Sunday, September 12, 2010

Giving the old bag her P45

After a good twenty years, quite possibly even more, the time has eventually come to say farewell to a companion of mine who has shared all of my ups and downs, and didn't complain once because the latter heavily outnumbered the former. The best partners don't do they? Bless her, she's had to put up with muddy football boots, heavy books, a laptop that was far too big for her, (ooh I say), various cameras, sand from all manner of European beaches and hours sitting by herself at strange football grounds in allsorts of weather, not all of it nice.

When you first see someone you quite like the look of you make excuses to go back and catch a glimpse don't you? I'm no different, I think I went back to Debenhams in Ipswich four times before taking the plunge. Once I plucked up the courage, the pair of us never looked back and for years you couldn't squidge a fag paper between us, we were tight. All kinds of travel adventures soon followed and rarely was she far from my right shoulder. Thing is, the longer you're with someone the more you take them for granted and, more to the point, ignore their faults because, (you think), you love them. I'm no different.

With the march of time, people and feelings change, but only the bravest do something about it. That'll be me then! Thing is, it's perfectly acceptable for you to think, or even once or twice mention to a mate that she's looking a bit tatty or seen better days, but the second someone tells you that then boy are you pissed off. You know though that the rot has set in and it's only a matter of time. Somehow, somewhere, something changes and things aren't the same, however hard you think you're trying. At this point the eyes begin to wander and a guilty conscience isn't really an issue.
For Debenhams Ipswich circa 1988 read El Corte Inglés Alicante 2010 and a big old Déjà vu. Forty nine euros later and my old Nike rucksack was a thing of the past, replaced by something I couldn't keep my eyes off. At least I had the good manners not to road test the new one before discarding the old, even if somebody has spelt QUIKSILVER wrong.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pre-season 2010/11 in a 1000 odd words

In contrast to the same time a year before when I saw an embarrassing number of practise games, preseason 2010/11 for me consisted of just three and a bit matches, punctuated by almost three weeks in the UK as an escapee from the relentless August sun, in fairness the first of my five Spanish summers I'd actually done so. Whilst I was elsewhere and wearing jeans and a pullover and not shorts and T-shirt, Iberian football continued without me. I don't think we missed each other. Before I left, an immensely indifferent blog author fidgeted through Santa Pola versus newly La Liga Hercules, probably looking at my watch more than what little was occurring on the pitch. In the end, I think, Santa Pola equalised late on to earn a creditworthy 1-1 draw and I scurried away to get sorted for my flight the next morning.

The special one
Upon my return, the guilty smirks of the Hercules players had died away amidst all the furore of the "Totegate" tapes and the club proceeded apace with their pre-season plans as though nothing had happened. Such is the way with Spanish football, which, even when confronted by a guilty as sin verdict, tends to adopt an "oh well, worth a try" kind of facial expression, just like those worn by AC Milan and Juventus not so many years ago. Curiously, with a week to go before commencing league action proper, Hercules chose to forego any number of decent quality local sides in preference to, err Real Madrid believe it ot not, for their final pre-season outing, seven days exactly before hosting Athletic Club de Bilbao.

Estadio Jose Rico Perez in Alicante
Herc's home ground, the Estadio Jose Rico Perez in Alicante, really puts me in mind of the old and knackered Wembley, which, in front of the TV cameras invariably looked full with an immaculate grass playing surface. Behind the scenes though the place is a bit of a shit bin, or was, until promotion was secured.
In anticipation of being soundly thrashed once a fortnight by Spanish football's big boys, Hercules, bless 'em, have spent some money and put a little bit of effort in, chiefly on cosmetic things unseen by the majority of fans. I'll give you a few examples. Last year, the playing surface a metre beyond all four touch lines gave way to a manky earth and stone walkway, this season the dirty and dusty earth gap has beautiful and immaculately trimmed, plastic grass right up to the edge of the sparkly, spangly new electronic advertising hoardings. The dugouts too now cater for pampered Primera posteriors with a little more of that ubiquitous plastic grass on the floor in front of each seat to hide another dusty dirt strip. Rumour has it too, the club employed a local unemployed bod to spray paint each and every sun bleached seat a fresher shade of blue.

Tote, conscience clear, addresses the crowd
For the visit of Madrid in a meaningless pre-season friendly, so much was different for the press boys from the season just past. Not wishing to expose their VIP guests to the riff raff with microphones and cameras, the photographic corps and radio reporters were banished to a side entrance, far away from their usual door near to the changing rooms of both sides and extendable tunnel. Perhaps it was only the nature of the evenings high profile opponents, but, personally I was already pissed off with being considered an afterthought, sentiments which weren't about to improved by the security detail as Real Madrid emerged one by one to warm up in front of six thousand or so early arrivals an hour before kick-off. Eventually, super star coach Jose Mourinho left his players to it and took a seat on the bench flanked by his burly assistant José Morais. At this point the security operation swung into effect, marshalled by a massive goon, reminiscent of an Israeli commando, the assembled photographers were denied the opportunity of a decent shot of the man himself and had to make do with snatched photos of Madrid's main man. Yours truly included, although my shot turned out okay.

Super Bowl night
What followed was even more laughable as Hercules football club attempted to turn their final preseason friendly - for which they paid all of Madrid's travel, security and hotel costs and even gave them all the gate receipts - into an evening akin to the Superbowl. Fanning out from the players tunnel young girls in blue and white uniforms formed a guard of honour, as, accompanied by fireworks from the stand roof and ridiculous flame effects, one by one the first team squad were introduced to the expectant crowd. Eventually, some semblence of a football match began and, with Hercules a goal to nil up at half time, I left. Real Madrid replied with three unanswered second half goals to win the thing 1-3

Uluru - Redován style
Meanwhile just down the road, Santa Pola wound down their, by all accounts, quite good pre-season sequence with a trip to Mutxamel and two days later away again at Redován. Interesting choice of friendly was Mutxamel, especially since it was arranged after the Preferente fixture list had been published and matched Santa Pola and Mutxamel, in the opening game. I needn't have worried, a very much second string Santa Pola side equalised late on to grab a 2-2 draw against a pretty physical side who, I think, will be contenders next May. Two days later to avoid clasing with the start of the town's fiestas, 'Pola made the hour long cross country trip to Redován and one of the most attractive little grounds in the region. The last time I came here about three years ago, Santa Pola failed to score against the eight men of already relegated Redován and in the process blew a play-off opportunity by only drawing nil-nil. Under a quickly setting sun which turned the massive sloping mountain less than a kilometre away a gorgeous shade of orange and put me in mind of Ayers Rock, Santa Pola, featuring their likely starting eleven, were twice behind but still emerged 2-4 winners with a ruthless second half performance.

