Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The History of Sporting: 1998-2006, "The Dark Years"

It was a dull afternoon in September 1998 when Sporting played against Toledo in the first match of the season. It was not a typical Sunday football afternoon. Sporting were playing their first match in the Second Division after more than 20 years in the top flight of Spanish football. At the end of the match, the goaless draw seemed to predict what was going to happen over the following ten years.
These were tough times for Sporting supporters (Sportinguistas). Managers and directors spent money without any control and Sporting was near to folding several times.
The situation became critical during the summer of 2001. The local council had to buy the Mareo training grounds and the official trade-marks in order to provide to the club the necessary money to pay players and staff.

During the following years, the situation did not improve at all. David Villa (above), the new young promise had to be sold to Zaragoza for only €3 million in another desperate bid to raise cash. In the summer of 2005, the administrators took control of the club's finances in order to assure payments to staff and creditors.

Without a stadium, training grounds and trade-marks, a club in administration celebrated a hundred years of history. It was one of the most poor and depressing celebrations. The thoughts of the fans were centred around the potential disappearance rather than commemorating this historic birthday.

The external control of finances saved the club. This process stopped the club spending money and an austerity policy was imposed at El Molinón. It remained important to gain promotion to the first division and this was achieved in 2008, as I outlined in earlier posts, during "The Preciado's Era"

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Little Bit of Everything

Unlike rich teams such as Real or Barcelona, we do not have lucrative pre-seasons. The lads work mainly on Mareo training grounds, and only leave Asturias to play some summer friendlies. Last week we played four matches against Valladolid, Salamanca, Paços (Portugal) and Celta of Vigo in which the results and the impressions were very different.

The results were as follows:
Sporting 3 Valladolid 2 (Carmelo, Mendy and Sangoy)
Cuéllar; Lora (Pedro Orfila), Botía (Gregory), Iván Hernández (Jorge), Canella (Damián); Rivera (Álex Barrera), Eguren (Sergio Alvarez); Carmelo (Nacho Novo), Trejo (Sangoy), Ayoze (Mendy); Bilic (Barral).
Salamanca 0 Sporting 4 (Barral, Ayoze, Luis Morán, Sangoy)
Raúl (Juan Pablo); Pedro Orfila (Lora), Gregory (Iván Hernández), Jorge (Botía), Damián (Canella); Juan Muñiz (Rivera), Álex Barrera (Sergio Alvarez); Luis Morán (Trejo), Nacho Novo (Carmelo), Mendy (Ayoze); Barral (Sangoy).
Paços 3 Sporting 0
Cuéllar (Raúl); Lora (Pedro Orfila), Botía (Gregory), Iván Hernández (Jorge), Canella (Damián); Rivera (Juan Muñiz), Sergio Alvarez (Alex Menéndez); Carmelo (Ayoze), De las Cuevas (Nacho Novo), Trejo (Luis Morán); Bilic (Barral).
Celta Vigo 0 Sporting 1 (De las Cuevas)
Juan Pablo; Pedro Orfila (Canella), Gregory (Botía), Jorge, Damián Suárez; Álex Barrera (Juan Muñiz), Sergio Alvarez (Rivera); Luis Morán (Trejo), Nacho Novo (De las Cuevas), Carmelo (Barral); Sangoy (Bilic).

There were weak defensive matches against Valladolid and against Paços, but there were also clean sheets against Salamanca and Celta. Sporting were able to turn the game around twice against Valladolid with 3 goals from Carmelo, Mendy and Sangoy, all of them in the second half. A terrific performance at Salamanca was quickly followed by a disastrous one in Portugal and a victory by 0-1 at Vigo in a evently matched game closed the four-day tour.

It is not easy to form a judgment of this week's performances. The line-ups, rivals and conditions were different for each match. Nevertheless, as recent seasons, Sporting played great and poor matches within a short period of time.

