Betis: The Saddest Football Story in Spain

Under Pepe Mel, Real Betis were one of the more watchable teams in Spain. Now, after a trigger-happy owner gutted their team & sacked everyone, they're heading down...

Last Updated: 31/01/14 at 14:45 Post Comment

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At some point, Betis fans are going to have to be sat down, after coming home from school and told that their beloved, old, raggedy club has left the household to spend the rest of its days at a remote, but abundantly green farm. Of course, the reality is that the club itself will have been taken to the football vet for a final road trip, as a quiet, dignified farewell is the only alternative for the team this season.

The current reality for Betis is a pretty miserable one. The club is on its third coach of the season, has just 11 points and is set for another spell in the badlands of the Spanish second division.

The awful problems currently being experienced by Betis began even before the season had started. The core of the team - the midfield pairing of Benat Etxebarria and José Canas - was sold, along with the goalkeeper Adrían, who left for West Ham. Whilst Betis were stuck with the same leaky defence that made the club such a hoot to watch last season, their ability to dig themselves out of trouble with a swooping attack disappeared.

Early doors, the team that finished seventh last season looked a shadow of its former self. Matters worsened when Rubén Castro, who knocked in 18 goals in 34 appearances last year, missed most of the first half of the season with injury, leaving the forward with just three strikes from nine games.

Poor Pepe Mel was the coach who bore the brunt of the blame in the view of his bosses. The fans in the stands though, were still hugely supportive of a manager who took over the club when it was in the second division and gave them European football just a couple of years later. Indeed it was Mel who parked Betis in the knock-out stages of the Europa League before being abruptly fired in December. At least the sacking helped achieve the Spaniard's longstanding and very public dream of managing in England, having been picked up by WBA.

The first five months of the campaign were beset by endless injuries and institutional problems with the Betis president, Miguel Guillén, falling out with Mel over the future ambitions of the team. That eventually led to Mel's dismissal - and fan protests - and the appointment of Juan Carlos Garrido.

The former Villarreal manager has a reputation as a gruff, non-nonsense disciplinarian but could do nothing to stop an institutional car crash of a club which then fired its sporting director, administrator, and then Garrido himself after just 10 games. "It doesn't seem excessively alarming," said Guillén this week on a sudden trigger-happy spurt. "What happened is normal for any company when things aren't going well."

Former player, Gabriel Calderón, who has spent the past decade coaching in places such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, has been brought in but was unable to change the momentum of the team which was beaten 4-2 by Celta Vigo to leave Betis 10 points from safety at the bottom of the table. Fans came to the training ground on Monday to give the players a piece of their angry Andalusian minds whilst Rubén Castro found himself in hot water having been seen out and about in Seville having fun. "I go out when I need to go out," said the unrepentant Castro, "I always train hard and when I play, I give everything."

All in all, it is a dreadful shame for Betis, who host Espanyol on Sunday. Last season Betis were one of the more watchable teams in La Primera, with the team as likely to win 6-0 as lose by the same scoreline. Now, the result tends to be the former, with the truly calamitous Betis shipping 47 goals in 21 games. Ten victories are now the target for a team in the second half of the season. It's an unrealistic goal considering only two have been chalked up so far this season.

Although some new signings have arrived including Leo Baptistao on loan from Atlético Madrid to help lead the line, it is all too little, too late with Betis looking set for a sorry return to La Segunda, far from what a fine, historic club deserves.

Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter

Great article Tim, keep up the good work!
- rza

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