WILL JAVI GRA­CIA LAST LONG ENOUGH TO BUILD HIS OWN SIDE?

Australian Four Four Two - - PREMIER LEAGUE -

Even in the sack-happy land­scape of Pre­mier League foot­ball, Wat­ford’s hire ’em and fire ’em blitzkrieg looks mad. Javi Gra­cia is the 10th Hor­nets man­ager since the Pozzo fam­ily took over in 2012, and most in­cum­bents rack up 30-odd league matches be­fore feel­ing their wrath. Gian­franco Zola (2012-13) was the last gaffer to have 40 league games at the helm. Some­how, the in­san­ity ap­pears to have worked for the Poz­zos. Wat­ford have been so vastly im­proved on and off the pitch – solid scout­ing net­work, de­cent fa­cil­i­ties, healthy trans­fer bud­get – that which­ever bloke they slot in has am­ple op­por­tu­nity to do all right. It may be an easy fix to get rid of the man­ager, but in Hert­ford­shire it can be done with less dis­rup­tion than at most out­fits. The own­ers also iden­tify new vic­tims – sorry: po­ten­tial bringers of man­age­rial ex­cel­lence – early, so they can slide into the ex­ist­ing cul­ture at the club, in­stead of hav­ing to build their own. Wat­ford sup­port­ers largely un­der­stand, as you would when you’re taken from the brink of bank­ruptcy to sign­ing Ger­ard Deulofeu from Barcelona, and they aren’t shy about call­ing for heads on sticks them­selves – just ask Wal­ter Maz­zarri. How­ever, hav­ing fi­nally put be­hind them the Marco Silva de­ba­cle that de­railed much of last sea­son, Wat­ford fans must surely be han­ker­ing for a smidgeon of sta­bil­ity. Gra­cia ar­rived in Jan­uary with a rep­u­ta­tion for help­ing less fash­ion­able teams to turn over the big boys, most no­tably at Malaga, and he did rea­son­ably well to tidy up the mess he’d been be­queathed. Yet the Spaniard may not have long to make the most of a ta­lented squad, which has been bol­stered fur­ther by the usual easyJet-load of young sign­ings that Wat­ford make ev­ery sum­mer. Step­ping off the plane are half a dozen play­ers aged 18-24, ar­riv­ing from such ex­otic des­ti­na­tions as Oster­sunds, Bologna and Steve­nage. The man­ager’s qual­i­ties should work well with this group. He is level-headed, tac­ti­cally very clear, ex­tremely hard-work­ing and loyal to his play­ers. Ul­ti­mately, the an­swer to ques­tions over his fu­ture lies with Gino Pozzo and his pals. So far, they have been happy to change things up and gam­ble that it keeps them din­ing at the top ta­ble. Javi has to work much faster than most to break the cy­cle. The 48-year-old’s 40th Pre­mier League game in charge of Wat­ford will be at the start of Fe­bru­ary. Will he sur­vive to see the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow close?

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