With a ten day wait to start their season proper, Santa Pola's players then had plenty of time to rest up between training sessions.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hercules sweat, Cadiz complain & Real Betis look on with interest

Barely had everyone connected with Hercules CF begun their promotion celebrations before rumours began to circulate about "extra-curricular" activities during the season just passed involving payments allegedly made to secure wins. Before very long these rumours gained traction and appeared in print, forcing one or two of those featured prominently in the allegations to issue public denials.

Tote pictured recently
The embarrassing distraction for Hercules CF began some weeks earlier, when, a wider investigation into political corruption in and around Costa Blanca cities Orihuela and Alicante unearthed taped recordings of the football club officials discussing payment of large sums of money to opposing players to throw crucial games. Majority shareholder of Hercules, Enrique Ortiz, was apparently captured on tape at least four times talking about bribes and how they could be made available. In addition, various text messages between Ortiz and team captain Jorge López Marco (Tote) and senior player Abraham Paz also emerged and make incriminating reading. Leading up to the promotion chasing Alicante side's match last season against Cordoba, opposing goalkeeper Raul Navas allegedly trousered 100,000 € to throw the game, Tote is alleged to have said, amongst other things "get the money ready for this lot, we have to pass it to them on Sunday"

In addition, Ortiz is also alleged to have offered 20,000 € apiece to two Gimnàstic de Tarragona players to win matches against Hercules direct promotion opponents. On this occasion, Tote allegedly demands "Enrique (Ortiz) pay 'Nastic all the money tomorrow, they're going to screw everything up" On another occasion one message reveals an un-named team refused to take a bribe and Tote is recorded suggesting Ortiz pay his Hercules team-mates using the words "give something to this lot so they play their best, the others won't take it because they're ready on 300,000 € to beat us"

Tote leads the promotion celebrations
In the midst of all the press reporting of the case, a beligerant Tote broke cover to say "Let them prove it if it's all true. And if they do, they can punish us, but they won't because there's nothing in it" He went on “I don’t know what the judge’s latest decision is and I don’t care,” said Tote. “I’m not a politician and none of it interests me. When they feel like it the talk will end and meanwhile, we’ll attend to our business, which is to play in La Liga. We earned it by being better than the rest.”

Relegated Cadiz lodged a formal complaint with the Spanish football association, (RFEF) citing “a supposed infraction of article 75 of the RFEF disciplinary code, consisting of predetermination of results.” The RFEF  began their own fact finding investigation with a request for the tapes and transcripts of the text messages. This request was denied by three High Court Judges who refused to allow the tapes to be sent to the RFEF and the Spanish Higher Sports Council (CSD) because those same tapes "breech the fundamental right to privacy of the individual, one of the most important components of the Spanish Constitution" Without them as evidence any CSD/RFEF investigation would have been completely toothless.

The full story, including legal argument is here

Football fans in the provincial capital enjoy a civic reception for the team
Meanwhile, Cadiz resigned themselves to starting the 2010/11 season in the Segunda A, and Real Betis, the principle beneficiaries of any points deductions for Hercules, who appear to have got out of jail, maintained their discreet silence as the matter was gently swept under the murky Machiavellian carpet of lower league Spanish football.

The photographs in this article were reproduced courtesy of

Monday, August 23, 2010

Can Hercules do it?

As Elche wound down their campaign with a defeat on the road and a last day victory, rivals Hercules ended their own home campaign with a nervous looking victory in front of a massive crowd numbering twenty seven thousand. Their opponents were Madrid based Rayo Vallecano, who with nothing to play for, could easily have put a gigantic spanner in Hercules' works.

Hercules fans celebrate at a packed Rico Perez
A goal-less first half belied the Hercules dominance, try as they might, the Rayo back four held firm and at times rode their luck, especially after fifteen minutes when a decent penalty shout for a foul on Tiago Gomes was turned down by Canaries referee Hernández Hernández. Inside the first three second half minutes, both sides found themselves on the scoresheet, and it was the visitors who silenced the expectant home support when rthe dangerous Coke fired in a shot from just insidde the box. Hercules immediately responded when Portillo headed home to even things up. In the end the visitors gave it a darned good go and stayed level at one apiece until almost the final whistle. Almost was close but but not quite enough for Rayo because Portillo notched his and Herc's second with less than two minutes remaining.

A brave effort or not by Rayo Vallecano, the delirious local support cared not, a crucial 2-1 victory ensured promotion was still within reach, and, crucially was in their own hands, depending solely on a Hercules win in their final match away to lowly Real Union. Elsewhere on the second last match day of the season, Real Sociedad secured the Segunda A title with a routine two nil home win over Celta Vigo and the only two teams still in with a shout of overtaking Hercules enjoyed mixed fortunes. Levante cruised past already relegated Castellon and Real Betis could only manage a 1-1 draw away at mid table Salamanca, two wasted points which were to prove vital to both Levante and Hercules.

Three weeks into June and a week after the start of The World Cup the season eventually came to a thrilling conclusion and the permutation was simple, two promotion places remained and three clubs were in contention Hercules started game day 42 in second place closely followed by Levante and then Real Betis.
I'm not certain how the fixture computer manages to do it every time, but way back in August 2009 guess which two teams were drawn to play each other in the final games of the season? In the end, Real Betis hammered Levante 4-0 at home and their whole season hinged on the relegated Real Union and Hercules result from the northern city of Irun.

A 0-2 win for Hercules at the smallest ground in the league, watched by four hundred travelling supporters ensured the Alicantinos headed home happy and Real Betis, despite finishing on the same number of points as both Levante and Hercules, finished fourth. Tough on the men from Seville but here's some interesting statistics, the head to head records of the three protagonists

Betis 1 - 1 Hercules      Levante 2 - 1 Hercules      Betis 4 - 0 Levante   
Hercules 3 - 2 Betis     Hercules  2- 1 Levante      Levante 1 - 0 Betis

                                                                                            Goals        Goals
                                   Points Played  Won   Drawn   Lost    For           Against
1 REAL SOCIEDAD  74     42         20      14         8         53             37

2 HERCULES             71     42         19      14        9         61             34

3 LEVANTE               71     42         19      14        9         63             45

The final table looked like this, and, after a nine year gap to their previous adventure in Spanish football's top division, Hercules were back. Or were they?   TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A couple left and Elche finish their season.

Having given up trying in the dismal home defeat against Murcia, and with that any pretence of quite liking top flight Spanish football. Elche had two further fixtures to endure before dropping the curtain on 2009/10, an away trip to Gimnastic de Taragona (Nastic) and finally hosting Real Sociedad at home in their final game.

