Juan Carlos Ollero: The Steady Ship of Betis

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The new board: Ollero is the small guy in the centre in the dark suit.

It was just five months ago when Juan Carlos Ollero was elected president of the great Spanish instution that is Real Betis. Before that event occured, Betis were enduring, at best, a slight state of disturbance: at its worst, it was all-out tumultuous turmoil.

As we know, at the start of the 2014/15 season because had just dropped down from the pinnacle of Spanish football, La Primera. The club was in disarray and this was reflected in the league form running up to Ollero been sworn in at the end of November: Won 6, Drawn 3, Lost 5. In short, not the form that would see Betis ascend again to the top level.

In came Ollero, the man from the Spanish enclave of Melilla, surrounded by Morocco in Northern Africa. The turnaround of the club since his election has been like the mountain range in the south island of New Zealand: Remarkable(s). Since Ollero the form guide reads: Won 15, Drawn 5, Lost 1. Of course, Ollero has nothing to do with the training of the players or team selection. What he does do is make decisions.

The very first decision he made was to say hasta luego to the first team manager, Julio Velázquez. The result was an immediate change in fortunes. The last four games before Velázquez was sacked read: LWDL. The four games immediately after his sacking, under the interim management of Juan Merino read: WWWW.

Ollero had a decision to make now. Does he stick with untested Merino or sign a more experienced first team coach? As he put it, it was, ‘una decisión muy meditada y en cierto modo arriesgada’ – a very thoughtful and somewhat risky decision. He signed fan-favourite Pepe Mel who just a year ago had been sacked after a bad run of form in La Liga and even more recently had been sacked at English club, West Bromwich Albion, after not been given much of a chance. You win some, you lose some. For Betis, it was a winner.

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Pepe Mel and Juan Carlos Ollero with a drop of fine sanluqueñan manzanilla. Let’s hope they will be celebrating come the end of the season.

Mel was appointed first team manager once again, but not before Juan Merino had been rightful commended for the stupendous job he did in the intermediate; a job Béticos won’t forget. Merino returned to his role as coach of Real Betis B team, plying their trade in Segunda B.

In more recent times, the board at Betis have made another possibly key decision in the signing of new sporting director, Eduardo Maciá. In just two days time, his tenure at Betis will begin. Ollero is hoping that Maciá can, ‘alleviate the historical deficit at Betis.’ Maciá comes from a good pedigree having held similar talent scouting positions at Valencia, Liverpool (with Rafa Benitez), Olympiacos and Fiorentina. He is going to working closely with Pepe Mel to plan the future with two current hypotheses in mind: one that Betis will be promoted, the other that they won’t. Luckily, it looks like it is going to be the first hypothesis.

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Nuevos de Betis: Maciá y Ollero

So, the steady ship Ollero is going strong. He has already made some tough, but progressive, decisions in the hope that Betis can move through the gears once again.

The Champions of 1935

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The team of 1935

28th April 1935 – Real Betis Balompié, La Primera División Campeones.

80 years ago to the day, Los Verdiblancos picked up their one and only primera championship with a final day win away at Racing Santander, piping Real Madrid to the post.

Today, the club is paying tribute to those champions with an event in the Pirotecnia park, situated close by to the old Patronato Obrero ground. The ceremony, at el monumento de los campeones, will feature club president Juan Carlos Ollero, a technical body headed by Pepe Mel and a few players, including Adán, Xavi Torres and Jorge Molina. Any fan who wants to attend, can do so.

While everyone is in a celebratory mood, the club and magazine, Trece Barras, thought they might as well celebrate all the important dates and events in the history of Real Betis.

To view the special presentation, click on the link – Trece Barras: Historia.

Back in 1935 the league did look slightly different with only 12 teams taking part; most of them from northern Spain. Real Betis and Sevilla were the only counterparts representing the south. A quick look at the final table shows that all the usual suspects were present: Real Madrid, Barca, Valencia, Atlético, Athletic Club de Bilbao and Espanyol. By winning the league, Betis were the first ever Andalucian club to do so.

The team back then was an interesting one. Los verdiblancos were managed by Irishman and former Manchester United player, Patrick O’Connell. The squad contained many Basque players who had relocated from the north of Spain to give the team a bit of grit.

Will we ever see such dizzy heights again at this wonderful club? It is extremely hard to imagine for even the most optimistic amongst us, what with the superclubs at the top with all their wealth and power.

Without an apocalyptic explosion, it’s looking like Betis are going to be La Liga contestants once again next season. With the goal machine Rubén Castro in attack anything can happen. He will probably give Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi a run for their money for the pichichi, in doing so propel Betis to the summit.

One can dream…

The call for beticismo – a united Betis

Last night’s defeat at the hands of Atlético Madrid was painful. Very painful.

I am not going to give you a match report today as there are a fair few out there and they don’t make for good reading if you are a supporter of green and white. But if you must read one in English, try here (ForeverBetis.com) , or here (insidespanishfootball.com).

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Not too happy Béticos

Unsurprisingly, there were many, many disappointed, angry Béticos. Many actually managed to air their views in person. As the players and staff boarded an AVE train home to Seville, they were also accompanied by many fans making the same journey – cue a very uncomfortable and long train ride home. No member of Betis was left out in receiving some well intended tips from the fans – Pepe Mel, the players and Rafael Gordillo were all on the end of a few verbal volleys. If fans couldn’t air their views in person then they certainly aired them on social media – the images show a couple of views from Saturday night.

