Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meanwhile, over in Alicante. Part I

Hercules CF

Estadio Jose Rico Perez - capacity 30000
Inuaguration 1974
President: Valentin Botella Ros,
Manager: Esteban Vigo.

It's still a few months yet away from what could be called the business end of the season, but so far football fans in Alicante have rather enjoyed what they've seen up to now, football fans that is, who support Hercules CF. The city has two senior teams, one of which is absolutely crap and the second that most definitely isn't.

Right now 2009/10 looks like being the season that ends Hercules five year run in Spain's national Segunda A division, it's not all bad news though, if they carry on as they are presently, Herc' will face off next year against the big boys in La Liga. Exactly half way through their forty two match campaign, "los blanquiazules" sit top of the table second division table, ten points better off than fourth placed Villarreal B and with a really sexy goal difference.

Last year, in spite of spanking Salamanca 1-5 away in the last game of the season, Herc outscored allcomers and still suffered the disappointment of finishing fourth, three points worse off than Tenerife and Real Zaragoza and a further point adrift of Segunda A champions Xerez. Curiously, the three teams who pipped the Alicantinos in 2009's close run thing are now propping up the rest of top flight, with Xerez rock bottom on a dismal eight points from nineteen matches.

For Juan Carlos Mandia, the highly regarded but ultimately unsuccessful Hercules coach in their narrow 2008/09 promotion failure, it was La Liga football at any cost. He walked out on the Alicante club last summer when Real Racing Club Santander, who liked the look of his CV, came calling. For Mandia, who had never coached at Spain's highest level, the disloyal gamble failed miserably; he was sacked in November by the Cantabrian club after a dismal start yielded a single point from five home games.

With the resentful Herculanos still simmering, the club appointed Andalucian coach Esteban Vigo to replace the departed Mandia. Clearly, Esteban Vigo Benitez learnt quite a bit during his playing days, which included a trophy laden ten years with Catalan giants Barcelona and a handful of games for the Spanish national team, that vast experience is now being put to excellent use during his second career. The foundation stone of a renewed attempt on the second division summit is a miserly defence which has conceded just fourteen goals in those twenty one starts, along the way slipping to defeat just twice, both times by a single goal. Up front Herc' aren't too shabby either, thirty two times opposing 'keepers have retrieved the ball from the back of their own net, a figure bettered only by hated local rivals Elche.

Under the tutelage of  Sr.Vigo, Hercules CF appear to have done everything right thus far. A word of caution though, for a full month after the English Premiership has been done and dusted for another year, Hercules and their rivals will all still be playing, their season continues until the third week of June.


Top - Ex trainer Juan Carlos Mandia, for whom only the shirts were greener in Santander.
Middle - Estaban Vigo is unveiled in July 2009 by club President Valentin Botella. (right).
Bottom - Herc defender Juanra battles Numanica's Nano (19) recently.

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