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Rescuing the Rojiblancos

Started on 24 February 2016 by Casey
Latest Reply on 2 April 2016 by InvertedWingbacks
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Saturday, 5 March 2016

In the few days since we picked up three points at Granada, the players have been pretty impressive in training. There is definitely progress being made as it's visible the majority of the squad are beginning to understand the way I want to play. Carlos Castro, in particular, has caught my eye and is really grasping the concept that we need to press the opposition from the very front.

Not everything is as rosy as it seems, though. Guerrero approached me after we arrived back in Gijón - he didn't like me replacing him at the interval in both games I've had in charge. I didn't owe Guerrero an explanation but I wanted him to understand my thinking so he could improve in future. I made it clear that I wasn't happy with his work rate in either game and felt I had better options from the bench.

In short, he disagreed and I made the decision that he wouldn't train with the first team until it was a time that I felt was appropriate.

I arranged an immediate team meeting which staff as well as players were to attend in order to make sure everyone was aware of the decision as well as the situation behind it. Everybody, to my surprise, supported my decision.

Tomorrow, we play our first game against a team in the top ten since my appointment. El Molinón will play host to 7th placed Athletic de Bilbao.
2016-03-02 07:54#226949 Jack : As said previously, the detail in this is impeccable!

2016-03-02 18:03#226970 InfraRed : the detail in this is amazing man, keep it up! good to pick up 3 points every time!

Thank you both! Hopefully I can keep the run going, though it may not be as easy against Bilbao :)
Sunday, 6 March 2016

I decided not to make too many changes to the starting eleven. I thought I may have had to rest four or five players, but in the end the only changes I made were tactical.

Guerrero was dropped for obvious reasons, with Daniel Ndi replacing him. Guerrero's previous strike partner, Tony Sanabria, also dropped to the bench in place of Castro. The youngster has impressed in training since Granada and is probably the best goal scorer in the squad. On the other hand, Ndi has spent much of his short career in midfield but starts as a striker today. The Cameroonian has great close control and has scored a couple of impressive goals in training.

The start of the game was sloppy as both teams appeared to be cancelling each other out. We worked hard to prevent their midfield three consisting of Iturraspe, Beñat and Raúl García from getting any valuable time on the ball while we struggled to string more than three or four passes together.

We created the first genuine chance of the game as Ndi received the ball deep in our own half before turning and spreading the play out to the right with Carmona. The winger drove at the opposition left back who risked a tackle and managed to knock the ball out for a throw. Hernández delayed play, allowing the rest of the team to advance into the Bilbao penalty area. As the throw was taken, Bernardo nodded the ball onto Castro who volleyed across goal with his left boot.

As the Bilbao players looked on in despair, Castro celebrated by the corner flag and was engulfed by his team mates as we took a surprise lead.

Just minutes later, we piled numbers into the Bilbao penalty area again as Mascarell prepared to take a corner. His delivery was poor as the first defender nodded away, but the chance wasn't gone. He retrieved the bouncing clearance on the wing and played the ball into the backtracking Meré. The centre half, still forward from the corner, slid the ball into Ndi's feet. As the makeshift forward dummied one way before taking the ball with him the other, an opportunity arose as highly regarded Aymeric Laporte slipped on the wet turf. Bilbao's experienced goalkeeper, Iraizoz, got a hand to Ndi's left foot effort but couldn't prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net. El Molinón erupted as the lead was deservedly doubled.

Eager to not go into the interval two goals behind, Bilbao increased the tempo of their play. As they played the ball forward down our left side, an attempt by our defence to play the offside trap was poorly executed and allowed Iturraspe to race through on goal. His shot was parried by Cuéllar, but only into the path of the advancing Muniain who tapped home to half the deficit.

As Bilbao celebrated in front of their fans, Jony came over to the sideline and indicated he had a problem. Somewhere in the build up to the away sides goal, Jony took an unintentional arm in the face. I swiftly decided it wasn't worth risking him as Halilović took to the field in his place.

