Nigel Pearson will resume struggling Watford’s inquest into striker Andre Gray’s lockdown birthday party.
The furious Hornets manager refused to say whether £18m forward Gray, midfielder Nat Chalobah and young prospect Domingos Quina must self-isolate after all three were omitted from the squad for the 3-1 home defeat by Southampton.
Two goals from Danny Ings set the Saints on the path to victory, and although Watford got a goal back from a Jan Bednarek own goal, James Ward-Prowse sealed the three points with a superb free-kick.
Before the crushing setback at Vicarage Road, Pearson confirmed the trio of Gray, Chalobah and Quina were left out “for health and safety reasons.”
But club insiders were stunned when social media footage emerged of an outdoor gathering at the Surrey mansion Gray shares with Little Mix pop star fiancee Leigh-Anne Pinnock.
The pictures appeared to show breaches of lockdown rules, and after the game Pearson scowled: “Until I know all the facts, I’m not making any further comment on that situation.”
It is unclear whether Gray – who has been limited to substitute appearances in the Premier League under Pearson – one-cap England midfielder Chalobah or Quina will be available for Saturday’s difficult game at Champions League-chasing Chelsea.
After just one win in 11 games in all competitions – against champions Liverpool – Pearson’s concern is not just limited to the fall-out from a birthday celebration.
Watford are deep in trouble and he admitted: “We are fighting for our lives because we haven’t found the performance levels we need.
“We were second best for too long. You can’t concede goals like we have, give gifts to the opponents. It makes the job harder.
“We have to go back to showing a cohesion as a group of people. At the moment it is frustrating, because we are not achieving the performances we know we are capable of.
“We have games left in which it is in our own hands to make sure we secure our future in the Premier League. No-one is going to do it for us.”