Christian's Pre Season Diary - Málaga in England 2005
Monday 22nd July
The team arrived this afternoon at Manchester Airport and the first thing the players and Club delegation saw, was a typical grey Manchester sky and probably 15 Celsius less than in Málaga this morning.

The first training session was scheduled for tonight, so I drove the five minutes from Wilmslow to Mottram Hall Hotel, where a few Spanish journalists were already walking towards the training pitch, which is adjacent to the hotel and its impressive 18-hole golf course.

The full-sized training pitch, which was still being watered, looked in absolutely excellent condition – a bit like a putting green or the centre court at Wimbledon on Day 1 of the Championships! The setting is absolutely perfect for a focused twelve days of pre-season training. Beautiful views across the golf course, the Cheshire hills in the background, fields and the only noise you will hear are birds, the tee-off shots of the golfers or a few scattered sheep chanting “Sevillano el que no bote, eh eh” or something similar!

Antonio Tapia and his coaching staff arrived just before the team and started setting up the training session. Señor Tapia comes across as a very polite and friendly man and dressed in his training kit and carrying a briefcase(!), he reminded me of the typical PE teacher at school. Just before the training started, Tapia and Miguel Angel had a one-to-one chat – not the last one of the evening.

After a good 10 minutes of talking to the players in a big circle, which included various contributions from individual players, the training commenced with a short warm up, followed by a 30-minute session of attacking moves. The journalists and hotel staff looking on, gasped a few times as one player stood out with his sharpness and quite amazing finishing – Salva Ballesta! If tonight was anything to go by, he is absolutely up for the new season.

Looking over the shoulders of the reporter of ‘La Opinion de Málaga’, the headline “Miguel Angel € 1.8 million” could be seen in big letters as the headline of his article, which he was finalising on his laptop, while the training was going on. Was that the reason for Miguel Angel’s one-to-one with Tapia?

The training session was very impressive and Mr Tapia’s little PA system (microphone and a speaker hanging just under his chest) make him very audible, without him having to shout out instructions.

After around 90-minutes, the training ended and the players returned to the hotel. During the training session, a former work colleague of mine had joined me at the training pitch. Phil Dickinson is an interpreter and language teacher in Spanish and French and interprets most press conferences for Spanish and French speaking footballers around the North of England and teaches some of the players English. One of his ‘pupils’ used to be Salva Ballesta during his brief spell at Bolton Wanderers. When Salva left the pitch, he spotted Phil and shouted out “Coño, it’s my English teacher!” He came across and told us how pleased he was to be back at Málaga and that he wanted to finish his career at the Club. A very polite and friendly bloke and according to Phil “one of the most intelligent footballers” he had met during his years as an interpreter.

While we were chatting, Miguel Angel and Antonio Tapia were jogging around the pitch together, deep in conversation. Was he trying to persuade the player to stay? We should find out very shortly. “So you have turned your microphone off now, Trainer, so we can’t hear your heavy breathing”, Salva taunted the gaffer, when he passed us after another lap.

The Club is currently considering to extend their stay in England, should the organisers of the pre-season tour be able to arrange another friendly match on 04. or 05. August. The team would then return to Málaga on 06. August.

So it’s off to sunny Burnley tomorrow afternoon.

Burnley - 23rd July
Day 2 of Málaga’s pre-season tour saw the first of the four friendly matches at Championship team Burnley.

The day began with another fine example of British Public Transport at its very best. Mercy from the Peña was combining a family visit near London with a trip to the match, but due to a train cancellation, she only arrived in Wilmslow at 13.45, where I met her at the station and we somehow managed to arrive at Turf Moor only 45 minutes later.

Arriving at the Cricket Club car park adjacent to the stadium, a top local cricket match was in progress (with quite a big crowd) and I parked my car right next to the boundary of the pitch, as the rest of the car park was already full - knowing full well, that one ‘six’ could have meant a new windscreen!