While the seconds counted down until half time, we launched the final attack of the first half. Ndi picked out his strike partner, Castro, on the edge of the Bilbao area who held the ball up well waiting for his team mates. Halilović, introduced just minutes earlier, offered support on the left and took a great first touch to get the ball out from under his feet before sliding a pass down the left hand side of Bilbao's area. Castro raced onto it and hammered the ball across goal and into the same corner as he did with the opener.

The referee signalled for half time before Bilbao could restart. I decided to leave the team unchanged as we looked menacing going forward and relatively tight in defence. Other than Muniain's goal, Bilbao had rarely threatened.

Our target in the second half was largely to frustrate Bilbao. While they had possession, we hustled and harried them until we won the ball back and then we lowered the tempo and kept it from them. Our tactics were working well but relied on the eleven players on the pitch making absolutely no individual errors.

We had just passed the hour mark when Bilbao reduced the deficit again. A long ball down their right wing looked to be harmless as it flew over the head of the intended target, Muniain. However, the concentration levels of left-back Isma López evidently weren't matching those of his team mates. The Spaniard jogged to retrieve the ball whilst, unknowingly, Muniain approached behind him. Bilbao's goal scorer nipped in ahead of López, raced towards goal and slotted past Cuéllar.

As full time approached, Bilbao were looking increasingly dangerous. Muniain was quite obviously their main threat and once again went to take the ball around López. His job was made a lot easier when the left-back stammered to meet the ball before slipping and making no contact whatsoever. As Muniain bolted past, López grabbed his ankle and was quickly cautioned for his actions.

It was time, I felt, to bring López and this horror show to an end. He was withdrawn to a chorus of boos as Menéndez entered the field of play. López slumped in his seat in disagreement with my decision, but I'm sure he would thank me later.

Iraizoz signalled for his team to advance up the field in injury time but the move worked only in our favour. He miskicked the long ball, which fell at the feet of Castro on the half way line. Castro advanced cautiously, waiting for support as the referee checked his watch. Winger Halilović, who had impressed since being substituted on, sprinted to Castro's left and received the ball in his path. The Croat advanced on goal, dribbled between the two remaining Bilbao defenders and smashed the ball beyond the reach of Iraizoz.

Ernesto Valverde swiftly shook my hand and headed down the tunnel to the sound of the referee's full time whistle. El Molinón was rocking as the Gijón players paraded around the field on the back of a potentially historic win.

Full time: Sporting Gijón 4-2 Athletic Bilbao
Wow, what a game! Still loving your writing style Casey, hope you keep it up :)

How Casey Harries has found a football gem in Northern Spain

El Molinón plays host to Real Sporting de Gijón, a largely unsuccessful club from Asturias

When Casey Harries was appointed as manager at Sporting Gijón, many of the clubs loyalest supporters demanded answers. Who was Mr. Harries, for a start. And where had he come from? While Gijón have struggled for success throughout their 111 year history, their fanbase are one of the most passionate across Spain.

Despite having great coaching credentials on a very short CV, it meant nothing to Los Rojiblancos fans. And perhaps understandable - the club was on another downward spiral to another season in Segunda División and this looked precariously like management cost cuttng.

Not even the most optimistic Gijón fan could have seen the upturn in form since Harries' appointment. 3 wins from 3 games leaves the club 6 places - and 7 points - above the relegation zone. For comparison, when Harries took charge, the club were 1 place and 3 points above relegation. And what are the Gijón faithful saying about Harries now?

"He's a genuis," exclaimed one fan I caught up with outside of El Molinón after Sundays victory against high-flying Athletic Bilbao, "the team are playing excellent football and getting the results we need. It's been a whirlwind start to his tenure but I hope it continues long into the future."

