Prior to Watford’s clash with West Brom, Javi Gracia talked about Alan Pardew’s position at The Hawthorns and how he viewed potentially putting the final nail in his coffin at West Brom.
Gracia, rightly, said that it was part of the business they are in. Whilst he did feel sympathy, for Gracia to be happy come Saturday evening his opposite number cannot be. That is just the nature of the job.
You sense that is the same when it comes to Watford’s forward-line at the moment. Stefano Okaka’s return to the fold and his performance against Everton pleased his head coach, and his fellow players would have understood how Okaka felt having been sidelined for so long.
But Okaka’s presence in the side meant that Andre Gray did not feature and was consigned to the bench. Was Gray pleased for Okaka? Probably, but the overriding emotions would have been frustration and disappointment.
Gracia is the man tasked with making those difficult decisions currently and he insisted that he is happy with the efforts of Troy Deeney, Okaka and Gray, even if the latter has barely played in recent weeks.
“I’m happy, as I said before, with all of them. I have to choose one striker, or other times two, and Andre now is playing less than others,” he explained.
“But it’s not because he’s not working well, it’s because I have to choose between them.
“I don’t know in the next games what will happen. It’s possible Andre will play more. I don’t know. I’m happy with his work.”
Was Gray unhappy to be overlooked for a player who has had a bit-part role previously? “I don’t know what he felt at this moment,” Gracia added. “Maybe he’s sad because Okaka played before him.
“This decision is not for all the matches, all the situations are changing and you never know when your chance arrives to play. He has a good reaction, he’s working hard and waiting for his opportunity and chance.”
And it was not because Okaka and Deeney are more suited to the type of style Gracia wants to play going forward either.
“I don’t have, in my mind, before or during the game that I’m going to play this way,” Gracia explained.
“In every moment I try to see and decide what is better in that moment. At the time I decided to go with Troy beside Okaka.
“I thought it was the best option, maybe in the next game I’ll do it with Troy, or Andre, or together.
“I’m happy with all the strikers. If I wasn’t, I’d tell you I chose this player because the others are not working the best way.”
Despite calling on Okaka against Everton, Gracia believes the Italian still needs to work on his fitness having rarely featured previously.
“I think Stefano, day-by-day, is improving his physical condition and that he is a good player. We know that, everyone knows that,” Gracia added.
“I think in this moment he needs to improve because he was out of the side for a long time. He needs to improve physically, but he’s very strong. He is powerful and he gives us a lot of options, like a striker should.”
Gracia would not be drawn on potentially playing two strikers though, simply adding: ‘You’ll find out on Saturday.’