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Javi Gracia, who can only dream of his strikers scoring away from home, has told English football to show Harry Kane more respect.
Watford boss Gracia is presiding over the club’s longest run without an away goal in their history – 120 days.
And Hornets fans are not holding their breath for the run to end at Wembley tonight, where Kane will fancy his chances of adding to 41 goals for club and country this season against the Premier League’s third-leakiest defence.
But Gracia, who took over from Marco Silva 19 days into Watford’s barren run on the road since January 2, has been surprised by the derision heaped on Kane since he claimed Tottenham’s second goal in the 2-1 win at Stoke earlier this month.
And he believes a man tipped to lead England’s World Cup adventure as captain this summer deserves more reverence than ridicule.
Gracia said: “I respect all opinions in football, but my opinion is that Kane is one of the best English players for sure.
“I don’t mind whether he claims goals or not – he is one of the best. Strikers want to score with every touch and I show him only respect.
“He could be England’s captain at the World Cup. That is a decision for the national team manager, but all I can say at this moment is that he is a very good player with all the qualities of a top striker and the character is important as well.
“With goals or not, with the captaincy or not, I’m sure he will show what he can do in the Premier League and he will also show it at the World Cup.”
Gracia admits the appalling drought since Andre Gray’s late consolation in the 3-1 win at Manchester City is not Watford’s most impressive statistic.
Last season, Walter Mazzarri’s 104-day run without an away goal matched the blanks fired by Graham Taylor’s side in the old Second Division in 1979 after two successive promotions.
He added: “We need it – we need a goal away from home. All players, especially strikers, live by goals and it would be good to score at Wembley, get a result and break this bad relationship we have with away goals.
“We need to improve our attacking mechanism to try and find the solutions, but I prefer to think about the team’s objective rather than whether we score or not.”
Gracia admits £18 million record signing Gray, who has scored just four goals this season and has barely featured on the Spaniard’s watch, could leave Vicarage Road this summer.
He said: “We will see at the end of the season if he prefers to change club because he needs to play more.”
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