Watford hires Gracia, blames Everton for change of manager
LONDON (AP) — Watford’s rapid turnover of managers produced the ninth change in less than six years Sunday when Javi Gracia replaced Marco Silva following a downturn in form blamed on Everton.
Watford has fallen to 10th place in the Premier League after winning only one of its last 11 games during a slump that started with Silva being pursued by Everton.
The Portuguese was denied the move to a better-resourced rival, even though Watford could have received around $15 million in compensation for a manager only hired in May. The tables have been turned with Watford believing that Silva was still distracted by outside interest and had to go.
“Had it not been for the unwarranted approach by a Premier League rival for his services we would have continued to prosper under his leadership,” Watford said. “The catalyst for this decision is that unwarranted approach, something which the board believes has seen a significant deterioration in both focus and results to the point where the long-term future of Watford FC has been jeopardized.”
Watford has been owned since 2012 by the restless Pozzo family. The Italian ownership also looked to Iberia for Silva’s replacement, with Gracia hired on an 18-month contract. The 47-year-old Spaniard, who has been out of work since leaving Rubin Kazan in Russia in June, made a name for himself in the dugout in his homeland with Malaga.
Under the former Real Sociedad and Villarreal defensive midfielder, Malaga became known for taking points off leading rivals after honing pragmatic tactics based on meticulous studying of opponents.
Watford trumpeted how Gracia secured a victory at reigning European and Spanish champion Barcelona in February 2015, and then went unbeaten against the Madrid rivals as Malaga finished eighth the following season.
Although Watford is midtable with 26 points from 24 matches, it is only four points above the relegation zone. Gracia’s debut will be in the FA Cup on Saturday with a fourth-round match against Southampton.
“It is not easy arriving in this moment,” Gracia said. “I want to listen to the people who are here ... I have seen all Watford’s matches this season.”
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