Spanish football expert Guillem Balagué agrees: "Harries has got them playing such a high level of football that the teams they have faced so far just couldn't match them. They're quick to close down and minimise the gaps left for the opposition while they're very comfortable on the ball. The real test for them will be in 2 weeks' time when Atlético Madrid come to town and they're the best at what they do. Their philosophies are very similar and I'm sure Harries will be looking at Simeone and hoping for the same sort of success."

While Gary Neville stole the headlines in December when he was appointed Valencia manager, Harries was very much an appointment made under the radar. It's probably worked in his favour, too, as Neville's star studded side struggle for consistency while Harries is propelling his hard working team up the division - and to within 3 points of Valencia.

But Harries is hoping his squad can remain grounded and made it clear in his post-Bilbao press conference that is side aren't safe yet: "We still have a long way to go with another 10 games to be played yet. We have a good bit of form and momentum but we're taking each game as it comes and not worrying about who we face in 2 or 3 weeks' time because a lot can change before then. Our only aim at the moment is to stay clear of the bottom three and make sure we can give the supporters another season of footbal in La Liga."

Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, I'm sure Harries will point to these first victories if he is successful in keeping Gijón in the top division.
2016-03-07 15:15#227211 MeanGreenKillingMachine : Wow, what a game! Still loving your writing style Casey, hope you keep it up :)

Many thanks! :)

The new update is a little different but will hopefully add variation to the story.
Friday, 11 March 2016

This week had started with some negative news in the form of Tom Carroll rejecting my advances. The midfielder was unsure about committing to a contract when my future at the club was uncertain - in honesty, I don't think a move to Northern Spain ever attracted the attention of the Spurs academy product.

It was a little disappointing Tom hadn't given me the chance to show him the stadium and the facilities, but I had more important things to consider than dwelling upon that. I had forwarded on a contract to French forward Moussa Dembélé, currently at Fulham, with a view to the youngster joining in the summer. Moussa has a lot of potential and is somebody I know Spurs had been considering in my time there. He's let his contract run down at Craven Cottage, seemingly unhappy with football in the Championship.

Signing players on a free contract is typically difficult at a club of our size. There's normally only one reason those available are up for grabs. On the odd occasion you'll stumble across a worthwhile signing who has just grown discontented in his surroundings - but even those situations raise doubts regarding their attitude and application.

Edgar Ié and Marcos Llorente are two others I'm currently considering. The former is a product of La Mesia, currently sitting on the bench at Villarreal while the latter is still on books of Real Madrid after graduating from their academy. Both players have great potential but I'll decide whether to formally offer them a contract after I've personally spoken with both.

We're due to leave for Malaga this evening. We don't actually play until Sunday lunchtime, but I'm keen to avoid any tiredness and travel early. Our aeroplane should land late tonight and then we can have all day Saturday to train without having the stress of travelling.

I've decided to leave Guerrero behind and, again, I know he's not happy. His attitude doesn't concern me any more - my only worry may come if he influences any others in the squad but up until now that's not something I've had to face.
Shame, I was looking forward to seeing what Carroll could do in Spain..
Really nice little update here man! keep it up!
Sunday, 13 March 2016

I decided after the Bilbao game to try and change the shape of the team a little in training. Rather than play two forwards, we switched to playing a lone striker and another attacker just behind. In simplistic terms, I changed the formation to 4-2-3-1. It's probably the most common shape in the modern game but I've always had my concerns that the striker can become very isolated. Hopefully we've worked on the shape enough in the past week to ensure that doesn't happen.

Ndi showed his potential as a forward in the last game and will start slightly deeper. The trio of attacking midfielders (Ndi, Jony and Carmona) are aware that at least one of them needs to be supporting Castro at all times. If we attack from the left, Carmona has been instructed to sit narrow as if we were playing two strikers while Jony is under similar instructions if we're attacking on the right.

The change, fairly obviously, was caused by the worrying amount of space Bilbao were able to have in the lines between our midfield and defence. Hopefully having an additional midfielder in our defensive shape will help out.