Nastic scramble home their opener
Way down near the bottom of the classification, on paper Nastic looked beatable, but, such is the way with clubs scrapping for survival, three points are never a foregone conclusion, especially where Elche CF are concerned. Having blown the opportunity to contend for promotion, our heroes had nothing to play for except pride and the possibility of a few more euros for gaining a place in the final table. Nastic on the other hand were desperate to stay in the division and the way they played it showed. Elche, with something very close to a full strength side, slipped to a disappointing 3-1 defeat by conceding twice, halving the deficit and conceding again five minutes after scoring. Even with these three very welcome points, Nastic still weren't out of the shit and would have to wait another nailbiting week to secure their Segunda A safety.Centre Back Samuel notched the single Elche goal on 73 minutes.

Real Sociedad fans soak up the Elche sun
A week later on a balmy Saturday evening, Elche closed out their season with the visit of Champions elect Real Sociedad from the Basque country. Those that bothered to turn up witnessed a clinical dissection of quite a decent Jorge Molina, the Elche centre-forward who helped himself to all four goals as Elche ran comfortable 4-1 winners. In the process, the six foor three striker from just down the road in Alcoy ended up comfortably the top scorer in the League. A goal to the good at the break, Elche turned on the style in the second half and the sizeable away contingent left disappointed, it mattered not because other results elsewhere fell kindly for them and one of the best supported teams in the league were crowned worthy champions. Full time 4-1

Top scorer Molina
From a fairly dismal start to the 2009/10 season, culminating in the sacking of manager Claudia Barragan after a lifeless performance in the local derby, Elche turned things around and eventually finished in a noteworthy sixth place and ahead of outfits such as Rayo Vallecano and Villarreal B. To put things in perspective, immediately above them sat long term promotion hopefuls Real Betis and Cartagena. On a personal note I've watched the Elche B side for two or three years now, and two younger players stood out  some months ago as being a couple to watch. As the season neared completion both tall lanky midfielder Javi Paños and his one time Elche Ilicitano colleague, blonde centre back Raul, both got games in the first team and didn't remotely look out of place.  Paños especially appears to have a bright future

Final statistics - Elche CF

Played 42 Won 18 Drew 9 Lost 15  Goals for 67  Goals against 57
POINTS 63 - Sixth place


Sunday, July 25, 2010

And, Murcia against Valencia

Just about a year or so ago Cartagena FC were scrapping it out in a promotion battle for a place in Spain's Segunda A division, one level below the national elite. Having achieved that tough objective, all concerned with the football club could have been forgiven for resting on their laurels and accepted a mid-table finish and decent consolidation as the club strengthened their newly acquired status. Over the following year, a great many people were to be surprised.

Fast forward twelve months and Cartagena were still at it. With Real Sociedad assuring themselves of the first of three promotion places the day before, four clubs were still in with a decent shout of climbing into La Primera from a notoriously difficult division, Segunda A, these two included. Whether or not they continued their upward progress with a second successive promotion, fans of the club had clearly loved the ride and continued to turn up, rain or shine, to support their favourites. As you'd expect then, quite a few locals made it for the visit of Hercules, one of Cartagena's nearest and very much NOT dearest Segunda 'A' rivals, both geographically and in the classification. The visit of Hercules seemed to provoke outright hostility, perhaps something like, but not quite matching, the animosity shown towards the utterly despised Real Murcia from just down the road. I think that the winner take all nature of the fixture with three crucial promotion points up for grabs had a lot to do with it, because, in my experience Cartagena football fans are passionate and at the same time very knowledgeable and kind.

It mattered not for the home supporters, Hercules and their fans were in town and stood, like a bloody great obstacle, in the way of the Cartagena promotion effort. Eventually, I made it pitchside despite the best efforts of one of the stadium employees who tried, unsuccessfully, to point me in the direction of a commentary booth in the stand miles away from the action. I wasn't too disappointed when I got there, for such a small ground, barely fifteen thousand when completely full, just like the original Den at Millwall the Cartaganova stadium generates a pretty scary atmosphere.Once the mess from about a million paper serviettes had been blown off the pitch by a gusting late evening breeze, Cartagena and Hercules kicked off their must win league battle, and quite a good one it was too.

Just like the Geordies, football fans in Cartagena have an unbridled passion and a unique accent too, I've never been to St James Park in Newcastle, but, with every third seat in the ground occupied by a bloke or a bird in a black and white striped shirt, this six pointer of a game could well have been taking place in the North East. Inside five minutes, the suitably attired local hordes should have been screaming obscenities at the 1500 or so travelling Alicante fans, in the end they had no need to as Hercules' Romanian striker Danciulescu spurned a golden chance to settle any early nerves by shoving a decent chance past a Cartagena post. This was tense stuff and mistakes were plentiful from players from either side, you could perhaps excuse them given what was at stake, but the referee endeared himself to neither set of supporters in rapid succession.

Two decent penalty shouts just minutes apart, one for either side were denied, the second of the two for a clumsy looking shove on Hercules forward Tote, had the look of a the referee trying to atone for an earlier blunder by evening things up. Not long previously, livewire Toche for Cartagena was bundled to the ground inside the box and then prevented from gaining his feet by a non too subtle Hercules centre back. Of the two, Cartagena had every right to feel the more aggrieved. Half time 0-0

The tension continued with neither side able to make the crucial breakthrough in an equally absorbing second period, Cartagena, spurred on by their raucous support, probably had the better of things with neater approach play but no cutting edge upfront. Chelsea reject, Enrique de Lucas, who was brilliant all night, grazed the Hercules bar with a fantastic long range effort that saw Calatayud rooted to his line before Danciulescu could and should have done far better on at least two occasions.

Predictably, the game ended scoreless, a result that probably helped neither team, both of whom were aware of the degree of difficulty of the encounter and importance of three points. Afterwards, in a sweltering and far too small press room, both managers were discretion personified, respectfully praising their opponents whilst gently bemoaning the lack of a penalty apiece.  Full time 0-0

In the end there was one winner though, all season long Liga Adelante sponsor BBVA bank has been running a competition for their clients, which, in the great tradition of SoccerAM, involves footy fans hoofing a football into an empty net from the centre circle during the mid-game interval. Tonight, one lucky punter managed it and walked off with a cheque for forty grand under his arm, the jammy cunt. I was itching for a go.

