Leeds, two weeks after the dismissal of Jesse Marsh, still decided on the name of the coach who will replace the American. They became the ex-mentor of Rubin and Valencia Javi Gracia, who also has experience in the Premier League, at one time he coached Watford.
Leeds are 19th in the standings and the threat of relegation to the Championship looms in front of the club. On Saturday, the Whites will face the most important match against rivals in the struggle for survival – Southampton.
Journalist Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail decided to look into how the appointment of Gracia could affect the mood at Elland Road. Our blog publishes a translation of his article.
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Checker Street in St Albans is a busy place. This street is filled with various restaurants and bars and is the main place for Watford staff and players to unwind after training at their base located nearby.
Shortly after Javi Gracia took charge of the Hornets in January 2018, colleagues invited him to sit in one of the gastropubs. It was a symbolic gesture, no one believed that the Spanish coach would accept the invitation. Therefore, when the manager appeared at the door of the institution along with his coaching staff, he was greeted with great enthusiasm. Gracia did not stay long, he did not drink, but he came. Moreover, he volunteered to pay the bill.
If you talk to someone who is familiar with a Spaniard, then everyone will note his main qualities – he is sociable, friendly, warm in conversation and generous person. “ The Leeds players will be ready to hit the wall for him ,” says one of the players who worked under Javi Gracia.
His appearance that day worked a small miracle. Gracia reached an instant rapport with Watford staff and players. This foreshadowed a good future, and it came true. The team finished in 14th place and avoided relegation. The next season was even more successful. The Hornets finished 11th in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final for the first time in 35 years.
Of course, Leeds fans will now simply agree to keep the residence permit. They do not need more in the current situation. But they can be sure that their club is headed by a manager who has experience in such conditions. Moreover, Gracia knows how to inspire a team that lacks positive.
The Leeds players will find that on their first morning at Thorpe Arch the new coach will meet them in the treatment room. And he won’t be there to give advice to physios or check on injured players. Javi will be there just to chat.
“He doesn’t just ask routine questions, he tries to listen to what they say to him. Gracia is genuinely interested in his players and staff. If they have a problem, then this is his problem , ”says one of the sources close to him about the Spaniard.
Leeds players will often hear the phrase “Come in, sit down” said with a strong Spanish accent. Gracia will be an inviting gesture to move a chair to chat. This has become a real mantra at Watford as Gracia likes to talk to the players in private.
The Spanish manager strives to make his team feel comfortable in his presence so that players can come to him with any problem, big or small. Javi Gracia’s door is always open. He wants the players to trust him. And at Watford, the Spaniard enjoyed boundless confidence.
If something goes wrong with the team, then this is not a personal mistake, this is a collective problem. The team appreciates that Gracia does not throw individuals under the bus of public criticism. The 52-year-old manager would rather take all the blame than turn the spotlight on his team.
This does not mean that Javi Gracia is afraid of difficult conversations. One of his distinguishing features as a manager is that he always knows how to indicate to a particular player his place right now. If someone does not get into the application for the match, the coach will thoroughly explain the reason for this and tell you what needs to be done to get a place in the squad.
Leeds players will appreciate his honesty and openness, as Watford did in their time. At the Hornets’ training base, the players often dined at the coaching table. Situations like this may be unheard of at other clubs. But this is the culture that the Spaniard adheres to, he is part of a single team.
Javi Gracia is a meticulous coach in terms of immersion in the game. He will sort out the situation brick by brick and will devote himself to solving the problem with a possible departure. The Spaniard lives and breathes football. Outside of work, Gracia, a father of three, is said to be the epitome of an exemplary family man, but his main passion is football.
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