Manager in the Media is Javi ‘Javi Garcia’ Gracia…

Sarah Winterburn

This week, Johnny’s positive look at our managers and how they perform on telly and radio visits one of the most low-profile but successful managers of the season and the only one who looks like Bez. That’ll be Javi Gracia, then.


Who are ya?
Javier Gracia Carlos was born in Pamplona 48 years ago. He spent his playing career as a defensive midfielder will the likes of Bilbao, Real Sociedad and others. When he retired he took up coaching Villarreal’s youth team before moving on to manage Pontevedra, Cadiz, Villareal B, Olympiacos Volou, Kerkyra, Almería, Osasuna, Málaga and Rubin Kazan, never staying longer than two seasons, usually just the one. Although not yet 50 he’s been managing for 14 years already. He won a couple of second division titles along the way but was possibly not the most obvious choice to be manager of Watford. Arrived at Vicarage Road 15 months ago and currently has them at an impressive eighth, a point behind Wolves and with the respect of all at the club.

Has the deep, sunken eyes set into high cheekboned face that makes him look a bit like a Spanish version of Bez. Easy to imagine him doing the Bez dance and being Spanish, he’d surely have ready and easy access to some maracas.

Has impressively large ears that look as though they have been sculpted out of raw pork.

A somewhat unusual character, despite his age and experience, at times he looks much younger and somewhat gauche- a boy in a man’s world. At other times he looks older and somewhat world weary, almost as if he’s actually two different people pretending to be the same person.

Usually favours the suit when pitchside but tends to wear something which looks off the peg and not especially highly tailored which, if he’s in one of his more care-worn days, gives him the look of man who is at the end of the long stag weekend. Nice to see someone who has a few quid not bothering with high-end fashion or expensive tailoring, such things are mere distraction.

Sometimes celebrates a goal with the patented Brendan move of keeping right hand in the pocket and punching the air with left, making it appear like you don’t want to let go of something in there, for fear it will escape, a hamster perhaps. Let us hope so.


Cunning linguist?
Like many a modern coach. He fancies himself as a bit of philosopher. This sounds straight out of David Carradine in Kung Fu (a TV reference for the youngsters, there)

“A coach is like a teacher, our values come from our family, our parents, the people around you. All of us have principles. I prefer to be loyal with the people around me. The most important thing for me is that people trust you, that they are happy with you.” Ah so, Grasshopper.

Talks in a very soft, undemonstrative tone. I actually fell to sleep during one of his interviews, so lush, velvety and low key was his speaking voice. In the modern era, where big personalities rule the roost, he is very much an outlier against the norms.

However, it may underlie a tough approach to discipline. There can’t be many clubs which will fine you for missing the compulsory yoga sessions, or indeed have compulsory yoga. And you’ve got to shell out £50 for every minute you’re late for training.

He’s got good English and you never get the feeling he is struggling to communicate anything. Overall he’s been quietly impressive and seems to have been very effective while causing as few ripples as possible.


Media hit or miss?
It’s very interesting that Gracia obviously does his TV interviews pre and post game and he does get on the radio too occasionally, but he seems to come and go and leave little trace, especially considering he has a team in the top half of the Premier League and when you further consider that many other managers who have achieved such a thing have had a much higher profile as a result, such as Sean Dyche and even to a lesser extent Nuno Espírito Santo. Perhaps I have just missed the in-depth discussions about how he has achieved this in his first season, but Troy Deeney seems to get more media time than his manager.

Gracia spends much of his time out of the limelight. With Watford being low profile in the hierarchy of clickbait topics and never guaranteed to deliver any broadcaster a big audience, he’s largely left alone to plough his on furrow in favour of the usual slurry of witless, pointless, mind-numbing space-wasting copy about a Manchester United player shopping for biscuits or someone who plays for Liverpool breathing actual air. This is the dumbed-down world we live in. But he doesn’t seem to be the sort of manager who seeks the glamour of the lighted stage, which is really rather refreshing and an example to many. Of course, we have written about Watford this week.


