Javi Gracia is refusing to allow himself to be distracted by the magic of the FA Cup, despite guiding Watford into the fifth round.
For the second successive round in this year’s competition Gracia made 11 changes, but he still saw the Hornets ease their way to a 2-0 victory over Newcastle at St James’ Park and a place in the last 16.
With the club sitting in seventh place in the Premier League, it could be argued that Watford have the opportunity to throw everything they have at the cup, but the head coach is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
Gracia said: “At this moment, we are in a good position in the league and are going forward in the FA Cup, but we are in January still and there are a lot of games left in both competitions.
“Now is the moment when we have to show our level, now is the moment where we have to be demanding and try to show our ambition.”
Gracia’s under-studies performed their roles to perfection as a much-changed Newcastle team misfired horribly and they got their reward when Andre Gray fired them ahead with 62 minutes gone before Isaac Success wrapped up victory at the death.
He said: “I’m very pleased for all of them, because sometimes it’s not easy for me to explain how important all my players are.
“When I say I believe in all my squad, it’s because I believe in all my squad and then, in games like today, it’s important to show all of them are working really well.”
Opposite number Rafael Benitez cut a forlorn figure as he surveyed the wreckage of another truncated FA Cup campaign, with the Magpies having not made it to the fifth round since 2006, a year before current owner Mike Ashley bought the club.
His selection seemed in part designed to illustrate the point that his squad cannot compete on two fronts, hours after a loan move for Lazio full-back Jordan Lukaku fell through at the last minute.
Benitez said: “This was a strong team, strong enough. I think we could have won. That we didn’t do it means that maybe we need something more if we want to go through and then try to challenge for this competition.
“We did what we had to do. We tried and we couldn’t, that’s it.”
Newcastle, who sit just above the Premier League relegation zone, face Manchester City on Tuesday evening, with Benitez still desperate for the reinforcements he believes he needs to keep the club in the top flight for another season.
Asked if his disappointment was as much down to the lack off progress off the pitch as the failure on it, he said: “A little bit of everything.
“But I am a professional, so I am convinced that we will do what we have to do and, in the end, we will stay up.
“But we have to concentrate and then be sure that we do the right things.”