Top - Tote (top totty, geddit)??
Middle - The excellent Farinos
Bottom - How you should you look having just trousered 40 grand

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Valencia versus Murcia

There is never an opportune moment to aggravate season ticket holders, who, through thick and thin turn up to watch throughout the year and frequently find themselves freezing cold, sunburnt, neglected or simply pissed off by a shite performance. Personally, I'd tolerate all of those, and have done at various times during the season because every single one of the above grievances goes with the territory. However, ask me to chip in twice for any combination of those dubious privelages and I'd probably say "Piss off, have I got mug tattoo'd on my forehead?"

Clearly, the probability of that verbose reply was discounted by officials of Elche CF, who still went ahead with a ridiculous plan to charge existing season ticket holders for entrance to the local derby, and potential money spinner, against Real Murcia. The upshot was, areas of the ground normally populated by the more vociferous element ( Peñas) of the home support were empty and the healthy travelling contingent made the most noise in a woefully poorly attended match that had so much riding on it for both Elche and Murcia. Considerably more was occurring outside the ground with protests galore occupying the local law enforcement as resentful season ticket holders (abonados) made their grievances known.

Amidst all the politics, a football match took place and what a good one it was for the visitors who looked sharper upfront and in midfield and really took the game to their hosts. A dismal 4900 bothered to turn up, a gate swelled by at least a thousand Murcianos who left delighted as their heroes avenged a home defeat back in January against today's opponents. In fairness, at times Murcia played like a team struggling for their lives in the 2a basement, for their part Elche, were considerably worse and made their red shirted guests look good. Twice Real Murcia went ahead and only once could Elche respond as they gifted their near neighbours three very welcome points.

Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero singled handedly defied Murcia for forty minutes, at which point he was left badly exposed by his back four, as they appealed in vain for offside, Aquino was allowed acres of space and just as much time to pick a spot to open the scoring. The heart rate of Willy boy again went through the roof two minutes later when the same Murcia forward burst through under no sort of challenge to fire a shot just wide. The bollocking that followed from the shaven headed goal-keeper left his defenders in no doubt as to his opinion on their concentration levels thus far. Half time 0-1

I'd hazard a guess that Willy Caballero did the interval team talk in the dressing room because, having failed to come up with a single chance worthy of the name throughout a one-sided first half, Elche, with ears  ringing, got themselves on the scoresheet for the only time in the match two and a bit minutes after the re-start.  Midfielder Perera charged forward and kept on going, riding tackle after tackle to bludgeon his way into the Murcia box to even things up. Perhaps now the difference in league positions would become evident, not a chance!

As Elche scratched their arses in, it must be said, pretty clueless fashion, Murcia regrouped and carried on as before, only that man Caballero kept the red shirts at bay as over and over again the four men supposedly playing in front of him went AWOL. For the final time in the game on seventy eight minutes, at least two of the Elche players erroneously designated defenders, politely said "after you" and Chando rounded the Goucho goalkeeper to make it 1-2. The Murcia coach, subs and technical team went fucking spastic, clearly believing they'd just witnessed a momentous moment in their fight for Segunda A survival. Full time 1-2

At about this time last season, the Elche President Jose Sepeulcre and his Rayo Vallecano opposite number, Maria Teresa Rivero, engaged in a war of words in the press following Elche's 1-2 away win which effectively ended the Rayo promotion challenge for 2008/09. Señora Rivero did not mince her words when openly suggesting that Elche CF had accepted a "prima" (cash incentive) from a Rayo promotion rival in return for defeating the Madrid outfit.

Today, the Elche performance had the same sort of look about it, nothing to play for so why not help out a struggling neighbour in return for some financial assistance!!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Segunda A goes down to the wire

As Preferente football was neatly folded up and carefully put away in the drawer marked September, there was still one burning issue from the 2009/10 football season to settle, and for me, it's a matter of enormous interest. The culmination of the Segunda A season is coming to a thrilling close, and, with just three games remaining, both local clubs to feature heavily in my blog are well placed and contending for promotion to La Primera, Spanish football's elite division.

The story from Elche CF is remarkable, a poor start and wallowing in the bottom three saw their manager, Claudio Barragan sacked and replaced by Pepe Bordalas in October. Thereafter, their fortunes improved and a steady climb up the table began, and, in early June they're handily placed just four points below, believe it or not,  Hercules in the third and final promotion place. No such drama for Hercules though, all season long they've been up at the front, and, were it not for a poor trot during March and April, they would have been sitting pretty now. As it turns out though, those spring time jitters may still end up costing the club dear.

This weekend, Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th sees two clubs from just south of Alicante province attempt to put a spanner in the works of both Herc' and Elch as the fixture computer just happened to burp out a couple of intriguing matches at this critical juncture of the season. In the same way Hercules and Elche football clubs hate each others guts, the same can be said of both Real Murcia and Cartagena, the only time fans of these two see eye to eye is squaring up to each other after the Murcia derby.  This weekend then, Murcia travel to Elche on Saturday evening and the following day Hercules head in the opposite direction for a date with a hostile reception at the intimidating Cartagonova stadium.

In addition to lashings of local pride, each of the two games has quite a bit riding on it, promotion outsiders Elche haven't given up the ghost of going up, and, in their burly centre forward Jorge Molina, have the league's leading scorer and contender for the "pichichi" trophy at season's end. For their part, Real Murcia have a little on their plate too, namely Segunda A survival, with games rapidly running out, Los Pimentoneros, are third bottom and just a handful of points from safety. No doubt at all, their relegation dogfight is just about to involve Alicante neightbours Elche, themselves keen to snatch three points.

As six pointeers go, Cartagena versus Hercules late on Sunday evening is a real seven pointer, equal on sixty four points, a draw, the likely result even though Cartagena have home advantage, will help neither team. The way things are shaping up, Real Sociedad, (who must still visit Elche) and Levante are creeping away from the pack, therefore five other teams are chasing third place and untold La Liga riches. One thing is certain, in my patch all police leave for this weekend was cancelled weeks ago.

Arise Sir Adriano

For the first and only time, yours truly recently left a top class game of football at half-time. Nope, it was nowt to do with the football being shite either, I didn't have a lot of choice. Actually that's a bit of a fib, I had the option of staying until the end of Elche versus Girona and missing the start of Santa Pola's final game of the season, or, knocking off at half time from Elche's Martinez Valero stadium to catch all of 'Pola and Jove Español. With Elche 0-0 at half time, I elected for option B which was the wrong guess as it turned out because my green and white shirted home town club spanked in four unanswered second half goals against Girona, all of which I missed. Bugger my luck!

