get 46 points, the best amount of points in the Premier League is something special and a very good reward for all these players. They were all working from the beginning and the players don’t want to stop there. They want to keep getting more points. They are very, very demanding.”

They get it from their coach who made no bones about the fact he was not happy with the first-half performance. He was barking at the back four long before Ryan Babel equalised and that continued in the dressing room at the break.

“Yes, I was [angry at half-time],” he said. “I didn’t like what I saw. We didn’t keep possession, we didn’t find the right balance, we didn’t adjust well in our movement. After, in the second half, we felt better, we felt more possession, created more chances, scoring more goals. That was the key to winning the game.”

Gracia showed it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you have played for Juventus or Barcelona – you are not immune from getting hooked at half-time if the Head Coach doesn’t like what he sees.

“We changed two players, but not only that,” he said. “It was important we adjusted the movement and the shape. In the first half, we didn't keep the shape and didn’t win a lot of the challenges. We needed to adjust positions, movements and we made two substitutions. In that moment we felt more comfortable on the pitch. We created better chances in the game.”

The Head Coach surprised many by picking a full-strength team just five days before the FA Cup semi-final, but it paid off spectacularly as they team now head to Wembley with no apparent injury concerns and on the back of a thumping win.

“All the players are tired after the effort today,” he said. “I think the game was very, very tough in the first half. Fulham played much, much better than us in the first half, but as I said before the game, to win today was the best way to prepare for the next game. The players have enough time to recover before the next important game.”

First Team 02/04/2019

Deeney: “Andre Did What He Does”

Watch post-match reaction with Troy Deeney and Andre Gray above, or read on below.

Watford skipper Troy Deeney hailed the impact of fellow frontman Andre Gray after the club-record signing stepped off the bench to help the Hornets crush Fulham.

The former Burnley man had netted three winners off the bench in his past three home games against Everton, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, yet still had to settle for a place among the substitutes against the Cottagers.

With the game poised at 1-1 at the break – Ryan Babel cancelling out Abdoulaye Doucouré’s thunderous opener – Gray was introduced at the start of the second half.

And after Will Hughes scored a Goal of the Season contender to put Watford back in front, Gray set up first Deeney then Kiko Femenía to wrap up a stunning 4-1 victory at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets skipper was quick to pay tribute to his fellow striker and the rest of the Golden Boys, who eclipsed their previous record points tally - 45 - in the Premier League with the win.

“The first half was really sloppy,” admitted the skipper. “But in the second, we went back to the basics that we have built this team on. And the big man [Gray] came on and did what he does.

“If Andre keeps doing what he’s been doing, eventually the cries from everyone will get him in the team.

“From the outside, people might think it is luck that has got us where we are but gaining 46 points is a milestone for us.

“We were probably one of the favourites for relegation before the season started but maybe those who said things like that are starting to show us a bit more respect because are proving we are a good side.”

Gray, meanwhile, was pleased to be able to once again make an impact off the bench.

The 27-year-old injected plenty of energy into a Watford attack feeling the effects of the effort they had put in to outplay Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Gray was a constant menace to the Fulham rearguard, wriggling free on 69 minutes to squeeze a cross that fell perfectly for Deeney to side-foot past Sergio Rico. 

Another such cross helped Femenía smash home his first of the campaign.

“All I can do is come on and try to change the game,” said Gray. “It has been frustrating [not starting] but I want to help the team when they’re suffering.

“I felt we looked a bit tired in the first half. We played really well against Manchester United but it took a lot out of us. At times, Fulham had too much of the ball.

“In the second half, we were a bit more direct and attacking. The key was that we kept pushing – we didn’t want to sit back and hold on to what we had.”