Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia did not really get a chance to have a crack at the FA Cup last season.
He had just four days to prepare for the Third-Round tie at Southampton and barely had time to scout his opponents. The priority was finding 11 blokes fit enough to take on the Saints at St Mary's and then trying to restore some kind of order and cohesion ahead of the far more important league game at Stoke the following Wednesday.
Now, with his feet under the table and the Hornets looking up in the table instead of nervously over their shoulder, he can plot a run in the greatest club knockout competition in the world. The club haven't assembled the squad they have just to fight on one front this season. The ambition is to have a cup run.
“It's our first game in this competition and we know you have to win six games to win the cup,” said Gracia. “Why not? We can do it. It's a challenge for us with the squad we have. I think it's a good chance to keep doing the same things we are doing. We are focused on the next game. It's another competition, but it's an important one for us, a new chance. With the players we have, we can achieve good things this season.”
Gracia has forged quite a reputation at the training ground for his attention to detail and his tactical planning. He has left no stone unturned again this weekend as he has had Woking watched five times.
“I respect all the teams we play against,” he said. “In this case it is no different. We try to prepare as we usually do. We don't change anything. I know English football is amazing, I know. I know the quality at all different levels and we will try to do our best with a good mentality because we know it's always difficult. Playing away, it will be difficult for us, but we are ready to compete at our best level."
Woking boss Alan Dowson has suggested the result at the Laithwaite Stadium could be “a cricket score”, but Gracia is not buying any of that.
“They try to do their best, they try to compete at their best level and we try to do it as well,” he said. “It will be different game for them against us as it will be motivating, but it's only that. After, it's another game and we try to show our quality and our level on the pitch.”
Gracia will be telling his players that reputation will count for very little against the high-riding side from the National League South. He wants the players he selects to show why they are part of a Premier League squad and do all the things he has been preaching all season, starting with an unrelenting work ethic.
“When the referee blows his whistle, this is the moment we have to prove the things we are able to do and why we are playing and demonstrate why we play at this level and show it during the game – not before the game or later,” he demanded. “We need to respect them a lot. We know they will do a big effort to win the game. I am sure it will be demanding for us, but we have to show our difference on the pitch.”