Proper Football Man Rating: Chorizo
I’ve never heard of him, Jeff. He manages Watford does he? I thought that was that Scottish fella, what was his name now? Jocko Florence Maserati. Yeah. Is it not him? Javi Garcia? I thought Javi was still playing. What? You spell him with an X? Eh? And it’s not even him, it’s another Javi who isn’t even called Garcia? How come he’s not called Garcia? All of them are called Garcia. Gracia? He’s called Thank You?! No-one is called Thank You. My brain hurts. Can I have my money now?

The only player the boys have heard of who plays for Watford is Troy Deeney, who they will suck their teeth and nod approvingly about, saying he is a proper player, by which they mean he will hurt you and the boys love that more than any amount of actual football skill and will fearlessly tell you that you’ve got to be able to “mix it” and anyone who can’t doesn’t understand the Best League In The World.

The PFM uses foreign as a collective noun so do not know a Quique Sánchez Flores from a Walter Mazzarri, this meant when Javi replaced Marco Silva at Watford safe to say they will not have heard of him, but it will have curdled their guts that a good young 62-year-old English manager hadn’t got the job. However, the boys are trying to be more respectful these days of people who aren’t from ‘round here, in order to keep in work in Britain rather than being exiled to the Middle East to bemoan how there are too many foreigners getting work. So they’ve resisted having a go at him, even though they may be itching to do so.

They’re disturbed to hear the players have to do yoga, as it does sound like some dreadful foreign invention like Buddhism or yoghurt. It’s just off milk, Jeff. When it comes to training, what’s wrong with running up a hill holding a medicine ball and then being sick?

They do approve of fining players for being late and has always encouraged his players to dawdle as much as possible because Mrs PFM wants an extension built on the villa in Portugal.

As we know, the PFM rating machine malfunctions when applied to Spaniards, which might explain why the reading it is giving me is Chorizo.


What the people say
Obviously, Watford are a relatively modestly supported club, so we were never going to get a big post bag this week but J.G. has plenty of fans of how he’s gone about his business in the short time he’s been in England.

‘A manager I expected to turn up on Pointless in a few years time, robbing contestants of a £12,000 jackpot because they thought his surname was ‘Garcia’.’

‘Some managers have a natural, impressive aura, inspiring players the second they walk in a room. Others do not, and look more likely to offer to wash your car, or try to sell you a fake watch. Here lies the genius of the Javi Gracia party trick – underestimate him at your peril.’

‘Arguably the most underrated manager. Criticised for having the audacity to rest players in the league in an attempt to win reach a cup final, by the same lot who pilloried him for resting players earlier in the same cup.’

‘With a modest budget he has blended the old up and bash it in boys with a more subtle style.A gentleman to boot.’

‘First thing to note is the somewhat confusing order of the letters in his surname #Garcia #Gracia. Second thing to note is given how frequently Watford change their manager it’s a rather fluid concept. It should be a stunning story, Watford top half of the PL. Watford!’

‘Give a nod to him for being one of those rare premier league managers who has seen the opportunity for glory in a cup and rested players for a league game. With no threat of relegation it’s great to see and I’m sure the fans love it.’


How long has he got?
He has signed a contract extension which is somewhat breaking new ground for him and for the club too. His own history of regularly moving on and Watford’s history of moving managers on go together so well that to suggest he’ll soon be offski wouldn’t be so outrageous. Have Watford changed their managerial recruitment policy? Or will they get rid of him at the first sign of a downturn in form?

The trouble is, should he finish seventh with Watford this season and having already made a cup semi-final, maybe even a final and a trophy, it will almost certainly be the highest position he will ever achieve in the Premier League and the best FA Cup run too, so it is likely to be all downhill in the future, which will lead to inevitable disappointment and even resentment after such a great start. And even regardless of that, soon enough the usual Premier League existential crisis will kick in and everyone will wonder what the point of endlessly finishing somewhere between 15th and eighth is. So this is already the golden age of his Watford tenure, one that should be well appreciated and marked down against his name as a fabulous achievement.

John Nicholson