Chesterfield - July 27th
Wednesday, 27th July, or was it 27th October? Driving through Derbyshire on a grey and drizzly July afternoon made me wonder why some people have recently been questioning our decision to move to Spain in the not too distant future.

Arriving in Chesterfield at around 18.00 hours, I picked up a few match programmes and despite being told by the Press Officer of Chesterfield FC, that the Peña press release would be printed in the programme, no mention of us…

The meeting place for the Málaga supporter was supposed to be the ‘Chesterfield Arms’. Walking into the bar area, I expected tumbleweed to float through the pub. It was empty and quiet, apart from ‘The Simpsons’ blaring out on a small TV in the corner. The next conversation went as follows: Landlord: “Yes”, Me: “May I have a bottle of Beck’s, please”, Landlord: “We don’t sell Beck’s”, Me: “May I have a bottle of lager then”, Landlord: “We don’t sell bottled lager”, Me: “May I have a pint of Carlsberg Extra Cold, please”, Landlord: “Sorry, we have run out of Carlsberg, the delivery didn’t arrive”, Me: “Thanks, bye…”.

So I went next door to ‘The Industry’, where very quickly several Málaga fans arrived and after a couple of drinks, we walked the short distance to Saltergate, where we were charged a rather expensive £16.00 for our seats in the Main Stand, where even more Malaguistas had arrived - apologies for not waiting for you at the 'Chesterfield Arms'! You now know why...

As Antonio Tapia had decided to play two separate teams, the ‘B’ team (or was it really the ‘A’ Team…?) was sitting in the stand, so we positioned ourselves in the same section. This morning, the match report in ‘Diario Málaga’ reads as follows: “Malaguistas in the Main Stand. Almost 50(!) enthusiastic Málaga supporters were in the Main Stand at Saltergate Stadium in Chesterfield, a town not too far from the mystical Sherwood Forest, where the legend of Robin Hood was created. Many of them are members of the Peña Internacional Malaguista, who were also present in Burnley and will be attending the matches at Preston on Saturday and Bolton on Tuesday”
“Enthusiastic”? Well, we tried…

Antonio Tapia had chosen the following line-up for the first half: Arnau – Alexis, Fernando Sanz, Cesar Navas, Valcarce – Manu, Miguel Angel, Juan Rodriguez, Nacho – Couñago. The match started and after Málaga nearly scored within ten seconds, it became clear, that the teams had two completely different ideas about how approach this ‘friendly’. The Málaga team were trying to pass the ball around and put into practice, what they had been preparing on the training pitch at Mottram Hall, but the Chesterfield team, especially forward Folan had different ideas. Within the first ten minutes, Valcarce was clattered three times (around his own penalty area!) by Folan and then our left-back lost his cool. And what a sight it was! Valcarce is not particularly tall (to put it politely) and Folan around 6’4”, but the Málaga player proceeded to attack the Chesterfield striker, pushing him and slapping him in the face. Several players got involved and it took a good minute to restore order, with the two bad boys ending up in the referee’s book. The Chesterfield fans greeted the bust-up with “En-ger-land, En-ger-land’ chants…

After this incident, Málaga’s ‘A’ team lost their way and the rest of the half was rather forgettable, apart from Nacho’s goal, which followed one of the far too rare fluent attacking moves.

After half-time (Chocky, the team had Patatas Bravas, Chorizo and Ensaladilla Rusa as their snack during the break), only Fernando Sanz remained on the pitch and the ‘B’ team with players like Higaldo, Paco Esteban, Calderon and the third goalkeeper Javi Muñoz took the field. Surprisingly the second half was the better of the two for Málaga, with the players much more willing to commit to 50-50 tackles and playing more fluent football. It was by now raining heavily and it got colder and colder.

The second goal by Hidalgo followed a superb passing move through midfield and a great finish by the new signing from Tenerife. Smith’s 30 yard screamer was too little too late with three minutes to go and so Málaga had secured their first win of their pre-season tour.

Last night will definitely not go down as the highlight of the pre-season tour (understatemet alert!), but with the matches at Preston and Burnley still to be played, better football, better opponents and better stadiums will surely follow.

