Richard Buxton: Gracia's working his magic
Cathcart reveals how Watford boss inspires Hornets' rise with pool competitions and fines
Magic is again conjuring in the air of Harry Potter's official residence.
Watford may be home to the world's most famous wizard but an equally spell-binding transformation is taking place ahead of Liverpool's visit tomorrow.
Under Javi Gracia, the Hornets have become one of the English Premier League's surprise packages with a four-game winning start helping keep them in contention for a top-six place.
The Spaniard, 48, has implemented a variety of methods in attempts to sharpen the mind of his players, including fining them £100 (S$177) for every minute they arrive late to training.
"Whether it be people being late or even just on the training pitch, we want to maintain our high standards. We know that it'll help us on a match day," Watford defender Craig Cathcart told The New Paper in an exclusive interview.
"Even small things like this season, we've got a pool table put in (at the training ground). We've had a few pool competitions so that always helps with team spirit.
"We're around each other a lot more because some of the lads normally stay quite late, playing pool and spending a bit of time together, so that's definitely helped too."
As a Vicarage Road stalwart, Cathcart has been a prominent figure in the current renaissance.
The Northern Ireland international's headed winner against Tottenham in September saw Watford become only the second team outside the EPL top six to beat any of those above them.
Others could have also conceivably fallen. A fortnight later, Manchester United sealed a narrow 2-1 win, while Arsenal, the Hertfordshire club's neighbours at the London Colney training complex, prospered from a Cathcart own goal to win 2-0.
"We've played Arsenal this year and the game was really tight. They scored two late goals but I don't think it was a true reflection on the game," he said.
"We had chances and could have come away with a better result, so we're pushing ever closer to the top teams and I think that's what the club want to do, try to bridge that gap.
"There's a lot of clubs in the Premier League that are trying to do the same thing. But we feel like we've gone about it the right way and we're confident that we can come up against the top teams and give them trouble."
Not surprisingly, Cathcart is relishing facing Juergen Klopp's side tomorrow.
"We're going to go into the game with no doubts. It's going to be difficult. We know as a team that everyone has to be at their top level to get anything from the game," admits Cathcart.
"You want to play in the Premier League and play against the best teams and the biggest clubs.
"Liverpool are no doubt one of the biggest clubs in the league and, over the last two or three seasons, they've improved a hell of a lot. They even improved again this summer (with) the players they bought and they've got a great squad as well as a starting XI.
"They're doing really well, so we know it'll be difficult, but it's a game we can go into and enjoy.
"I think most of the pressure from outside will be on them because they'll be coming, expecting to win.
"That's a position they're used to being in. We can try to go and enjoy the game and make sure we can try and get a positive result."
Maintaining touching distance with the top six is already reaping rewards elsewhere for Gracia, who will become the first Watford manager since 2011 to sign a contract extension.
"From the players' point of view, everyone's really happy with the manager. He's easy to speak to," said Cathcart.
"Even the lads that aren't playing, there's been nobody really moaning too much because they understand that the manager wants the best for the team and the best for the players.
"It will be great for him to extend his stay because he's been really successful since he came and everyone's in a happy place at the minute."