Javi Gracia is having one hell of a good year, and one that appears to be getting better and better every day for the Catalan Head Coach at Vicarage Road, as his Watford club makes its historic way to their second FA Cup final competition in their 138-year history.
The Hornets will be returning to the FA Cup Final on Saturday May 18 at Wembley for the first time since their glory days in 1984, back when music legend Sir Elton John owned the club, and Graham Taylor was running the show.
For Gracia, this will be his first FA Cup Final, as well as his opportunity to make it into the annals of football history at Watford as the coach orchestrating the historic comeback of this club whose origins date back to 1881 when some lads took to kicking a ball around Cassiobury Park.
But there’s more. As it looks right now, Gracia’s Hornets are headed not only to the FA Cup Finals, but are also bracing for their very possible historic entry into the Europa League.
And Europa is looking like a pretty likely possibility for the Golden Boys. Having secured their 7th place spot at the Premier League table, thanks to a smooth goal scored by André Gray during the second half in Tuesday’s match against Southampton, as well as their upcoming participation in the FA Cup, may be all that is needed to help these lads make it to Europa.
In fact, things look so good for the Hornets, that even if they lose the Cup, they may still qualify for Europa by simply holding tight to that 7th place spot at the table. So much so, that Gracia reportedly told the squad to focus more on Europa than on the FA Cup.
While the Hornets are decidedly the underdogs in that upcoming FA Cup Match, we may nonetheless end up being surprised by Javi’s powerful squad. A tightly-knit team nurtured by Gracia’s constant morale building and unifying tactics, the lads have shown their worth in recent games as they scrambled to attain and keep that 7th place spot, with Coach Javi praising their efforts every step of the way.
“When everything was lost, the team was able to show its character,” he said after the Hornets’ impressive comeback in the second half against Wolverton last week, a match that helped them to nab that 7th place spot, and restored the team’s morale after losses to Liverpool, Manchester City, and United.
To help the Hornets move further along toward their FA Cup/Europa League dream, Watford’s chief rivals Wolverton, Everton, and Leicester all faced defeats this past weekend, giving the Golden Boys the opportunity to tighten their spot at the Premier League table and build even more morale.
It’s as if everything were lining up to make Javi Gracia’s contract, signed in November 2018 with Watford owner Gino Pozzo, and committing him to the Hornets until 2023, look like the best possible decision that Pozzo could have ever made on behalf of his beloved club.
Watford’s passionate owner, whose assertive determination to make history by raising his club from the lower leagues to the pinnacle of Premier League success, displays no less Rocket Power than Sir Elton John’s lifelong obsession with the Watford club. Pozzo spends every day at Vicarage Road, closely observing Gracia’s coaching technique and providing continuous support for the squad, getting to know players personally and demonstrating genuine concern for their individual careers, as well as the squad’s championship goals.
Pozzo knew exactly what he was investing in when he hand picked the former Head Coach at Malaga, a club that was owned by Pozzo and his family from 2009 until 2016. Javi led the once-underdog Malaga to two unprecedented, consecutive 10-0 victories at the 2013 Uefa Champions League quarterfinals, impressing not only Gino Pozzo but the entire European football community.
And with Pozzo providing no-holds-barred support, Gracia has proven that he’s worth his weight in gold at Watford by repeating that coaching performance and graciously leading the Hornets squad to their historic second FA Cup final within his first full season at Vicarage Road. With that 7th place spot now neatly in hand following the Hornets’ victory over the Saints on Tuesday, the squad is looking better than it could have ever dreamed of in the past 35 years.
“I am happy with the players I have and with my club. I try to be fair with myself and with my club and try to do my best to help improve the team,” expressed Gracia.
The soft-spoken, understated Catalan also considers that the efforts undertaken by his players and staff during his first year at Watford have already made this season a whopping success for both him and his club.
To reward their efforts and help them recoup strength and stamina for the significant matches that are now ahead of them, Gracia let the lads rest for three days after their sweeping second-half comeback victory over the Wolves at the FA Cup semi-final last Sunday. On that occasion, the Hornets wowed ther supporters by rising up from 2-0 down with 11 minutes left in the game to secure a dramatic 3-2 victory in extra time.
“I don’t need to win a title to feel it was a successful season,” noted Javi, with his usual laid-back, drama-free attitude. “I don’t need that reward, but for sure, I want to win titles and enjoy it with our supporters.”
Still Gracia cannot deny that he shares the squad’s excitement at the prospect of winning that FA Cup, a victory that would be historic for the Hornets, as well as leading the club to glory with their first-ever entry into the Europa League.
On the occasion of the club’s last FA Cup finals match back in 1984, Watford endured a 2-0 defeat by Everton, while Sir Elton John openly shed buckets of tears in the bleachers. The musical legend has since been appointed as honorary life president at the club.
With a new biopic of his life about to be released under the title Rocketman, the ever-popular crooner won’t be attending the FA Cup Final match against Manchester City at Wembley this year, as he will be busy with a concert tour in May, though certainly he can be expected to tune in from wherever he is.
But for Pozzo and Javi Gracia, that historic match at Wembley will be decidedly unforgettable, marking an impressive occasion for both.