Due to Mercy’s involvement with the ‘Costa del Sol News’ newspaper (she writes the Málaga match reports), we managed to get press tickets in the Hargreaves Stand, but I decided to watch the first half from the away end. What away end? When I asked a steward why the gates at the away section were locked, he smiled at me and said “we thought it was only you coming to this match supporting Málaga”. How rude!

So I went back to the Hargreaves Stand and watched the first half from the press section high under the roof, where met the lovely gents from the various Málaga newspapers, who were very interested in the Peña flyers Chocky had created. The very pretty reporter from Canal Sur even asked us for an interview during the half-time break.

The first half was very much the more entertaining one of the two, with Málaga fielding a mix of established players (Duda, Salva, Juan Rodriguez, Romero, Gerardo) and reserves/new players like Manu, Nacho and Goitia in goal. Miguel Angel, Fernando Sanz, Arnau and Valcarce weren’t even in the squad today.

Duda had an outstanding first half and ran the Burnley defence ragged a few times, plus he also nearly scored from one of his dangerous free kicks. Juan Rodriguez looked sharp and the defence comfortable, with Cesar Navas marshalling things calmly.

At half time, we were allowed to sit behind the Burnley goal to enable Mercy to take a few photos for the newspaper. Málaga made several changes, with Paco Esteban, Pablo Couñago, Edgar, Alexis and the very lively and quick Calderon from Málaga B causing trouble on the right wing. Burnley came close to scoring the winner just before the end, but the excellent Goitia saved a one-on-one opportunity.

0-0 the final score. A typical pre-season match with plenty of positives, especially the physical condition of the team at this stage of the preparations.

At the final while we joined a group of Britsh Málaga fans (Expats and UK based) and Canal Sur and their charming reporter interviewed the group for one of their sports programmes. At this stage, the Officials of the Club, who were watching the warm-down of Tapia’s team, became aware of us and came across, handing out badges and looking immensely proud, that they had such loyal supporters present at the match.

Because of the non-existent away section, it was very difficult to estimate, how many Málaga fans were amongst the 4,900 crowd. Let’s hope Chesterfield will give us a little bit more credit and open the away end.

Outside the ground, the local autograph hunters were having Málaga shirts and match programmes signed by the players, while Mercy interviewed Manu, Miguel Angel, Salva and Fernando Sanz for her next article.

It was great to meet Stuart, Alan and all the other Málaga fans at Burnley and I am looking forward to more of the same at Chesterfield on Wednesday night. 


23rd July
The team had two sessions the day before, despite the appalling weather, which Antonio Tapia described as ‘North Pole’ like!

This morning the team worked in the gym at 09.30, followed by plenty of running exercises on and around the training pitch.
Antonio Tapia spent around an hour running with the slightly injured Romero, Salva and Duda. The team will be training again at 18.00 hours tonight.

The Spanish journalists are full of praise for Antonio Tapia, who is working very hard and spends the evenings with his coaching staff analysing video tapes and working on tactics and training sessions.

After full training in the pouring rain yesterday afternoon, Mr Tapia apparently walked past the working journalists in the Club House at Mottram Hall telling them, that it was the perfect time for a 30-minute run – and off he went on his own, while it was throwing it down!

The journalists were caught by surprise last night, when Barcelona’s Director of Football Txiki Beguiristain confirmed, that Málaga were on the verge of signing midfielder David Sánchez from the Champions (he finished last season at Alavés). Everybody is now frantically trying to find out more, as it was assumed, that the signing of ‘Chengue’ Morales would be the last, unless Miguel Angel went to Real Betis and De los Santos returns to Málaga.

I asked one of the journalists, where he thinks Málaga will finish in next season’s La Liga. “8th, 9th, definitely top 10”. Sounded good enough for me!

Just before the end of the training session, I presented all Spanish journalists with one of Peña t-shirts, which were very well received (makes a nice change...wink!). The journalists immediately put them on and demanded to have a ‘team photo’ taken (see one of the posts further down in this thread) and started taunting the Málaga staff. They will be wearing the t-shirts in this afternoon’s traditional match against the Málaga CF staff, which apparently always ends in a Málaga CF win, but in the papers gets reported as a Press victory!

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