Javi Gracia plays down fan incident with Christian Kabasele and Jose Holebas
The new Hornets chief praised the club’s fans.
New Watford head coach Javi Gracia dismissed suggestions Christian Kabasele and Jose Holebas were arguing with the club’s supporters at the final whistle of their 1-0 FA Cup fourth-round defeat at Southampton.
His team’s season threatened to reach a new low when, in their first fixture since his appointment, they produced so poor a performance they were booed off at half-time, criticised throughout the second half, and then booed again at the final whistle when Gracia and his team went to acknowledge their fans.
Kabasele appeared to be having a heated exchange with one individual when he was dragged away by Ben Watson, and Holebas then took his place before Watson also dragged him away.
Instead of the positive reaction Watford would have hoped for when appointing Gracia to succeed the sacked Marco Silva they were unconvincing, and fell to their ninth defeat in 13.
The visiting supporters had also chanted of their team being “F****** useless”, but asked of the incident at the final whistle, Spaniard Gracia responded: “I do not understand what supporters sing. I only can say at the end of the match the players went to say thank you, and me too.
“It is hard because in the first match we did not get a good result but I am happy because I saw the support of a lot of our fans.
“I am very grateful and I feel sorry for them.
“I hoped for a better performance. We did not start in the best way and conceded an early goal.
“The only thing I am worried about is trying to get a good result.
“The match was tough but I have seen a reaction, I have seen the team want to get the goal and fight hard until the end.”
Southampton’s victory was secured by Jack Stephens, who marked his 24th birthday by scoring his first goal for the club.
As well as taking them into the FA Cup’s fifth round it eased some of the pressure that had been building on manager Mauricio Pellegrino, and came as they demonstrated further signs of improvement, despite the win representing only their second since November.
“In the dressing room our feeling is we are growing as a team and little by little playing much better with and without the ball,” said the Argentinian.
“We could not kill the game earlier and suffered at the end because they were really dangerous with direct play and crosses but we deserved to win.
“We had in our mind the last game 15 days ago when we were winning 2-0 and Watford created lots of problems with direct play (and eventually drew 2-2).”
Asked of the arrival of club-record £19million signing Guido Carrillo, the striker who made his debut as a late substitute, he added: “Guido needs to adapt to the situation and the dynamic of the team.
“(Transfer target) Quincy Promes is one of the players that we have been following for a few months. The market is too difficult, we wait until the end and keep pushing.”