Nine months and three different home grounds after it all began, Santa Pola Club de Futbol put their 2009/10 season to bed with an emphatic home win on a late May Saturday evening. With the squad electing for a rare Sunday morning lie-in, preceded no doubt by a post game beer or two, Jove Español arrived for an 1800 kick off at the Manolo Macia, where, entrance was free and more locals than usual took advantage of the offer.

With nothing at stake for either side, Jove were destined to end up mid-table and Santa Pola a creditable fifth or sixth, just out of reach of the play-offs, my initial expectation of this meaningless rubber was a dire game of football both sides couldn't wait to get out of the way. Not so, Santa Pola, and 22 year old striker Adriano in particular, were terrific. The visitors played their part too, but not before finally coming to life mid-way through the second half.

An expertly taken first half poachers hat-trick by that man ensured Santa Pola ended the season as they'd started it, with a welcome and fairly routine three points. With a considerably more familiar look to the side, the performance also had a bit more of what regular watchers have come to expect, decent passing and movement, some nice one touch stuff and plenty of chances. Their opponents from the previous week are a good side, all the more reason then to field the kind of starting eleven at Horadada, Jove Español had to face this evening. (Unless you get me roaring drunk I still refuse to expand on my conspiracy theory),  anyway enough of that.

Three nil to the good at half-time, the interval breakfast baguette and coffee tasted much better than usual as I wandered back to my spot, pitchside on the half-way line, ready for a bit  more. When you're playing well and ahead by a hatful at the break, I always wonder how many they're going to end up with, wishful thinking though, (how often does that happen), because only a single additional goal was added to bother the scorers, and that was by the visitors just a few minutes after the re-start. To be honest, Santa Pola, despite conceding quickly, were in cruise control from early on and appeared to be looking forward to those end of season sherberts with about twenty minutes to go.

Full time 3-1 and that was that, after thirty four games, fifteen wins, fifty six points, fifty goals and an excellent sixth place in the table, the season was over. Enjoy the ales lads, you deserve them.
Arise Sir Adriano? well he definitely deserves one but but the club can't afford it!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In the words of Mannfred Mann's Earth Band............

.....Kevvy's on the road again!! And this time for the final away match in Santa Pola's, on the whole, pretty good season. Not an easy one to finish up with though, a sixty eight odd kilometre coach trip south to just beyond Torrevieja to take on Horadada, who really aren't a bad side at all. As it turned out it wasn't to be a particularly good game or performance by the boys from the seaside, both of which I almost missed because of an unseemly (un)diplomatic incident.

Home in Elche to Pilar de la Horadada is a straightforward journey down the motorway until just south of Torrevieja where you join the N332 for about a twenty odd kilometre run south to Pilar. The quaint Ikomar stadium, home to the best grass pitch in Preferente football, is on the far side of town adjacent to a pretty scruffy and small industrial estate and easily accessed by using the main drag through the pueblo and just keeping going. Easy that is when there aren't roadworks that compel you to use a rabbit warren of back streets. In this order, three things then happened, I got completely lost, had a major row with a burly Spanish motorist and eventually arrived at the ground irritable and fed up.

I can kind of see the reason the big old Spanish bloke was a tad pissed off, I, without meaning to, (you never do), completely missed a stop sign and almost t-boned him at a junction I wasn't familiar with. Normally in that scenario, the combination of holding your hands up and employing a pathetic looking face tend to work and the other party drives of muttering a bit. Not today though, our heated road exchange ended with me asking the nobber a question and then answering it for him, something like...."Hablas Inglés? entonces Fuck off"

I could have guessed it was going to be one of those afternoons and so it proved on the pitch. A strange looking Santa Pola line-up, missing a host of regulars, (I won't bother advancing my personal conspiracy theory), were never really at the races and on a hot, hot Sunday evening slipped to their worst defeat of the season after one of their poorest performances of the campaign. Somewhat oddly, Santa Pola led by a goal at half time, that, and the combination of a few choice words from coach Domingo Grau during the break, ought to have been sufficient to rouse the guys from their lethargy. It never happened. Santa Pola sleep- walked their collective way through another dismal forty five minutes of football, conceding four unanswered and extremely good goals in the process. For the second time in 2009/10 'Pola lost to a decent Horadada side, today going down 4-1 whilst never really looking like taking anything from the encounter.

I've been to the Ikomar at various times this season and last and you always know what you are going to get, a warm welcome from a very friendly football club who deserve their onfield success. One thing that's always puzzled me is the attitude of one or two of the local Brits who gather to watch. Today, I thought The Reds were excellent and could have won by far more than three goals, despite playing as well as they did, all I heard from one or two English voices close to me for virtually the whole game was complaints. Curious.
Oh, and by the way, I was wearing different clothes agains!!

Friday, May 21, 2010


How many words can I use to describe an uninteresting goal-less draw with barely any decent action? In about five minutes you're going to find out. Actually, what I'll do is write enough to cover the depth of a photo and then stop. The match I was referring to is Santa Pola's most recent home game against Alguena.
Nobody scored, nobody seemed to even try to score and it was refereed by a bloke called Mut Bolufer, no seriously, that's his name. Actually, it's a bit harsh saying no-one tried, so I apologise to the Santa Pola players, none of whom shirked their responsibilities. In the end, however hard you work, as the saying goes you can't polish a turd, or something like that. I attempted to here with my match report, so see for yourselves whether or not I managed to add a lustre to some of the brown stuff.

Santa Pola 0 - 0 Alguena

Anyway, back to the original question, the answer is one hundred and seventy nine!!

Photo - Mut, (or was that gut), Bolufer.

The bird who loves football

I've only ever been to Alfaz del Pi once before and on that occasion I got completely lost in what seems to be a very attractive small town. On the second occasion the same thing almost happened, and, but for my travelling companions I would have done too. In fairness, the polideportivo municipal in Alfaz del Pi doesn't appear to have been designed to be easy to find and I can't believe I'm the only person who's had a job getting there. Once you stumble across it by chance, like we did, it's a pretty nice place though, a big old swimming pool, raised sun terrace, cafeteria's and an athletics facility, it's also home to a huge peacock, (Pavo Real - Turkey Royal if you want the literal Spanish translation), who shouts the odds all day from the roof of one of the sites storage buildings.

No doubt the twenty or so locals who bothered to turn up were quite used to it, but Santa Pola CF weren't there to admire or listen to the peacock, and their travelling squad definitely didn't admire the incessant racket the facking thing made all game long. Thankfully, it didn't seem to put "our" boys off, and, during that unseen transition from Sunday afternoon to Sunday evening, Santa Pola did just enough to head off on the hour long journey home with another three points and their unbeaten run standing at twelve games. Alfaz del Pi paid the penalty, literally, for some poor defending and finished the match two men light, the only goal of the game coincided with the dismissal of full back Adrian for mis-behaving in his own area. German then stepped up to use the sledge hammer in his left foot to great effect from the spot mid-way through the second half.

