James chama á túa nai.
“James, call your mum”. That was what James Sedor saw as he walked around the pitch at the Estadio Alfonso Murube before the match which could clinch the title and promotion for his Deportivo La Coruna side. It had been a long couple of days with over 1200km travelled to reach their opponent, Cueta. The side, of course, is based in the Spanish autonomous city which land borders Morroco.
“Well, who am I to argue with the literal sign”. James took out his mobile and found his contact “Maw”. The phone rang a couple of rings before, the unmistakable voice of his mum answered;
“You can put the sign down now Jose…”.
“…wait is that you and Dad with the sign? I should’ve known”.
“You can take that look off your face”.
“The oh here they are surprising me, they could have asked, look”.
“I thought you pair were travelling the world and were not to be disturbed”.
“We are, still. We just happened to drop by. Also, I thought you’d at least notice your parents even from the pitch”.
“I haven’t got my glasses on”.
The conversation was brief as James walked across to the sign’s location and embraced both of his parents after clambering up the stands. It had been almost a year since he had seen both of his parents, they looked more relaxed and certainly more tanned than the pair he’d waved off from the airport as they went on a “world tour”.
Valeria was quick to explain, that, as was her habit, she had continued to follow the fortunes of Depor, as she had since she was a young girl with her father. Some quick maths at the start of last month and they reckoned that this match could be the season decider. If not, she thought they could sneak away without much fuss and continue with their North Africa portion of the trip. Jose was keeping quieter and it was at that point James noticed his Depor strip,
“Here, how did you get him in that?” Jose was a proud Vigo boy, although he’d never shown any interest in football as his interests were more swimming and water polo. His birthplace had caused much friction at the start of his relationship with Valeria, something which was quickly overcome when his lack of football interest was known and it was safe for him just to be Galician.
“You don’t want to know…”
“Less of that blasphemy. Don’t worry I’ve explained our situation to our neighbours and he’s expressed his ignorance in all things Celta, they’ve said they’ll look after him”.
“Looking good, Dad”.
“You couldn’t have just taken a job in Scotland or something? It had to be these I suppose”. He winked.
It had taken a while for James to remember what he was here to do, he was also surprised by the fans’ respect at letting his reunion pass without much interference. After some quick goodbyes, good lucks and a few photos and autographs for the travelling supporters, and James headed back pitchside and made his way towards the changing rooms. He glanced at his watch, twenty minutes, enough time to make an entrance and pretend it was all part of the plan before his pre-match media and team talk.
The whistle blew, the Depor fans exploded and Elías Martí jumped on James’ back exclaiming Cordoba had drawn. Deportivo were 10 points clear, they were champions. The players mobbed into the dugout and James was hoisted above their heads. The small, but vocal, pocket of away fans was making their voices heard. James reflected on the match, which had been won in the 87th minute as Fabril product Kevin Sanchez Rey poked home a cutback from centreback Retu who had reached the byline on an underlapping run. The match should have been out of sight before then, but it wasn’t to be. It made the result seem even more special with a youth academy prospect scoring the goal to promote the side back to the second tier of domestic football.
James brought his parents onto the pitch along with the player’s families who had made the journey, they watched the team and club captain and stalwart Álex Bergantiños lift the trophy.
“Avo, would have loved that James. He always liked the players from La Fabril the most” Valeria, gave James a gentle hug and squeezed his hand. “Even, your dad celebrated that”. James glanced over to his dad who was struggling with the focus on his camera phone.
“I think they’ll take your birth certificate on you for that, Dad. I can see the headlines now Vigo man celebrates Deportivo goal, Shame!”.
“I think they took that when I married into your mum’s family, at least that’s what she told me” he smirked.
James was called away to do his media duties for the club and the press conference, another hasty goodbye, a plan for his parents to stop in A Courna when they felt they had done enough travelling and a promise to call his mother every Sunday were agreed. James offered them a trip back and a stay but they had made a detour and had various pre-booked scheduled stops to make on their tour. The media duties passed in a blur, James would later admit he wasn’t really paying enough attention, but he did clearly remember the phrase “Un paso máis preto do Celta de Vigo”.
