A LOOK AT LA LIGA
It's the only time I will start a column about Spanish football with the sentence "It was a warm August night in Oldham..."
Well, that's where I first encountered Pablo Machín. Little did I realise then that this fellow could be the next Rafa Benítez, Unai Emery or dare I say Pep Guardiola?
Girona had just won promotion, I needed to familiarise myself with this virtually unknown club from Catalonia and a summer's trip to Boundary Park spoke volumes of their humble standing.
The first thing that struck me was the unfamiliar approach of playing with three lanky centre halves and genuine wingers as wing-backs. At first glance it was all so irregular.
That was my first experience of the single-minded approach of Mister Machín. A couple of months later the rest of football took notice when the freshly promoted team beat the European Champions Real Madrid.
This is a man who does things his way. His boss was Pere Guardiola, brother of Pep, who persuaded Manchester City to lend him half a dozen players. Machín largely ignored the 'gap year' kids.
Machín's mission was completed in the summer of 2018. He'd masterminded Girona's promotion and established them in La Liga when Sevilla came calling.
The Spanish media, obsessed with Real Madrid's latest crisis and Ousmane Dembélé's behaviour at Barcelona, haven't quite clicked on yet. Machín could be the biggest revolutionary since Pep himself.
After thirteen rounds of La Liga, Sevilla sit at the top of the table; above Barcelona and Atlético, some distance ahead of Real Madrid. They've won more games than any other club and they are there on merit.
There's no talk yet of the club adding to the solitary title of 1946 but maybe there should be?
Machín has inherited a well-balanced squad without egos and added his own little touches. They play his unique style of football in a 3-5-2 formation. The system is perfect for Jesús Navas, the city's proudest football son. Aleix Vidal is also reborn on his return to the club.
He's also brought the best out of André Silva who was a lost soul at AC Milan. The young Portuguese striker only scored two goals for the Serie A side. In Sevilla colours he's hit eight in his first twelve Liga matches.
The departure of Clément Lenglet to Barcelona hasn't weakened them. Daniel Carriço, who'd made little impact since signing from Reading, has slotted into the system.
Everyone admires the two clubs from the city of Seville. Betis are barmy and Sevilla generally go on some kind of cup adventure. They haven't troubled the Spanish hierarchy though.
There's a South American feel to a night at the Estadio Ramón Sanchéz Pizjuán with the roofless stands open to the skies. There's nothing to contain the noise yet it still reverberates around the stadium. Now they have something to truly sing about.
The only manager to break the Real Madrid/Barcelona monopoly in recent years was a similarly single minded Diego Simeone. The last manager to take the title away from the two major cities was Rafa Benítez with Valencia in 2004.
Keep an eye out for Machín. He's on course to emulate Benítez.