The referee, Verde Calderon from Alicante, wasn't much cop, and, to be honest neither were Alfaz, they're going to be relegated and it's easy to see why, at times during the first half they looked reasonably good going forward and combative in midfield. It's at the back where they seem a bit iffy, and that's curious because their captain and centre-back, Benjamin, looks a class act; defending well, reading the game and moving the ball out of defence frequently and without wasting it, often charging upfield himself. Unfortunately, just like ex England captain, (good), John Terry, Benjamin appears to have a few character flaws. Inside the first ten minutes something, or more probably, someone had narked him and he was the first of fourteen yellow cards. The energy he then spent chipping away at the match official would have been better spent berating one or two of his colleagues, who at times, looked somewhat shaky. Somehow, he lasted all game without being sent off, a ninety minutes in point of fact where he barely put a foot wrong.

Only after going behind did Alfaz exhibit any sense of urgency and with just fifteen minutes remaining, Santa Pola were forced to up their concentration levels as the home side, urged on by their blue chested and preening fan club, enjoyed a spell of possession. Failing to adequately defend four successive corners, Santa Pola twice almost blew it in the last five minutes, Vicente's mis-hit defensive header came back off his own bar before being hammered out, and, just like a few weeks ago, Julio steered a goal bound shot round the foot of a post at full stretch in the dying seconds.  Full time 0-1.

Apparently, the peacock is present at every home game, I wish my bird was!!

Photos -
Top - The peacock with a season ticket  Mark Welton - foto23
Next - German was on hand, again
Second bottom - Benjamin, a very talented nutcase
Bottom - Vicente got this one right but was lucky later

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crowd congestion at Elche CF? ...............don't be so daft!

You didn't dream or imagine it, and neither did the club's officials, it actually happened although, not to the extent kick off was delayed. One or two, (thousand), Spanish latecomers, (serve them right - no sympathy), missed the beginning though. Somehow, and I'll explain more shortly, Elche Football Club, whose attendances so far in 2009/10 have fallen to as low as about five thousand and maxed out at almost nineteen thousand, managed to fill their sizeable stadium for a Segunda A league game. The guest list of more than thirty two thousand, also included the usual free loaders, (me and a few others), who got in for nothing and sat pitchside in the best seat's in the house.

Not surprisingly, the second biggest gate of the year involved their hated local rivals, Hercules of Alicante. With every coach in Alicante province booked for the lucrative roundtrip between Alicante and Elche, 18704 people watched the green and white clad local team inflict revenge and a 2-0 defeat on their guests to send the daytrippers home a bit pissed off. At the other end of the scale, much nearer to five than six thousand braved the raw February weather to watch Elche grind out a goal-less draw against Valencia side, and reasonably near neighbours, Levante. Now, pay attention - the match with the biggest gate all season actually took place on a Friday evening and, was televised live by Canal+, the local equivalent of SKY tv in the UK who decreed Elche and Villarreal B had sufficient about it to broadcast as it happened.

It doesn't usually take much to persuade a Spanish footy fan to stay at home at watch a match on telly, so great credit is due to Elche CF, the power of t'internet, where someone successfully ran a viral campaign to boost the attendance, and of course, all the locals who got off their arses and remembered their way to the ground. That in itself is some feat because, judging by the state of some of the replica shirts on show, the people wearing them obviously hadn't been to the Estadio Martinez Valero for quite a few years. In point of fact, some of the garments were so old, the sponsors on the front of them had long since gone out of business.

The last time I'd sat in that ground with a crowd that big making such a racket was for a friendly a couple of years ago when Spain beat Italy, in that game though people travelled to Elche from far and wide including Milan and Rome. For Elche and Villarreal no-one needed Alitalia, just the route E bus from the city centre.
The visitors, themselves a decent side in a handy league position, hadn't read the script though and raced into a two goal first half lead. Unfortunately, local Argentine legend and Elche keeper Willy Caballero had a bit of a nightmare, he slipped watching a Jefferson Montero, (top name mate), corner come winging it's way into his box, while he was laying prone on the ground the ball continued its journey into the far corner after just two minutes. With the same amount of time left before half-time Villarreal B doubled their lead to go in at the break a couple up and Elche looked out of it. Not so though as soon you'll see.

Segunda A leading scorer, Elche number 9 Jorge Molina, halved the deficit early in the second half to increase the already deafening decibel level to ear drum damaging. At about a quarter to eleven, the preparations for bed of the genteel folk of Santa Pola, twenty minutes down the road, were interrupted by the Elche equalizer. No seriously, it was an absolutely incredible din as Perera did the business with thirteen minutes left. At this point the place was rocking louder than a Motorhead concert as Elche surged forward in search of a remarkable third goal on a remarkable evening. In the end it was a bloke with a remarkable name who delivered a sucker punch from a Villarreal B breakaway as Elche committed too many men forward. Just minutes after the Franjiverdes levelled things up, dear old Jefferson spoilt the party by scoring the final goal of the game to rack up a 2-3 win for the second string of the Primera team known as The Yellow Submarine.

As is customary at Spanish footy, ever so many people left before the end, I would have put it down to a fear of the wide open spaces which are normal at Elche matches, but tonight the place was rammed and the local side had chances up to the very end to earn a point. Curious. Ninety minutes after the final whistle I at last made it across town to home just four kilometres away with my ears still ringing. I also understand, that, after their initial scare, the Santa Polero's eventually drifted off to sleep too.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seconds out - round two

Way back in November, on my Mum's birthday actually, I was feeling like crap having unwisely chosen to take a flu jab and dreading a lengthy trip up the road to watch Santa Pola play in Javea. In the end a 2-1 away defeat on a miserable rain sodden afternoon did nothing whatsover to lift my spirits and the journey back was not a happy one. The next time the same two teams squared off everything about the occasion was altogether better, the weather, no man flu, the form Santa Pola were in and best of all the venue, the Manolo Macia stadium just fifteen odd kilometres from home.

Taken one at a time all the ingredients were in place for a nice morning out, a gorgeous sunny April morning, the kind where it's perfectly possible to get sunburnt without realizing, no need at all for the Frenadol, the team full of confidence after a decent away show the previous week and a good crowd in, bolstered by a few vociferous Javea types. On paper the match looked to be between two somewhat mis-matched teams, Javea, scrabbling for points in the lower reaches of the Preferente table versus Santa Pola, likely to just miss out on a play-off place should have been a bit lop-sided, in the end it was anything but.

