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THE SPANISH INFLUENCE ON ENGLISH (AND WELSH) FOOTBALL – Part One
- Updated: 3 March, 2012
We start in South Wales, where a revolution began in February 2007 after Swansea City parted company with manager of almost three seasons, Kenny Jackett.
There were many experienced managers linked to the vacant job at the League One side, old campaigners such as John Hollins and Mark McGhee, however Swansea decided to take a gamble.
Former player Roberto Martinez was appointed at the age of just 33, brought in from Chester City.The best his playing career got was probably his solitary appearance for Real Zaragoza in 1993.
A career in Britain then blossomed following a move to Wigan Athletic, moving on to Motherwell, Walsall, Swansea and finally Chester.
The young Spanish coach began his managerial career in positive fashion as one defeat in 11 games took Swansea to the fringes of the League One play-off’s, however they eventually ended up just outside of the top six.
Despite this, Martinez and Swansea were gaining rave reviews for the style of football being played at the Liberty Stadium. Martinez set up a system that is still harnessed by the Swans today – playing a bold 4-2-3-1 system, with two holding midfield players to protect the back four, allowing three playmakers to create and weave magic for the centre forward.
Martinez was a huge believer in the ‘tiki-taka’ style football that is seen all over Spain and brought his own brand of it to the Welsh side. Promotion from League One soon followed, with astonishing statistics.
The Spaniard’s side lost just eight games all season, winning the title by 10 points and scoring a whopping 82 goals – ten more than their nearest rivals, whilst also having the best goal difference in the league.
Martinez then led Swansea to eighth place in the Championship, just six points off a playoff place – an incredible achievement for their first season in the league.
After building this reputation as one of the finest young managers in the Football League, as well as being a pioneer of a tactical innovation, Martinez moved back to Wigan to take over from Sunderland-bound Steve Bruce.
Martinez left with Swansea’s blessing. He had led them from League One obscurity to on the fringes of the Premier League in just two and a half years, boasting a win percentage of 50%.
His Wigan team may now have survived relegation in two successive seasons, and are deep in the mire again this season, but they continue to draw plaudits for the way the team play their football.
Aston Villa came calling during the summer but Martinez decided to stay loyal to Dave Whelan and latics, while it’s widely considered that Martinez laid the groundwork for Swansea’s 2011 promotion to the Premier League.
‘Bobby’, as he is affectionately nicknamed, has impressed so much that managers up and down the football league are starting to try and replicate his system – as a result of this the Football League is growing stronger and stronger.
Leagues One and Two used to be seen as leagues where there were hard fought scraps, long ball punts and overweight players plodding around, but not anymore. There is real quality on show and the standard of football is improving year on year.
Other young managers like MK Dons’ Karl Robinson and most notably, Brighton’s Gustavo Poyet, schooled at Zaragoza, have been praised for the attractive football they encourage their sides to play.
Champions League winner Paolo Sousa has had differing success with the same tactics, but there is a growing trend across Britain – the Spaniards and South Americans who have played in La Liga have pioneered the best way to play football.
The beautiful way.Follow @icentrocampista