By Mark Walker, PA
Javi Gracia has no intention of sacrificing the FA Cup in his bid to keep Leeds in the Premier League.
The Leeds head coach, who made a winning start in his first game in charge against Southampton on Saturday, guided former club Watford to the FA Cup final in 2019.
That Wembley experience was the highlight of Gracia’s 20-month tenure at Vicarage Road, despite losing 6-0 to Manchester City in the final, and the Spaniard “would like to live it again”.
Gracia, whose side play at Fulham in the fifth round on Tuesday night, said: “Very, very good memories. Unforgettable for me.
“What I could see in that competition, the way our supporters enjoyed it, it’s something I will never forget.
“It’s something I’ve tried to explain to my players. I have only one experience, but that experience was something amazing for me and I would like to live it again.”
Leeds will be bidding to reach the last eight for the first time in 20 years at Craven Cottage after their 1-0 home win against Southampton lifted them out of the Premier League relegation zone.
They lost to Sheffield United 1-0 in the 2003 quarter-finals and have not fared well in the FA Cup since.
A 3-1 win at Accrington in January secured them a place in the last 16 for the first time in seven years, while the club’s hierarchy prioritised a run deep into the competition earlier this season.
“I love this competition,” Gracia said. My experience (at Watford) was good.
“Of course, I don’t like to play three games in eight days. But I have to try to motivate myself and motivate my players, that if we are able to win it, it will be something really good for us.”
Leeds halted a 10-game winless league run thanks to Junior Firpo’s solitary second-half goal against Southampton and Gracia said the mood in the camp was high.
“I have enjoyed training with the players after a great result for us,” he said. “We are preparing as best we can for tomorrow. We are very excited.”
Gracia will go head-to-head with Fulham boss Marco Silva, who he replaced as Watford head coach in January 2018.
The 52-year-old added: “It will be a tough game, but we will try. All the references about him (Silva] are good. I know he is a very good manager.”
Leeds have no new injuries, but will still be without Pascal Struijk, who is hoping to have completed his concussion protocol in time for Saturday’s league game at Chelsea.