The team is having the afternoon off today and will be travelling into Manchester City Centre to do some shopping. They better take their umbrellas with them, as it is throwing it down again this morning. Driving back to Cheshire through the pouring rain last night and passing the village of Sparrowpit (sums it up...) in the deepest, darkest Derbyshire Dales, I asked myself again…why would I ever want to move to Spain? ;-)

Preston - 30th July
Burnley, then Chesterfield and today Preston. Málaga CF certainly did not pick the UK’s most glamorous towns for their pre-season friendlies in England. Setting off from a reasonably bright and warm Cheshire at 12.00, it started to rain once I drove past the Reebok Stadium on the M61 and Preston presented itself grey, with ‘light drizzle’ and very humid. Summer, what summer?

Deepdale Stadium has become a very impressive ground over the last few years, with three quarters of the stadium now boasting very modern stands. After buying a ticket (reasonable £12.00), I visited the impressive ‘National Football Museum’, which is situated inside Deepdale Stadium (admission is free). Very much worth a visit!

The Sumners Pub wasn’t as fantastic as advertised, put was only a five minute stroll from the stadium. There I met a couple of Crewe, who have been following Málaga for a few years, Peter Twigg joined us and a few Spaniards also arrived for a pre-match drinks.

After attracting only 3,500 spectators for their pre-season friendly against Wigan Athletic on Wednesday night, Preston North End had decided only to open the Tom Finney Stand for today's match.

Miguel Angel (about to sign for Puta Betis), Duda, Salva and Edgar were not in the squad, but should all be fit for the ‘big one’ at Bolton on Tuesday night. Antonio Tapia (not me, ‘Jack’!) again picked two teams for each half, with Manu and the impressive Alexis starting both halves. The first half line-up included Goitia in goal, Gerardo, Alexis, Fernando Sanz, Nacho, Juan Rodriguez and Paco Esteban as the lone striker up front.

From the kick-off, Preston were the better team and very much controlled the game, with Málaga only being dangerous, when they managed to split the Preston defence with long passes towards Esteban, who has pace, but not too much else, in my humble opinion.

Málaga’s defence looked very uncertain and only bad finishing prevented at least two or three first half goals by last season’s Championship Play-Off Finalists. Málaga created two great chances in the first half, which were both wasted terribly by Paco Esteban (one-on-one with Preston goalie Carlo Nash) and Juan Rodriguez, who missed an open goal from 10 yards with no Preston defender anywhere near him.

As Chocky requested this information again, I can advise you, that the players had chips, pudding, gravy and mushy peas as their half-time snack.

The second half wasn’t much better than the first, with Preston being again the superior team and looking more likely to score. Arnau, Cesar Navas, Romario, Valcarce and Pablo Couñago were some of the players brought on for the second half, but Málaga only managed to create one good chance – a header from a corner which was cleared off the line by a defender (sorry, I was taking a photo at the time, so don’t know who headed it). One of the highlights was mass brawl amongst the players of both teams half way through the second half, when Romario took revenge for an earlier foul, then decided to kick a Preston player off the ball, before Manu then decided to the take the law into his own hands. Handbags all round…

Preston could have won the match with a few excellent chances towards the end, but as the light drizzle turned to a proper downpour, it ended in a 0-0 draw.

Just a quick mention to all the Málaga fans who made it to Deepdale today, including the couple from Crewe, Peter, Steve from Nottingham, the Expat from near Los Boliches (sorry, didn’t get your name), the Malagueño Oscar (who despairs about the terrible English summers), his partner and little son (see Little Malaguista photo below) from Manchester, plus the many people in Málaga tops leaving the stadium after the match.

Bolton Wanderers - 2nd August
When Málaga announced the four friendly matches of their pre-season training camp in England, the fixture against Bolton Wanderers was always going to be the most attractive and most revealing regarding the state of the Málaga team, three and a half weeks before the start of the La Liga season.

