'Assistant with Rafa Benitez' - New Leeds United boss Javi Gracia's pre-Southampton press conference every word on backroom staff, fans, Whites remit, team news and visa

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Leeds United face an enormous Premier League relegation-battle six pointer at home to Southampton tomorrow and the club’s new head coach Javi Gracia spoke to the media for the first time today.

Just one point separates second-bottom Leeds and bottom-of-the-table Southampton ahead of Saturday’s 3pm showdown at Elland Road. The Whites failed to muster a single shot on target in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Everton and the Elland Road club then announced on Tuesday that former Watford boss Gracia had agreed terms to become United’s new head coach, subject to obtaining a work permit.

Leeds and Gracia were still awaiting the necessary work permissions which led to question marks about who would be in the dugout for Saturday’s relegation-battle six pointer against the Saints. Under-21s boss Michael Skubala has overseen United’s last three games following the sacking of Jesse Marsch. But Leeds announced at 12.30pm on Friday that Gracia’s visa had been confirmed and just 15 minutes later the Spaniard was in the hotseat for the club’s pre-Southampton press conference. Here is every word that was said by United’s 52-year-old new head coach.

Leeds United boss Javi Gracia’s pre-Southampton press conference every word

Key Events

  • 12.45pm press conference at Thorp Arch
  • Javi Gracia appointed new head coach on Tuesday
  • Gracia now granted visa

12.45pm pre-match press conference for the Saints clash, but it remains to be seen who takes the questions. Either way, all the news to follow here. Gracia work permit top of the bill by a distance.

Still a wait and see

As to whether it’s Gracia taking today’s press conference or not.

BREAKING NEWS: Gracia gets his work permit - and new backroom team announced including Skubala promotion

A statement from Leeds United: “Leeds United are delighted to announce Javi Gracia’s visa has been confirmed. Following this, we are pleased to unveil a number of new additions to the existing backroom staff at Thorp Arch.

“Zigor Aranalde joins as an assistant coach, having served under Gracia in spells at Watford, Valencia and Al Sadd. Aranalde enjoyed a long playing career as a full-back in Spain with Eibar, Sevilla and Albacete, then in England with Walsall, Sheffield Wednesday and Carlisle United.

“Mikel Antia also arrives at the club as an assistant coach, having played alongside Gracia at Real Sociedad. The former centre-back, also enjoyed stints at Valladolid, Elche and Braga before moving into coaching and also has experience in England with Newcastle United.

“Juan Jose Solla is the final new recruit to the backroom staff, having worked alongside Gracia throughout his managerial career. Most recently working at French Ligue 1 side Marseille, he joins the Whites as fitness coach.

“Michael Skubala, who oversaw our two games against Manchester United and the match against Everton, will also remain in the first team setup. Paco Gallardo will now take charge of the Under-21s side, replacing Skubala at the helm.”

Gracia is here!

This week from your perspective - has it been a waiting game - and how much of an impact will you have on the team tomorrow? Will you pick the team?

“We have been keeping an eye on the time and on the team and preparing many things. From today I have the permit and then we prepare watching some matches and speaking about the game and I think we are well prepared and the team and the players know what we are going to do tomorrow, that’s al. Full of energy, full of commitment because we know it’s a crucial game.”

Are you excited and are there similarities to Watford?

“Something similar, something different but in both clubs I felt, and today I feel, really well. From my first day, I realised when I arrived here it was an amazing club and to be honest I felt the same in Watford, a great family where I was really well and a grateful experience for me and I hope here in Leeds will be the same with good results and good football and with all our supporters enjoying with the team.”

On conversations with Leeds, what have you been told and is the remit to stay up?

“For sure. I think the club is focused in this moment on the target, the target is clear and this helps all of us to work in one direction and one way. When I spoke with them they were clear with me, we have to and we need to achieve the objective and from my first day I was in the same way. I was looking for one opportunity, one chance like this one and it was easy to speak with them and to arrive here.”

When did you know you would be in the dugout tomorrow?

“I arrived...l don’t remember to be honest because the last days have been really busy, sleeping two or three hours and preparing a lot of things. But I arrived on Tuesday and I had a meeting with the club on Sunday and it was easy after my conversation with the board, it was easy to decide that I want to be here and I want to accept the challenge and during the week we have been working and preparing the game and doing the things as best as possible and I think we are really prepared for the game which for me is the most important.”

“You know our situation, it is not easy for the coaches! Maybe you stay one game or maybe you stay one life. You never know, But to be honest I am focused. When I accepted the challenge I accepted becuase I wanted to be here and I wanted to be here to be in the game and to try and help this team to achieve the objective. After that, we will spealk. I don’t want to be here because I have a contract. I don’t want the club to have a difficult situation because the club has a coach that they don’t want in the club. I think it is better to be focused now on the next game and it’s my objective as well, try to win as soon as possible one game and try to finish the season with the objective. I am not worried about my future.”