First Team 5 days ago

Gracia: “Deulofeu Has A High Quality”

Javi Gracia says the move to a central striking role has brought the “high quality” best out of Gerard Deulofeu.

Having come through the fabled La Masia Academy in Barcelona predominantly as a winger, the Spanish international has often partnered skipper Troy Deeney through the middle with the Hornets this season.

And Watford have reaped the benefits – Deulofeu has notched 12 goals throughout a productive campaign, his best return since netting 18 times for Barcelona ‘B’ back in 2012/13.

Two of those 12 goals came on that memorable day at Wembley when, after stepping off the bench, the 25-year-old former AC Milan and Sevilla loanee bagged a brace as the Golden Boys came from 2-0 down to reach the final of the most famous cup competition in the world.

Gracia says he sees a player that is flourishing thanks to the support behind him at Watford, with Deulofeu having settled in one position after so many seasons of change in his career.

“He is a good player,” said the Spanish coach. “After that all of us; his teammates, the technical staff, medical staff, all of the workers – we try to help him to improve.

“With him, and with the rest of the players as well, it is our job.

“But the most important thing is the quality of the player. Deulofeu, you know, has a high quality.

“In this moment he is playing in one position more regularly, because in other seasons he has played as a second forward, as a winger, as a striker as well.

“This season he has played more often as a striker, with two up front. He feels comfortable playing in that position with his teammates.”

Gracia is obviously pleased with his compatriot’s evolution in a new position, but as with all aspects of his team he is constantly looking for more, always demanding the very best of his squad.

The former Malaga and Rubin Kazan coach is always looking to improve his players, while showing them he has faith in them. That has been crucial to the strong team spirit that has helped raise levels around Vicarage Road.

“I tell you the secret is the team,” added Gracia.

“Our strength is in the team, and with this squad all of the players can [still] play better.”

First Team 5 days ago

Terry: “Get At Them And Unsettle Them”

At 21 years of age, Steve Terry was the eldest of a nervous young back four when Graham Taylor’s Hornets and Everton met at the end of the 1983/84 campaign under Wembley’s twin towers to contest the FA Cup final.

Flanked by two 20-year-old full-backs, Steve had to look after fellow youthful centre-back Lee Sinnott – aged just 18 – alongside him.

Yet the big former defender believes Javi Gracia’s current squad will suffer no such doubts when they line up against Manchester City at Wembley this weekend.

“We were in great spirits beforehand,” recalled Terry.

“We’d beaten Arsenal at home – as usual – for the last league game. We thought we could beat them, don’t get me wrong. We had a side to beat anyone and we showed that during the league season with some of our results.

“But we were missing big characters at the back on the day – the likes of Pat [Rice] and Wilf [Rostron] – and some of our more prolific players just didn’t play well on the day; probably Everton snuffed them out well more than anything.”

Relaxed during the build-up was Terry’s description, what with Saint & Greavsie doing some training and Michael Barrymore reporting live from the team HQ on matchday itself.

“A lot of our players hadn’t been in that big situation before,” Terry conceded. “Our lads now have already played at Wembley twice just this season, what with Spurs and the semi-final, so they’ve got to play their own game and do their own thing. The Champions League games last week showed that. 

“Liverpool did it from the start and Spurs got the hang of it at half-time. The better teams want you to let them get into a rhythm and you don’t want to sit back. Get at them and unsettle them, I’d be saying, but I’m sure Javi’s got it covered.”