Fifteen seconds after the start, Javea were ahead courtesy of an unfortunate slip by goal-keeper Julio, last week's hero, attempting to clear a routine back pass "topped" it whilst losing his footing, the lurking Javea forward Oscar gleefully filled his boots as Julio could only check his. In games gone by conceding first roused Santa Pola from their slumbers and sluggish start, not today though, a still sleeping Marcos saw his weak penalty easily saved by Javea 'keeper Ortola as Santa Pola squandered a golden chance to level things. With the visitors in the ascendancy in a largely uneventful game, a well below par Santa Pola equalized with a good hit by debutante Hucha to send the sides in square at the break.

The second half though, was where all the fun was to be had, for the second time Javea went ahead and looked good value for the lead when the influential Ivars demonstrated to 'Pola midfielder Marcos how to take a penalty, 1-2 Javea. An hour into things the realisation they were behind suddenly hit Santa Pola and at long last they began to play like they can. Astute substitutions by coach Domingo Grau meant they would finish the game with four strikers, Adriano, Chema, Hucha and Mario Fernandez, two of whom were later to turn the match. After a spell of pressure, a second goal for the home side wasn't long in coming, the energetic Paloma found Adriano just inside the box for two two with not long to go. Any normal football team, offered a point playing well below their best, would bite your hand off, but, as they've done all season, win, lose or draw, Santa Pola did things their way.

Santa Pola were ahead only once in the match and that was for exactly the length of time it took for them to go behind, fiteen seconds. Deep into added on time referee Romero Lopez awarded the home side a penalty, for quite what wasn't entirely clear, especially to the orange shirted guests who were furious. With snapping and snarling by both sets of players the usual handbags was quickly quelled and Chema stepped up to win the game from the spot. Very shortly after, the 3-2 Santa Pola victory was met by more ugly scenes near the centre circle as the warring factions, abetted by a livid Javea technical team, kicked things off very nicely.

I was right too, it was the kind of morning to catch the sun without knowing. Two sun glass shaped white bits on my red forehead can vouch for that.

top - A busy day for the match official
next - Marcos, the penalty miss didn't prove crucial
second bottom - The furious Javea players
just above - Ugly scenes at the end

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Arabian night

Following their surgical dissection of a hapless Orihuela B, Santa Pola headed back up the Autopista to take on league leaders and probable Preferente Group Four champions Benissa. Four points clear at the top of the pile, Benissa have looked the part all season, except for the first match against 'Pola back in November which they lost 4-3.

About seventy kilometres north of Alicante, Benissa is an agreeable little Spanish town that would be even more so if anywhere was actually open in the place on a Sunday afternoon. An hour or so before kick off, at about four thirty, the only signs of life were a team of scaffolders busy erecting, or maybe even dismantling, a huge sound stage and lighting rig that, presumably, were just about to be used for one of those open air gigs the Spanish do so fantastically well. Most of the small bars and cafeterias in the immediate vicinity weren't just closed they looked suspiciously empty too. Eventually, just as the need for a pee was becoming slightly more pressing, my travelling companion and I chanced across a small bar with signs of activity. Suitably fed and watered with a slightly pricey baguette and diet coke, beggars can't be choosers and the owner clearly had this sussed, we headed off to enjoy a spot of footy. And enjoy it we most certainly did!

By now I'm sure I've already mentioned that Santa Pola, in against a decent side, seem to raise their game and perform better than admirably, this is all well and good except that dropped points or defeats against shit teams are really hard to stomach. Today, 'Pola gained one point or dropped two, choose how you want to look at it, but couldn't have done anything more or differently to grab all three. Somehow, the game finished goal-less and it wouldn't be remiss to suggest the home side held on for a hard won point, Santa Pola were awesome with fifteen immense performances from the starting eleven and four substitutes.

Game 29 of the season was something like a frantic cup tie played out in front of a full house with both sides rising to the occasion, the only difference was only about two hundred odd people bothered to turn up and. of those, over half , once again, were visiting fans. Benissa started brighter and for a brief moment, until they found their feet, Santa Pola had to work hard in midfield and defence to stay level. Once they'd composed themselves, particularly after a goal less first half, the Marineros played their best football of the season, such was their fluency and high tempo, they made an extremely good side very uncomfortable for long periods.

Thankfully, in an end to end match of high quality the referee for the day was also up to the challenge, perhaps the game was as good as it was because of his officiating. Both sides pinged the ball about with some style and not once did man in black, Alberola Elena from Gandia, fail to keep up with the pace of things. Twice in the final five minutes he made key decisions in the Santa Pola penalty area which could haved influenced the result. Benissa forward Xabi Torres went down under a fifty fifty challenge by 'Pola centre-back, the outstanding Miguel, and was harshly booked for simulation.  With a minute or less to go, visiting hearts sank, Monsa upended the same player and this time the 'Pola captain was yellow carded and  argued in vain as Sr.Elena pointed to the spot. Faced with all their hard work and effort coming to nothing and a point less journey home, Monsa and his colleagues had goal-keeper Julio to thank for making the afternoon worthwhile. Diving low to his left he pawed out the weak penalty Xabi Torres had just side footed towards the base of his left hand post. There was no time for the resulting corner.
Full time Benissa 0 - 0 Santa Pola

Afterwards, a different route home yielded far quicker success in the hunt for a cafeteria in which to knock up four or five hundred words describing the match for the English newspaper. I don't even remember the name of the place opposite which we parked up on the busy N332 road, but I'll never forget the clientele, we were the only two people in the place with parents not of Bedouin origin. It was like a bleedin' Kasbah, complete with one or two insolent looking North African youths each taking their turn on ornate hookah pipes. I stuck out like a dogs nob!  An hour or so later we headed for the car, my laptop and camera still in my possession, not daring to look back. If there are any blunders in the match report you can probably understand why.

PHOTOS - from top to bottom
The laws of supply and demand also include Diet Coke.
Mario Fernandez - an immense performance, again.
Julio with a last minute penalty save.
Complicated looking but very popular.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meanwhile, over in Alicante. Part II

It's just like someone foisted upon the unfortunate Hercules coach, Esteban Vigo, the Spanish equivalent of a Manager of the Month prize, the award of which is almost invariably followed by a dip in form. Me, ever the conspiracy theorist, I have my own thoughts, which are; subconsciously football players get a bit pissed off with seeing the manager pick up a bottle of champagne and a silver salver for their efforts on the pitch and bring him down a peg or two by taking their foot off the gas. By the looks of things though, Hercules haven't just stepped off the accelerator they've jammed on the anchors too.

