Why Javi Gracia is the perfect fit for the Pozzo familyby Andy Dillon / 17 May 2019, 11:11Tweet
Watford may look a little out of place at Wembley tomorrow walking side by side with the titans of modern cash-rich football.
Manchester City are used to such grand occasions having appeared at the national stadium just a couple of months ago in a tough but ultimately victorious Carabao Cup Final win over Chelsea.
Watford boss Javi Gracia will lead out his team at its first FA Cup Final since 1984 - one that ended in defeat to Everton. They will be even more the underdogs against City’s superstars.
Most neutrals are championing Gracia’s cause, seeing it as the relatively small Hertfordshire club’s one shot at glory. Championship Play Off winners 13 years ago hardly an illustrious history.
But those who watch Watford closely have noted that while a crushing defeat could knock the stuffing out of the progress being made at revamped Vicarage Road it is highly unlikely.
The combination of mild-mannered Gracia and the Pozzo family which owns the club is a perfect fit. They look good together even if Watford can’t quite match Man City.
Gracia seems to be the coach this club has been looking for to fit its quirky way of working which is catching on in the wider game.
The owners buy the players, the head coach trains them and shuts up about transfers, focussing on getting the best out of what he is given and absolving himself of all other responsibility in other areas.
Rather like Watford itself, Gracia has come along a long, hard road to get where is now, being fitted out for a new suit and shoes for the biggest day of his career.
His mum is flying over from Spain to see her son at work for the first time to underline the magnitude of the game.
A wanderer up to now, Gracia has coached in his homeland but also way out east in Russia at Rubin Kazan.
From the brink of administration at the end of the noughties, Watford too has slowly but steadily route marched back into the mainstream of football and shaped itself not only to cope with the Premier League but to kick on after this season.
Saturday’s FA Cup Final will be Gracia’s 61st game in charge - the longest run of any of the last eight managers stretching back to Gianfranco Zola but only six years ago.
At last, the Pozzos have found a man who accepts their way of working and Gracia has found bosses to believe in him.
His immediate predecessor Marco Silva was way too ambitious and itchy to move on, Walter Materazzi, chain-smoking and ignorant, refusing to learn English and adapt to our way of playing.
Quique Sanchez Flores came closest to achieving material success, getting Watford to a Cup semi final before getting sacked - mainly because of behind the scenes squabbling over transfers.
All of which proves there will only ever be one winner in a dispute with the Pozzos, yet laid back Gracia is happy to accept anything. I’m told he even likes Elton John’s music.
Being so accepting, handing over the arduous task of signing players and just getting on with the business of coaching is appealing more and more to owners who want to spend their own money, not hand it over to someone else.
And this is why tomorrow’s FA Cup Final is such an important landmark in Watford’s and Gracia’s future. He is already being linked with top jobs like Chelsea.
As Antonio Conte found out, arguing in public over transfers is a massive no-no. And as previous Chelsea managers have discovered, owner Roman Abramovich has a habit of signing players without telling his manager.
Gracia is an expert man manager who has got maximum results out of his squad and he never comments about the comings and goings during transfer windows.
He puts up, shuts up and lets his players make all the noise they want on the pitch. He has made the unfashionable, fashionable.