The start of the new season is nearly upon us. Tests must finish and only the players who deserve play should be allowed to step onto the grass at Villarreal.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sporting Draw Twice

The pre-season advances towards 21st August, when Sporting will travel to Villarreal to play the first match of La Liga. This week, the lads have paid a visit to Ponferradina on Wednesday and another to Marino on Saturday. Both teams compete in semi-professional leagues in the third and fourth tier of Spanish football, but Sporting only could save two draws to 1-1.
The games were quite similar to each other. Preciado fielded two different line-ups for each half but players could not perform as desired because of fatigue. Sporting faced these two matches having trained hard on the morning of the matches so the result cannot be consider as relevant.

At Ponferrada (against Ponferradina) the two line-ups were:
First half: Cuéllar, Botía, Jorge, Lora; Rivera, Ayoze, Luis Morán, Sangoy, De las Cuevas, Alex Menéndez, Alex Barrera.
Second half: Juan Pablo, Damián, Gregory, Iván Hernández, Canella, Sergio, Carmelo, Nacho Cases, Bilic, Barral, Trejo.

Whilst at Luanco (against Marino of Luanco) the line-ups were:
First half: Raúl; Pedro Orfila, Alain, Jorge, Alex Menéndez; Nacho Cases, Álex Barrera; Ayoze, Carmelo, Mendy; Sangoy.
Second half: Juan Pablo; Damián, Gregory, Iván Hernández, Canella; Sergio Alvarez, Eguren; Nacho Novo, De las Cuevas, Trejo; Barral.

De las Cuevas scored in the first match and Nacho Novo in the second. This week Sporting will play four matches, so it is predictable that the coach will change the system of two different line-ups per game. With only three weeks left to the start of the season, pre-season matches will start to show the (real) squad's strength.
News has come from the transfer market. Former Sporting coach Marcelino, now Sevilla's manager, has closed the door to Armenteros and the Argentinian will not be able to play at Gijón this season. Sporting had a verbal agreement with the player, but the Andalusian team have decided to include him in the squad for this season. In addition, André Castro has been discarded by Porto coach Vítor Pereira and Sporting have intensified negotiations to sign the player either on loan or as a transfer. The club expects to complete the return of the Portuguese next week.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The History of Sporting: 2006-Present, "The Preciado's Era"

In this post, I intend to start a set of short articles on the history of Sporting for the fans. Besides, these compositions will be written backwards, starting in the present time and advancing through more than a hundred years of red-and-white history until 1905.
Thus, this first chapter summarizes the history between the years 2006 and 2011, or as I have called it: “The Preciado’s Era”.
In the summer of 2006, Sporting started their ninth season in a row in the Second Division. They were times of a huge economic crisis for the club, and an average attendance of 12000 long suffering fans was common in El Molinón. Signing players was an impossible mission and a few managers had declined coaching Sporting citing the lack of opportunities to create a strong squad. Although Manolo Preciado was not the first choice for the club’s board of directors, he was the only one who accepted the challenge.
With a squad full of young players, the goal was to avoid relegation to the third tier of Spanish football. Some players arrived that summer such as Barral or Diego Castro, at that time unknown by most of Spanish football fans. That season, Sporting avoided relegation with only two matches to spare, but this marked the first step towards change.
The following year, with a group of young players with experience of the Second Division, the dream of promotion was realised. That was the year of the heroes Kike Mateo, Bilic, Matabuena and Roberto among others. Sporting fans lived the dream in the evening of the 15th June 2008 in an agonic last match against Eibar at home. The club returned to the place that it deserves the top flight of Spanish football.

The first season in La Liga could not have started worst, five defeats in a row conceding seven goals against Barcelona and six against Real Madrid. Nevertheless, a team without experience and a serious lack of skills overcame theses disadvantages. The last match of the season against Recreativo was frenetic. Sporting conceded the first goal, but turned the game around, thus achieving their objective of remaining in the top division.
Having being a year in the First Division, Sporting incomes increased considerably. Mareo training grounds were upgraded, some quality players such as de las Cuevas and Rivera became affordable and a solid squad was built for that year. Although we were not safe until two matches before the end of the season, the impression was different to the previous year. Sporting had changed.
And finally, Sporting’s progression continued during the third season in Primera. Although the best signings of this year did not play satisfactorily, there was a solid base that achieved a degree of success that season.