As it was a gloriously sunny day on Tuesday, I left Cheshire with plenty of enthusiasm. Very similar to Saturday, as soon as I reached the Reebok Stadium, very dark clouds started to gather and it got quite cold. With it being a midweek match, I didn’t expect too many people to meet at the Bromilow Arms pub. And what a good job it was that most Málaga fans went straight to the stadium, as the pub was (it will be difficult to believe after my earlier describtions of the Chesterfield Arms), the worst of the whole lot I had recommended…! 2 out of 10 to me for the pub guide…

Buying the match programme, I was really pleased to see that Bolton had decided to dedicate a full page to a press release, I had sent to all the local newspapers and match programme editors at Burnley, Chesterfield, Preston and Bolton (see photo further down).

I met Steve from Nottingham, and Stuart and his son from Barnsley. There were quite a few Málaga fans in the East Stand, including two young lads from Málaga, who are both working on the Pleasure Beach in Blackpool! You wonder what an image those two have of the average Brit after a few months there… ?

To the delight of the stadium announcer (“Why would there be Málaga fans living in Barnsley?”), Stuart hung up is Málaga banner and I added a Málaga flag over the railings at the halfway line. The very impressive Reebok Stadium was virtually empty and just 3,639 occupied the three stands opened for this match. By now it had started throwing it down….again.

The teams came out and as it is custom in Premiership and European matches, the players walked past each other and shook hands. Salva got a great reception from the Bolton players, who hugged him or like Ivan Campo and goalkeeper Jaaskelainen jumped all over him and the Bolton fans greeted him with warm applause.

Most of you will have watched the match on Canal Sur, so I won’t have to go into too many details. After three rather unimpressive performances at Burnley, Chesterfield and Preston, Málaga played very well last night in patches. Some of the passing was excellent and Salva’s cheeky opening goal underlined what a great finisher he is. After the goal, the team sat back too much and invited a lot of pressure from Bolton, which paid off in the 38th minute, when Gary Speed ran into the box and converted a cross for the deserved equaliser.

At half-time, Chocky’s excellent Peña flyers created a lot of interested again amongst the other Málaga fans (some Expats, some UK based) and it made it very clear, that we still have a lot of work to do to spread the message about the Peña.

The second half started with plenty of changes in the Málaga team, including Paco Esteban and Pablo Couñago replacing Salva and the rather quiet Juan Rodriguez up front. For the next 45 minutes, Paco Esteban ran riot through the Bolton defence over and over again with his pace and skill and Pablo (as he will be referred to as next season) made some great runs and created a couple of very good chances. Especially Esteban showed for the first time on this pre-season tour, why he has been ‘promoted’ from the B Team.

By the time, the Málaga defence fell asleep after a corner and Pedersen scored the winner three minutes from time, only Arnau and Pablo were players on the pitch, who will probably start the first match at Celta Vigo at the end of this month.

An undeserved defeat, but the result didn’t really matter. A lot of positives came out of this last match of the tour. I am convinced, that Málaga would beat Bolton in the same match, if the team (like Bolton was yesterday) was just ten days away from the start of the league campaign.

At the final whistle, both teams were applauded off the pitch and somebody decided to use that moment to remove my Málaga flag from the railings and walk out of the stadium with it…

So, that was Málaga’s pre-season tour of England. It was great to see the team play over here four times in just 10 days and last night’s match has left me quite optimistic about next season. The most positive surprise for me has been Nacho, who looks a great addition to the midfield with his excellent work rate and composed play. Should Málaga sign David Sanchez and De los Santos, our midfield will be very well equipped, giving Antonio Tapia several different options.

With Alexis we have a very versatile and skilled young defender, who will be worth quite a bit of money in a couple of years time. Fernando Sanz and Cesar Navas look solid in the centre of defence.

Before last night, I was worried about the striking options, but having watched Salva in full flow and an ever improving Pablo Couñago, plus the addition of ‘Chengue’ Morales, we might be ok.

Overall, I really enjoyed these couple of weeks and it has been great to meet so many Málaga fans from Spain and the UK at the four different venues. A special mention goes to the journalists from the local Málaga newspapers, who have been very friendly and approachable during their stay.

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