Valencia says it is on right path despite upheaval

Valencia says it is on right path despite upheaval
Press conference with former and current Valencia players.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

It has been a season to forget for Spanish football club Valencia as they finished 12th in the Spanish Primera Liga, after a topsy-turvy campaign marred by fan unrest and two managerial changes.

With the season ending last week, coach Pako Ayestaran was in a reflective mood as he arrived with some first-team players yesterday.

Speaking at the Singapore Sports Institute, the Spaniard said: "I always said that whatever happens, you have to analyse, even if you are successful. In this case when you have failed, probably many things haven't (been) done the right way."

"You have to be able to analyse, something the club is doing for the moment."

Having finished fourth the season before and earning Champions League qualification, there was an air of optimism around Valencia, owned by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, at the start of the season.

But their fortunes quickly nosedived. Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo resigned after 13 league games with the club languishing in ninth place and on the verge of elimination from the Champions League group stage.

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville replaced him, only to leave after a run of three wins in 16 league matches. He left the club in 14th place and out of the Europa League before assistant coach Ayestaran stepped up.

Australian international goalkeeper Mathew Ryan echoed his coach's sentiments. He also suggested the language barrier might have proved challenging for Neville.

"Obviously it's difficult going to a foreign country, but it's part of life you've to adapt to it as best you can. It takes more than a couple of months to be able to speak another language," said Ryan, who took Spanish lessons with Neville.

"As a player, he pretty much achieved it all in the game but as a coach he's beginning his career. Unfortunately, the way it's happened, it didn't quite work out for him. Hopefully in the future it can work out for him at another club."

While some fans turned on the players and Lim, who bought the club in 2014, Valencia legend Gaizka Mendieta believes the Singaporean is the right man at the helm.

The midfielder, who reached the Champions League final twice with Valencia, said: "He seems to have (the right vision). The way they are working seems to be the right one. As long as the owner, chairman, fans and players are in the right direction, all want the same (things), (that's most) important."

The Spanish contingent are in town to promote Valencia's arrival next year, when the club will play at least one match at the National Stadium. More matches against local and foreign clubs are in the pipeline in the next few years.

Next year's event will be part of a series of outreach activities the club has lined up. Dubbed the "Singapore Football Festival", it is organised in partnership with La Liga and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).

A three-year partnership with S-League club Geylang International was also announced. The deal will see both sides collaborating to hold football clinics in Bedok, led by a coach from the club's academy.

Yesterday, Valencia gave a prelude of what to expect when they met children from Beyond Social Services at Beo Crescent.

The rain hardly quelled the participants' enthusiasm as they enjoyed a kick-about with first-team players including Ryan, Santi Mina, Jaume Domenech and Javi Fuego.

Tomorrow, they will attend the Singapore Olympic Foundation - Peter Lim Scholarship Award Presentation at ITE College East.

On Saturday, the players will take part in the Football with a Heart event, a fund-raising initiative organised by Singapore Pools, iShine Staff Volunteers and the FAS.

This article was first published on May 19, 2016.
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