Nowadays, the club is consolidated in Primera. Mareo and El Molinón have been upgraded; we have international players, several official stores all around Asturias and more than 26000 season ticket holders. The club and the fans need to acknowledge the debt that they owe to the coach and to the players of the early years of “The Preciado’s Era”.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hard work and not much news

Sporting's pre-season is usually synonymous with no news, specially if Manolo Preciado is in charge of the team.
In the transfer market, the club keeps waiting for another player to complete the squad. There are some rumours in the media, but the time when the fans would read endless reports of future signings, many of which were without foundation, are a thing of the past. The manager and his team are very careful not to talk with the media, and some of the most representative transfers in the recent years have been completed without the knowledge of the press.
Regarding the pre-season, Preciado's guideline is always the same. Playing at Sporting means running and battling in every match and in every training session. This Wednesday we played our first pre-season match drawing 1-1 against Langreo, an amateur team of the Spanish third division.
The game was not a proper match. There were two different line-ups for each half and players only played for 45 minutes.

First half: Juan Pablo; Pedro Orfila, Gregory, Jorge, Canella; Luis Morán, Rivera, Sergio Álvarez, Ayoze; Barral, Bilic.
Second half: Raúl Domínguez; Lora, Alain, Botía, Alex Menéndez, Nacho Cases, Alex Barrera; Ayoze, Trejo, Nacho Novo; Sangoy.

The goals were scored towards  end of the match. Langreo took the lead in the 78th minute and Sangoy salvaged the draw two minutes from time with a shoot from 45 yards.
And finally, the most controversial topic has been the new home shirt. The club has been oblied to rectify it in order to stop a public demonstration on Saturday against the strip described by the fans as "The Pijama". Personally, I think the shirt is rubbish and disrespectful to Sporting's history. Kappa has announced that they are developing a replacement shirt for this season, but it is difficult the shirt will be ready for the first match against Villarreal. Meanwhile, Sporting will play all pre-season matches in the away shirt.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The new strip presented at El Molinón

Sporting presented their new strip made by Kappa. The Italian multinational will provide sporting equipment for the following three years. The new sporting equipment has generated much expectation among fans and about a thousand people went to El Molinón to be the first to see the shirts. The players wore the different shirts as well as the oficial tracksuits and casual clothes that the Italian brand has designed for this season.

However, deception has been the feeling of a large number of fans after seeing with their own eyes the red-and-white jersey (Robert Canella - centre). Sporting will wear a very innovative home strip absolutely different to the last years' design. The away jersey will be red (David Barral - left),  the same as last years, but Kappa has added a new golden stripe absolutely new in the club's history. There is a third white jersey (Nacho Cases - right) similar to the jerseys worn some years ago. The new strip has been on sale since last Friday in all official stores and online.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jose Ángel completes Roma move

Roma have broken the Sporting Gijón transfer record by paying €4.5 million (£4m) to seal the capture of Under-21 international Jose Ángel. The Italian squad have sped up the transfer after Fulham have brought the former Liverpool defender Riise back to the Premier League. The 21-year-old flew to Italy this week to undergo a medical at the Calcio club before putting pen to paper on a contract. Jose Ángel attracted the attention of European champions Barcelona, Málaga, and the Italian squad of Fiorentina before Roma took the initiative making the best offer for the player.

The replacement for Jose Ángel is Damián Suárez from Defensor, who was presented on Thursday and will join the team immediately. In addition to Damian, Canella and Lora have suficient experience and skill to keep the defense safe.

The club is still waiting to complete the squad, and the two preferred options by the manager are Armenteros from Seville and André Castro from Porto. Preciado told on Monday's press conference “Someone can leave and someone can come, but we are 90% there”, so we should not expect much more news during the transfer window.