Javi Gracia, manager of Watford F.C., enjoyed the sweet smell of success after challenging his starting squad players as the club prepared to face off against Fulham this Tuesday evening at Vicarage Road.
The Hornets slammed the Whites to smithereens in a 4-1 victory that knocked the Fulham club clear out of the Premier League.
Applying his usual consistency in selecting starting players, Gracia placed his faith in the same lineup he has been playing all season, reiterating his unwavering faith in each of his players, and praising their stellar performance at this significant match.
This well-earned victory, following an equally great match against Crystal Palace on March 9, provided the Hornets squad with a new boost of energy and optimism as they head off to the FA Cup semifinals to face the Wolves, a powerful club with four previous FA Cup Semifinal victories.
The Watford club is seeing its glorious day in the sun for the first time in decades, as the club plays their first Semi-final game since 1998 in the world’s oldest football tournament. The Hornets came in as runners-up in 1984, back in their glory days under Elton John ownership, when the club was under the leadership of Graham Taylor.
The winner of this weekend’s Semifinal match will play against either Brighton or Manchester City in the FA Cup Final on May 18.
An interesting note, as Watford heads off to face the Wolves at the FA Cup semifinals at Wembley this coming weekend, is that fans will also have a chance to see Video Assisted Referee (VAR) incidents inside the stadium, making history as the first time that VAR incidents have been broadcast in an English football stadium.
The use of the VAR technology will allow fans to watch instant replays of the most significant plays at the two upcoming FA Cup semifinal matches.
In spite of a few disappointments against Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, the Watford club has played consistently well this season. Led by their Catalan manager Javi Gracia, whose focus on playing a consistently powerful defense, the Hornets have has held down their spot at the Premier League table in recent years, after many years as a sleepy and near-forgotten has-been.
Gracia brings to the Watford club his expertise as a former midfielder for Spanish clubs Real Sociedad and Villarreal, having played more than 400 matches in the Primera Liga and leading the Malaga club to two consecutive 10-0 wins at the 2013 Uefa Champions League quarterfinals. Gracia was hand-picked to be the club’s Head Coach and Manager in January 2018 after excelling as a head manager of football clubs in Spain, Greece, and Russia. The decision came from Watford club owner, Gino Pozzo, who is heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of his club.
The son of Gianpaolo Pozzo, a renowned Italian businessman and owner of the Udinese Calcio club in Italy, Gino is known for his Midas touch in the European football community, particularly now that he has led three European football clubs to top-tier status in the most important leagues within their respective countries.
Gino Pozzo Looks Forward
Like his father, Gino Pozzo has taken his family’s love and commitment for football club ownership to new heights, displaying a staunch commitment to his investment in the Watford club as well as to the players themselves.
In order to remain at the forefront of his football club’s progress, Gino moved to Watford back in 2012, and his office is located at Vicarage Road, where he is involved in the club’s daily training activities.
The Pozzo family model of club ownership focuses on the constant scouting and recruitment of new players, as well as the trading of players among international clubs owned by the family in different countries. This unique model has led the Pozzos to rescue and salvage three struggling football clubs and helping them rise to the top of their game, reaching the top league in each of their countries. This model has proved extremely successful with the Udinese club, which Gianpaolo Pozzo purchased in 1986. Once Gino took over the management of the club, the squad reclaimed its faded glory in 1993, playing in Italy’s top league.
The Pozzos also had a hand in rebuilding the Granada F.C. in Spain, which Gino led the family to acquire in 2009, while living with his Catalan wife in Barcelona. This acquisition took place at a time when the club was struggling with a €12m debt and playing unremarkably in the nation’s third division.
Using the same scouting and trading model that worked so well with Udinese, the Pozzos managed to launch the Granada club from Segunda B to the Primera Liga in a period of only two short years, returning the club to Spain’s foremost Primera Liga after a 35-year absence.
The Pozzo family mastered the art and strategy of scouting and trading players during this period, taking advantage of their ownership of three international football clubs.
They also see this approach as being a great career builder for their individual players. For example, given the fact that different countries emphasize different skills, and each squad creates its own dynamic between individual players, if a player does better at Udinese than at Watford, the Pozzos will keep him at Udinese, allowing him to achieve the highest level of greatness in his personal career.
When Gino Pozzo sold the Granada club in 2016, shortly after investing in the then-struggling Watford club in 2012, he told reporters that he wanted to devote more of his focus on Watford. This has proven to be a very lucky break for the Hornets, as they have once again risen to the renowned Premier League under his ownership, enjoying the view from the top for the first time in over 40 years, when the club enjoyed its heyday in the 1980s.