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.