April 21, 2018 / 6:24 PM / 4 months ago

Poor run puts Watford's Gracia under pressure

(Reuters) - Uncertainty again surrounds Watford manager Javi Gracia’s position after the Premier League’s serial sackers extended their winless run to six matches with a goalless draw against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Watford v Crystal Palace - Vicarage Road, Watford, Britain - April 21, 2018 Watford manager Javi Gracia acknowledges fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

The Spaniard took over last January as the club’s ninth manager in six years, admitting that he could give no guarantees about how long he would remain at the club.

No manager has survived there longer than a year since Gianfranco Zola, who managed 17 months before being axed in Dec. 2013.

But the club’s ruthless approach has so far been successful with promotion to the Premier League secured in 2015, even if it was followed by the obligatory sacking, this time of Slavisa Jokanovic, the manager who had got them there.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Watford v Crystal Palace - Vicarage Road, Watford, Britain - April 21, 2018 Watford manager Javi Gracia and Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson REUTERS/Darren Staples

The past three seasons, each with a different man in charge, have seen Watford start brightly each time only to end in a tailspin down the table once the new year has been turned.

Under Gracia, Watford have taken just two points from a possible 18 and are still not safe despite sitting 12th, nine points off the drop zone.

If precedent suggests that Gracia should be worried, the genial 47-year-old was not showing it on Saturday, even refusing to say what his safety target is. “I don’t care in this moment if it’s enough or not. The most important thing is to prepare for the next game and try to get three points,” he said.

“I cannot be frustrated as I see the effort of my players. I’m very proud of them. The first half was one of our best first halves this season.

“We created many chances but didn’t score. In the second half, they had more control and created more chances. We tried until the end.”

Whether that will be sufficient for him to see out the remaining year of his contract remains to be seen but Gracia’s supporters will point to a mid-table finish as perfectly respectable for a club the size of Watford, who face an annual fight to hang on to their best players.

Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Toby Davis

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