I also decided to make one change to the starting XI. Álex Menéndez came in to replace Isma López at left back. López had been poor against Bilbao and Menéndez had been pushing for a start since I joined the club.

The temperature inside La Rosaleda dropped slightly as our hosts kicked off. In the morning, the sun had been scorching but as kick-off approached, the clouds rolled in and brought with them a strong breeze.

In the first real chance of the game, we looked to take advantage of the wind that was brewing around La Rosaleda. Hernández won a throw on the right and quickly recovered the ball. The Spaniard hoisted the ball deep into the home sides area, which Bernardo managed to nod on. Unluckily for us, the ball dropped into the space in which our attackers had vacated moments ago in an attempt to get closer to goal. The Malaga defence hammered the ball out of the danger area to our disappointment.

Moments later, Pablo Pérez skipped past his midfield counterpart and played the ball out wide to Jony. He drove at the opposition right back, shimmied in field before cutting back on the outside and hitting a thunderous effort at goal. Ochoa, Malaga's 'keeper, looked on in relief as Jony's effort smashed off the post and behind for a goal kick.

As half time approached, we looked to turn the screw on our hosts. A corner was poorly delivered by Carmona and was cleared to the edge of the area where Menéndez was positioned. The left back stood the ball up to the right side of the area where Hernández headed across goal and into the path of Castro. The young striker smashed home for his fourth goal since my appointment and gave us a valuable 1-0 lead going into half time. He celebrated to a chorus of boos from the home fans and who could blame them? They had been extremely poor on the ball and could hardly get over the halfway line.

At half time, I made one tactical change. Ndi switched to the left flank, allowing Jony to come in field and sit behind Castro. Other than his effort which hit the post, Jony had been largely quiet on the wing and I felt Ndi's dribbling skills would be more useful out wide.

In the second half, Malaga were having more of the possession but were doing very little with it. The home side enjoyed much of their time on the ball in their own half and whenever they ventured towards our goal, we hounded them until we won it back.

The only notable chance of the second half was as simple as football can be. From a goal kick, Cuéllar played forward to an unmarked Castro who controlled the ball with one touch in midfield, turned and ran into the space ahead of him. As he drove towards the Malaga end, he skipped over the sliding challenge of one centre half. His defensive partner advanced towards Castro who slid the ball onto his left foot and hit a 20 yard strike past the post. In fairness, it always curling away from the goal and the Malaga goalkeeper didn't look worried for a moment.

As the full time whistle approached, we still had time for a little bit of controversy. A deep cross from Malaga was headed clear to Castro who drove forward with no support. The referee was seconds from sounding his whistle to end the game when Ander Capa, who had already been booked, hacked Castro down from behind. The referee made his decision almost immediately, showing Malaga's right back the red card to a wave of hostility from the home crowd. I don't really know what they were complaining about - he had already been booked and it was a stupid challenge to make with Castro going nowhere quickly. Perhaps it was the frustration of a poor performance by their players, but it only made the victory sweeter as the referee brought their pain to an end and the away fans erupted into cheers.

Full time: Málaga 0-1 Sporting Gijón
2016-03-20 22:14#227718 Griffo : Shame, I was looking forward to seeing what Carroll could do in Spain..

It was very disappointing for Carroll not to sign a contract in the end as he has a lot of unrealised potential.

2016-03-20 22:40#227724 mgriffin2012 : Really nice little update here man! keep it up!

Thanks! Hopefully we can keep the run going!
Your writing is brilliant and you have carried the same standard of writing on throughout the whole story which is fantastic, well done is all I can say!
2016-03-21 22:58#227748 AliciaWAFC : Your writing is brilliant and you have carried the same standard of writing on throughout the whole story which is fantastic, well done is all I can say!

Thank you, it's hugely appreciated! :)
Wednesday, 16 March 2016

We had arrived back from Malaga on Sunday evening. A light training session on Monday afternoon helped ease the players back into their usual routine in time for yesterday. All in all, everything appears to be going well. You can sense the positivity that a couple of good results has pumped into people around the training ground. Having 4 wins from 4 has propelled us to relative safety.