Let’s begin with the excuses. Yes, Betis were without a few key and experienced names (Verdú, Xavi Torres, Paulao); but would it have made that much difference? In pre-season Verdú looked like a world-beater. I watched him on a few occasions and I thought he would slip into the Beñat-shaped hole seamlessly. However it has to be remembered that Betis were playing the likes of Huddersfield, Bolton and Wolves (no respect to any of those sides, but they aren’t quite at the level of Atlético – and neither are Betis for that matter). Verdú though hasn’t quite carried the good form he showed through to when it matters; in the league every week.

Verdú is without doubt la liga quality and it would be harsh to pick him out as the only player who hasn’t performed so far. Life is always going to be tough without the natural goalscoring Rubén Castro in your side. Without Verdú, Rubén Castro or Molina playing on Saturday, the average age of the midfield and striker was just below 22. This show that Betis have good a few good, young players on their books, but more importantly, are these players actually good enough to make it in la liga? Obviously, only time will tell us that one but it is a very precarious position for a squad to be in when the stakes are so high i.e. staying in La Primera. We have seen it in the recent past that La Liga isn’t frightened of dumping big names into the second division – I give you Zaragoza, Depor, Villarreal, Real Betis. Yes, Betis know all too well that Spain’s top division will chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t good enough for just one season.

Currently and clearly, it isn’t looking rosy for Betis. They have started the season like a slug making its way through hot tar. The defence is looking incredibly penetrable, the midfield are neither here nor there and the forwards (plus the rest of the team) are managing less than a goal a game, and that’s even including three they scored in one game against Valencia! Two wins out of 10 mean that only Osasuna and Almería are below them. It is the first time that Betis have been in a relegation zone under Pepe Mel.

Ok, so that is what has happened so far in a nutshell. Last night’s 5-0 hammering was the pinnacle. I aired my views last night on Twitter as did thousands of other supporters. The Spanish/Seville based media have not been pleasant towards Betis. 

Beticismo.net called it ‘ridículo‘ in their report. On Twitter today Beticismo also said ‘to lose in the Calderón is possible, very possible. But this attitude cannot be taken’. They are absolutely spot on. It hasn’t just been in this last game. Béticos are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of commitment and passion being shown by a lot of players.

This has even led to some Béticos dismissing the clubs iconic phrase, Viva el Betis manquepierda – Long live Betis even when we lose. Citing that is doesn’t apply if the players don’t care. Again, I agree. There is nothing more disheartening as a fan of football than to see your beloved team go down without a fight and without a care.

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BUT there is hope! We have Pepe Mel and almost all Béticos are staunchly behind him and if they are not then they should be! Pepe Mel will never back down and shy away from a scrap.

The first thing he did on Monday morning was to change his plans and open the gates so anyone who wanted to could watch the players train when the first session starts on Tuesday. As on the train last night, the players had to answer directly to the fans. A similar precedent was set the last time Betis were highly embarrassed, after losing 5-1 to eternal rivals Sevilla. It’s true that some fans displayed their views to the players and staff and that at times training was heated and intense. That is what the player need, a good kick up the backside to get them going.

Pepe Mel also immediately ordered a press conference to face the media straight up and so he could explain the situation at the club – ask me anything you like he said. He laid some home-truths, touched a few sensitive spots but remained upbeat and completely focussed on the task. We need this positive outlook to get through this rough patch. Below are just a few excerpts of what he said:

“If I jumped ship I would be a coward, a very bad professional and a very bad Bético.”

“The unity of everybody is key.”

“If we don’t win on Thursday (against Levante) it will be a small drama for us and that in match day 11 is dangerous.”

“We need players that are strong mentally, people that want the ball and enjoy the game. I don’t have a problem with that, it will be better or worse and we will have horrific days like Getafe, which has outraged me more.”

“We have time to paint the future the colour of what we want.”

“They was a more worse situation in 2010 and we got through it together and a worse situation when we lost five games in la segunda and we had to ascend because if we didn’t the club would have died.”

Let’s be honest with ourselves, Pepe Mel isn’t ratified miracle worker but he is a bloody good manager and trainer. Béticos (including me) need to accept that we can’t just rely on Rubén Castro. Mel needs to get Chuli firing. He is a very good young player, you don’t make your debut for a club like Betis and score a hat-trick if there isn’t something about you. He is in the same mould as Rubén Castro but he needs to believe in himself. Molina has shown he is a good striker but he hasn’t got the same killer instinct to be deadly, needing around five good chances before he finds the net. Without service Chuli is going to do nothing. Juanfran needs to start playing on the wing again and Cedrick needs to find the form that has Sergio Ramos and co. backing off with horror. Most of all Betis need Verdú, Salva Sevilla or Nosa to provide the driving force in midfield to get the whole team going. There is no real leader at Betis at the moment and this is a major problem. Somebody needs to pick up the mantle. It could be Matilla, it could be Nosa, it could be Paulao. The biggest problem Pepe Mel has got at the minute is getting his players to believe in themselves and unite as one on the pitch. Football is a team game but they aren’t performing as one.

As Pepe said himself, Betis have been in worse situations and have got through them together. The club, the fans, the players, the staff as one. Betis will turn this situation around, starting with Levante on Thursday.

Viva er Beti manquepierda!