surinenglish

Opinion

The league's ugly ducklings

José Bordalás is an old-school manager.
José Bordalás is an old-school manager. / IDEAL
  • After years in the wilderness, Getafe are once more a club comfortable in their own skin

It's quite apt that I've been accompanied by Terry Gibson, an FA Cup winning hero of the Wimbledon 'Crazy Gang', when commentating on Getafe games recently.

It's no great confession to admit that there are teams that make your heart sink when you are assigned one of their games, and in their last La Liga spell they were the 'Ugly Duckling'.

They inhabited a concrete bowl of a stadium in the suburbs of Madrid and few wanted to go there, especially their own fans. It had the ingredients of a fairytale when they joined the top league for the first time in 2004 and soon reached two cup finals. They even made the quarterfinals of the old UEFA Cup against the mighty Bayern Munich.

More romance was added by the appointments footballing legends Michael Laudrup and Míchel, but then it became a slog. It was a seasonal scrap against relegation and they finally fell through the trap door in 2016.

They departed with the image of MK Dons, a new town club who needed to revert to gimmicks to attract supporters. It failed and only Eibar with their tiny stadium had lower average attendances.

Now they are back and they are complete Crazy Gang! My favourite member is full-back Damián Suárez who plays, and looks like, he's just escaped prison. Decorated in tattoos, shin pads hanging out of his socks, he charges around the field freely kicking folk, testing referees like a jailor until he's finally punished.

This is a club happy in its own skin. They have the least percentage of possession yet the 7th highest number of points after their final game of 2017.

I've touched on coach José Bordalás on these pages before. He looks like a bespectacled college professor but acts like a proper old school manger, similar to 'Mad Dog' Martin Allen, the old Barnet boss who tried to persuade his players to swim the Thames by jumping in the icy waters first (they didn't all follow).

Bordelas has assembled a team made up of players like Suárez, who have knocked around for years, and others unwanted elsewhere. His key man is Jorge Molina who looks older than his 35 years, probably because of the elbows and studs flying his way in a mainly lower-league career.

There aren't too many '70s children' still earning a living from playing professional football but their club captain Sergio Mora is a Peter Pan figure, well actually more wizened like Captain Hook, but you get my drift - he's 38 years old.

The old heads guide some promising younger talents like Amath N'Diaye, who Atlético Madrid let go for three million euros, and Djené Dakonam, a centre-half whose presence belies his sub-six-foot presence.

The suburban supporters are buying into the story once more. They faithfully stuck around in last season's promotion campaign and now attendances are up an amazing 50 per cent on their last spell in the top league.

Their marketing department have adopted some strange strategies in previous years. They tried a dating app with the idea of couples using game night as date night. May I suggest they approach another London club to utilise another slogan: “No one likes us, we don't care.”

The Ugly Duckling certainly isn't a swan. In fact it isn't even a cute duckling... but it's a loveable duckling once more, all ruffled feathers and ruffling feathers.