A few short weeks ago, they were sitting pretty at the top of the Segunda A pile with points in hand over Cartagena in fourth and a decent goal difference. Then they made the short journey, just twenty three kilometres, to hated rivals Elche, where, the wheels didn't just come off they were last seen bouncing down the N340 back to Alicante.  Way back in October, Hercules easily disposed of their near neighbours in the first derby of the season, a result that ended the career of popular manager Claudio Barragan.  In the return match at the Martinez Valero in March, Elche gained revenge with a 2-0 victory, a result that set in train a string of setbacks for Hercules no-one connected with the club could have predicted.

Including the derby defeat, Hercules have managed to collect just two points in seven games from a pair of scruffy draw(er)s, never was the description "pants" more appropriate. The five defeats in the same period, three of which took place at home, were, with the exception of a 0-1 reverse to Real Sociedad, all against struggling sides. Confidence appears to have evaporated, just like their previously dominant league position. Now, as the end of April approaches, Herc' find themselves fourth in the classification with a mountain to climb. Worse still, hated rivals Elche, are creeping up on the blindside and the way the two outfits are playing the possibility of them passing each other heading in opposite directions is quite likely.

Still to come Hercules have nine games in which turn turn things around and get their campaign back on track, the stand out fixtures include visits to Cartagena and Levante, the teams directly above them and occupying the final promotion places behind champions elect Real Sociedad. Two spots and a couple of points worse off sit Elche, in terrific form and full of confidence, two crucial things presently missing from the Hercules arsenal. The Alicantinos seem to have got themselves into the kind of rut where it matters not who they play, before Christmas the mindset was "right, playing so and so today, we should piss this" and they would. Now they take to the pitch desperate to avoid defeat and delighted with a point, last Sunday was a typical example, a scrabbled one-one draw in Soria, the home of mid-table Numancia came courtesy of a second half own goal by midfielder Barkero.

Manager Vigo is good, one of the best in the division, what he now needs to do now is use his undoubted motivational skills to persuade his underperforming squad to believe the same about themselves. It's a tall order because most of the clubs in and around the top of the table promotion battle have already had their wobbly moments. One thing in his favour is games, twenty seven points are possible between now and the third week of June, with no play-offs only the top three make the cut, so a minimum of twenty four points and no defeats is the ask. Achieve that Sr.Vigo and you're welcome to a shiny dish and the bubbly.

Top - Phil Brown was eventually sacked by Hull City
Second - Hercules still face a tough visit to Cartagena who they beat in January
Third - Barkero (17) kindly obliged for Herc' with an own goal recently
Bottom - Esteban Vigo chats with his Las Palmas opposite number, Croatian Sergio Kresic, before their game a month ago

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kinky boots and borrowed shorts

Two weeks after Mutxamel got out of jail and skulked off home clutching a very fortuitous point, Orihuela B arrived and were nowhere near as lucky. For three or four games now Santa Pola have threatened to dissect someone, and today, the visitors from one of the regions nicest small cities became the Marineros science project. It wasn't even close, and, charitably, 'Pola even allowed their opponents to score. In a season during which Santa Pola have never been easy to beat, but looking hard to criticise, probably haven't fulfilled their huge potential as a squad, Sunday April 11th will stand out as the day on which, collectively, they recorded their best result of the season. Unbeaten game number nine fell at the right time, as Santa Pola's confidence levels rose ever higher, with no obvious escape route from the the Preferente's basement, Orihuela's belief was heading in the opposite direction, all the ingredients were there then to give the division's second worst team a bit of a slap.

Quite a number of poorly informed spectators label boxing barbaric, to be honest though, with a couple of pugilists, the moment the referee gets a whiff one of the pair is getting knocked about a bit he'll step in, call it over and save quite a bit of unnecessary punishment. Football though isn't like that, the arbitro is compelled to continue until ninety minutes are completed, more often than not compounding a one sided encounter by adding at least five minutes. For Orihuela B, a decent football team with a knowledgeable technical team, the day started badly and went from bad to worse. Requested by a fussy referee to change their blue shorts to avoid a clash with the home side, Orihuela were compelled to borrow their hosts black change strip, there though the kindness abruptly ended. Not long later Santa Pola took those borrowed shorts to the cleaners!!

On a nice sunny morning not that many people turned up to watch, their loss. Santa Pola began as though they meant business and finished up being the business. They took the piss for fiteen minutes, before, on an unseen signal from an unknown player, went into overdrive and battered their shell shocked visitors with a style of play no-one in the league could have coped with. As it turned out, Orihuela B survived the first half a creditable two goals down, two being much better then the thirteen it might easily have been. Midfielder Emilio, wearing a ridiculously cool pair of football boots capped an outstanding performance with the first goal, combining good control, first touch and finish to set the home side on their way. A minute before half-time, Mario Fernandez added a second to create a little breathing space after a good work by Chema and Serra. Never has a goal been more deserved, selfless team performance followed selfless team peformance
for the Californian striker and his reward? a place on the bench.

Two up at the restart, the whole team relaxed and from early in the second half the three points were secure, the only unanswered question was how many were they going to rack up. Only an outstanding tackle in his own box by Pena, shades of the late Bobby Moore, prevented Paloma making it three nil inside the first five second half minutes. It mattered not, enter stage right 31year old forward Chema. This is a bloke who, just like Peter Pan, refuses to age and for the umpteenth time this season Santa Pola benefitted big time. As well as being one of the oldest members of the 'Pola squad, Chema is also one of the fittest and fastest, by a good 20mph. Not the biggest shock then that today he helped himself to goals number three and five for Santa Pola. Combine his raw pace and drop a football at his feet it's barely surprising the hardest defenders around shit themselves when they see him coming.

In between Chema's pair, substitute Adriano also got in on the act, a poor defensive clearance was slapped back into the box and in the melee that followed the 22 year old was on hand to shove the ball in. To the disgust of the yellow shirted defenders who claimed in vain the whole of the ball hadn't crossed the line. The assistant referee on my side disagreed, told the ref and five nil it was. I shouldn't be ungrateful but no goals against is always good, especially when the frontmen have banged in two and a half braces. With seconds left Orihuela B went and spoiled it by notching the final goal of a very one sided game of footy.
Full time Santa Pola 5 - 1 Orihuela B

Top - Eleven blokes who will seriously damage your football health
Next - Scorer Emilio's outrageous footwear
Second bottom - Chema, frighteningly good
Bottom - On the arse of  his borrowed black shorts, Orihuela B captain Rojo proudly shows off the name of one of Santa Pola's principal sponsors