Coming into January, there were little expectations of huge transfer outlays, but the fans felt some refreshing of the squad would be beneficial. Borja Granero had an agreed deal with Dijon for €46.5k which went through on the opening of the window. Jaime Sánchez who would have been expected to be a starting centreback had made only 10 appearances and left to Levante for €300k. His tackling success rate had been noted to be low by the performance analysts and James Sedor had taken an opportunity to make a change. In midfield, another contract dispute with Isi was causing some friction. He had asked for a new contract, which Sedor had offered at the end of the season, this offer had been rebuked by Isi and his agent. A move away was not arranged but Sedor approached a replacement or competition, should the situation get resolved.
At Centreback Deportivo moved for Villareal-B defender Adrián De la Fuente on loan, he was playing in La Liga 2 and was statistically outperforming Sánchez’s defensive metrics. Mario Martín was also loaned in from Castilla, the youngster had impressed Sedor and the recruitment team with his passing ability. When they offered a loan deal to Castilla and it was accepted, Sedor admitted he couldn’t believe they had agreed to loan him to a title rival. The move was swiftly completed and the U-19 international was going to complete the season at Riazor.
Deportivo had entered the winter break on top of the division, Sedor’s possession-based 4-4-2 was proving rather successful and had allowed Quiles to go on a scoring streak with 18 goals in 19 matches. However, behind the scenes, Sedor had always been looking for a 3 at the back formation. He reflected on the fact his side was only 4th on expected points (overperforming by 11 points) and was 3rd in overperforming xG (by 5). A 3 at the back system had been tried a few times in pre-season, however, the defending left a lot to be desired and had been shelved for a 4-4-2 with a supposed “elbow defence”. There were 2 winter break friendlies in which Depor played both a 5-3-2 and a 5-2-3, these systems continued into the competitive matches. An extra-time loss to Huesca in the Copa and a turgid 1-0 win against bottom-of-the-table Merida, left fans scratching their heads at a change in the system, arguably unnecessarily. A mid-match tweak to a 5-2-1-2 caused a comeback against Leonesa, and this quickly established itself as the system which took Deportivo to the title.
The Deportivo side did have a strong local element running through the side with over 1400 minutes given to Fabril graduates. Sedor was always quick to point out that a number of these players were well over 30 but Sedor had given first-team debuts to 4 Fabril players including Dani Barcia, who had made 32 appearances and established himself as first-choice left centreback. Youngsters such as Trilli and Peke had also firmly established themselves as first-team players, having been introduced by previous managers.
Adrián Lapeña continued to perform outstandingly at centreback, whilst continuing to want away from the side. He continued to be a solid addition and worked wonderfully as a covering defender in the middle of the three. Ibai Gómez, the experienced winger and been deployed as a deep-lying forward and it had worked wonders. The former Bilbao player was inspired, with 4 goals and 11 assists after the winter break. One player it did not work fantastically for was Alberto Quiles, who did finish the season with 21 goals but only added 3 to his total, there were some murmurings from Depor fans as it was well known Quiles had been offered a new deal in January (reportedly tripling his wages) and his performances had dropped off significantly once this was agreed.
Teamwise the Deportivo side continued to outperform their xG with the final tally suggesting they had scored 12 more goals than they might have, which put them second for overperformance. They did complete the most crosses successfully, had the most passes in the final third and had the best conversion rate in the division. This could suggest that they deserved their overperformance in goals, as they created more in the opposition’s half. Their passes and pass completion both led the league and on the ball this Deportivo team had dominated throughout the season, as the pre-season booking odds had suggested they should.
The Deportivistas had expected an end to the club’s purgatory in the third tier, this had been ended and now they could look ahead to some time in the second tier. The fans looking ahead wanted a mid-table finish without the nerves of relegation but they’d admit that as long as they didn’t go down again, they would be happy-ish.
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