One word sums up Fernando Estévez perfectly: level-headed. At just 38 years of age, the Marbella head coach has shown since his arrival at the club that with careful planning, hard work and humility, he could turn the side into one of the favourites for promotion to Segunda.
The coach from Capileira (Granada), who is a casualty doctor by day, has taken the side he inherited earlier in the year to within three points of top spot (and the same total from Marbella's record haul in the first half of the season) on a third of the budget assigned to the team last season.
While survival would have been a realistic expectation, the side currently sit third in the Segunda B IV table. “Head in the sky with feet on the ground,” as they say...
Did you ever think you'd be third at this stage of the season when you were looking at the side during preseason?
Obviously not. But we were ambitious and we had to be to convince players to sign for us, even if we only had a modest budget. However, once the action started, we realised that we had possibilities to be competing at the top end of the table.
Talk of getting 45 points then looking upwards is very nice and all but we're not buying that anymore. In your head does the team need to at least qualify for the Copa del Rey now?
We are ambitious. At the end of the season, our objective is to be up there near the top. We're not going to hide that our current position makes us very proud. I think in the second half of the season we need to aim high. But of course we have our feet on the ground and this is what I keep drilling into the players. From outside, the expectation will be to avoid relegation because of the budget we have, so once we achieve that, then we can look to the next objective. If football teaches us one thing, it's that you can only take things one week at a time.
What has been the key to keeping pace with the leaders?
Togetherness in the changing room, commitment and believing in what they're doing. We have a very good atmosphere in the camp. They're all pushing in the same direction. It's a team with a capital 't'.
You're a big believer in coaching. What role does that have in creating a good team?
The degree of success depends on the unity of the team and the players. I think recruiting players that fit a certain profile is just as important as anything on the training ground. It is another way of creating a strong unit.
Which have been your best and the worst moments since becoming Marbella boss?
The worst was the red card against Betis. We had come off the back of back-to-back defeats, we were losing 1-0 at their ground and then with a man less, we were really up against it. That was tough. Then to come back and gain a point, I think that was a turning point for our team because we showed we could fight adversity. The sweetest moment, I think, was last week's win in Villanueva de la Serena [Marbella won 4-0].
I asked about the toughest time and you only spoke about the sporting side. The club's president is still in prison...
I only talk about what happens on the pitch, nothing else.
With the team doing well, why have we not seen the ground more than half full?
I don't know. This is something we all need to look at and try to improve. Hopefully the ticket promotions for the second half of the season will get more people in.
Do you think three new signings would be enough to help seal promotion?
We're not going to discuss signings until players leave. If they go, some will come in. But for me the most important thing is to keep the group together. We don't want to change something that's working. The best signing would be Javi Romero returning from injury.
What message do you have for the fans?
I wish everyone good health at this time and I hope that we can give them happiness in 2018 with a team that continues to develop together.