The gap between ourselves, in 11th, and the relegation zone is actually larger than the points deficit between us and Celta Vigo, currently sitting in 6th - a position which also yields Europa League qualification.

I had been called into an early morning meeting at El Molinón with Antonio Veiga, the club President, and three directors. I was given little warning - Veiga called me at around 7am and informed me of the meeting which was scheduled for an hour and a quarter later.

The meeting was held in the boardroom - it was decorated in the clubs colours for the majority, with red taking the lead role in the bright and expansive room overlooking the pitch. I arrived a little earlier than agreed but Veiga and the other directors were already waiting. I exchanged pleasantries individually and then took a seat.

"We've called you in this morning to discuss the long term future of the club," began Viega, "obviously, the deal you're currently on expires in the summer and we need to begin discussing what happens when the deal comes to an end."

"I'm a little surprised we're discussing this just 4 games into my time here," I replied, "but I can't say I'm not relieved. I've been in talks with a couple of players about joining in the summer and the majority of them are reluctant to discuss terms while our future is uncertain."

"That's actually another topic we'd like to discuss with you - we should discuss our strategy for signings before the transfer window opens."

"I think I can speak on behalf of the other directors here when I say we're a little concerned with the number of players' whose contracts run down in June." interjected Javier Fernández, the youngest of the directors, "Aside from Jony and Guerreo who have already agreed deals elsewhere, there are another 3 first team players who haven't been offered contracts."

"Take into consideration that another 5 first team players will be leaving due to their loans expiring - it leaves our first team squad at a measly 14 players." Replied Veiga.

"As I've mentioned, I've already been in talks with a number of players about the possibility of joining up with us come the new season. Moussa Dembélé is full of potential and has agreed to join which is evidence of the progress we've made." I replied, "And in terms of those leaving, we've already decided it's not of value to offer them new deals. Halilovic, Mascarell and Sanabria will be big misses when they return to their parent clubs but there's nothing to stop us approaching them for a second season. The other two, Lichnovsky and Jankovic, have showed nothing to me in training to merit a first team place and, in fairness, I'm sure some of the staff won't even notice they're gone."

"Our main concern," interrupted Veiga, "is that we can't afford replacements. Many of these players will need replacing with others who will cost millions in transfer fees - and that is something currently out of reach for us. We're aware you haven't offered Álex Barrera a new deal and we believe that to be a mistake, so as of this morning, we'll be entering into contract talks with him directly."

"We do want to get a new contract signed with you, too." Added Veiga.

I didn't like where any of this was going. I'm grateful to Gijón for giving me my first managerial job, but if I wasn't to be trusted with transfers then it was a huge blow to my hopes of staying here long term. Oh, and Álex Barrera was certainly not worthy of a new contract.

"Before I discuss terms, I'd like to agree upon the figures I'd have to work with in the transfer market." I wasn't particularly concerned with having a huge budget - but I needed something to work with.

"We're prepared to give you €900,000 to spend on transfers," replied Veiga, "but we would also like to reduce the wage bill to around €100,000 per week from the current figure which is marginally higher."

"I'd like the wage budget to, as a minimum, stay consistent so we can at least attract worthy replacements for those leaving on frees." I attempted to negotiate, but I don't think the directors were here to listen.

"We can't grant that, Casey. Our terms remain the same."

"In that case, I'm not prepared to discuss a new contract with you. I would love to be in charge come the new season, but if our ambitions don't align then it's not something I can consider," I replied. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a training session to run through with the squad."

I left the room in silence, and didn't regret saying what I had. I was truthful in saying that I would love to remain in charge. I've not been here a month, but I've already fallen in love with the town and my home is everything I could ask for. The fans are amongst the most passionate in Spain and crave success as much as they deserve it. But, judging from the meeting I've just left, it's not hard to see why the club has had so little success.
Interesting, wish you good luck!

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