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New Leeds boss Javi Gracia relishing second shot at Premier League

Javi Gracia will take charge of his first match for Leeds against Southampton on Saturday (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Archive)
Javi Gracia will take charge of his first match for Leeds against Southampton on Saturday (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Archive)

Leeds’ new head coach Javi Gracia says he has unfinished business in the Premier League after taking on a relegation fight at Elland Road.

The 52-year-old, sacked by Watford soon after leading them to top-flight safety and the 2019 FA Cup final, has signed a “flexible” contract to succeed Jesse Marsch, whom Leeds sacked earlier this month.

Gracia, who has also had managerial spells at Malaga, Valencia and Qatari side Al Sadd, was introduced to the media after Leeds confirmed he had received his working visa earlier on Friday.

The Spaniard said: “When I finished at Watford, I didn’t know if I’d have another experience in the Premier League. I had the chance in Spain with Valencia, then to Qatar with different experiences of life and working.

“When this experience appeared I didn’t have any doubt. It was what I was waiting for. I was waiting for something in the Premier League and it’s something I’m excited for.”

Gracia will take charge of his first game at Elland Road on Saturday when Leeds bid to climb out of the relegation zone with victory over bottom club Southampton.

He said the club’s hierarchy had made clear his priority of steering Leeds away from relegation during talks on Sunday and that he was happy with the “flexible” nature of his contract.

“You know our situation (as a head coach),” he said. “You can stay one game or stay your life.

“When I accepted the challenge it was because I want to stay here and achieve the objective. I don’t want to be here to stay because I have a contract.

“I don’t want the club to have a coach they don’t want. It’s my goal to finish the season with the objective.”

Leeds had hoped to make a swift appointment after Marsch’s exit on February 6 but met with several setbacks in their bid to replace him.

Leeds dismissed Marsch after a seven-game winless league run and that extended to 10 matches under interim boss Michael Skubala after Saturday’s defeat at Everton left them in the bottom three for the first time this season.

An expectant full house at Elland Road on Saturday will hope Leeds’ players respond to Gracia’s appointment with their first league win since November 5.

“I know the atmosphere is really good,” the former Valladolid, Real Sociedad and Villarreal midfielder added.

“Of course I’m looking forward to the game. I expect our supporters will be player number 12 for us. We need them.

“From the beginning to the end, we need to give our best. Tomorrow we have to give extra effort. Tomorrow is the day.”