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Hinchas y Jugadores - Betis with Ben Hardman (12th May, 2017)

Ben Hardman is the creator of Spanish football website Follow Ben on Twitter here.

How long have you been a fan of Betis and what made you support them in the first place?

Despite being born in Manchester and being raised a MUFC fan, luckily enough through the glory years, I've somehow found myself supporting Real Betis in the not-so glory years. After I finished at university in 2010 I ended up living in Andalucía and teaching English in a town very close to my heart, Sanlúcar de Barrameda. It's here where my Betis passion began to flourish after getting to know several locals and being surrounded by the green and white colors of the local football team and indeed flag of Andalucía. In 2011 I moved back to Manchester and wanted to keep up the language alongside my new-found team. I started writing match previews and reports for a number of websites then decided to start my own site in 2013.

Given the transfer windows and the squad that was assembled at the start of the season, is Betis where you want it to be?

Not at all. Last season we (luckily) finished 10th but this season has been very poor, bordering on atrocious, despite 'strengthening' the squad. This season has been so disappointing for all sorts of reasons. It started off with a large chunk of hope with Gus Poyet at the helm, but that quickly soured. When Victor took over, there was a renewed burst of hope, which has massively dwindled. We made a lot of signings during the summer but hardly any have lived up to the hype or expectations and the blame here has to lie with Sporting Director Miguel Torrecilla. I've been disappointed with Sanabria, but still hopefully he can come good. In terms of the squad, it needs seriously strengthening, particular in defense and attack, especially now Rubén Castro is being phased out.

Of the signings made this season, which one worked out the best/had the most impact and why?

The player who has had the biggest impact has without doubt been Riza Durmisi. The left back looks excellent going forward and has added a much needed attacking presence to the team, but has been found out a couple of times at the back. Of the nine signings this summer, he's been the best, but this hasn't been too difficult.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Betis this season? Any standout players?

The weaknesses have been there for everyone to see. Defense nowhere near good enough, despite Antonio Adan performing miracles at times, and the attack probably even worse than the defense. I don't want to sound to negative but there aren't many positives to talk of. Dani Ceballos has been one of few beacon of lights and offers a lot of heart (and talent) but still has a lot to learn.

List some things you appreciate and some things you can’t stand about the club management.

With Ángel Haro at the helm as club president we are supposed to be entering into a new era of Betis, one in the 21st century after being behind the time for so long, but it hasn't happened just yet. In terms of the team's performance, he's currently the worst president we've had in the 21st century. He's also made bad appointments and isn't investing much into the cantera. It's positive that the south stand is being sorted out but the club still isn't being ran well. For example, ticket prices at the club are disgraceful. Tickets are going between €70-140 for the match against Atléti, which is a nothing game and judging off entertainment levels this season I would barely pay €7. The club need to get real and start working for the fans if they want them on side.

What has the mood among the fans been during the campaign? Do you generally agree/disagree with them?

Betis have been called out this season by opposition managers for expecting everything to be like a 'feria' every week. Not true. Yes, the fans are passionate and want the team to do well, which, obviously, hasn't happened this season. They have got on the back of the team and manager at times, but only after witnessing some utterly shambolic performances. We want to be entertained but the way the team has been set up so defensively but absolutely no avail has got on the fans' backs, and I completely agree that it hasn't been good enough.

Are there any talented youngsters at the club that you expect to have a big future?

The youth teams are currently struggling. Betis B were relegated last season from Segunda B and play in group 10 of the Tercera division where Sevilla's third team play. Betis are top of the league here so there's hope they can achieve promotion again. There's not been one outstanding player and the goals have been shared around, with the top goalscorer Juanma, who's 24, scoring 12.

If you could make one realistic signing for Betis this summer who would it be?

We need a lot of new players and need to build a completely new spine, which includes Dani Ceballos. I'd like to get some proper talent in like Jorge Meré in defense and a good forward such as Joshua King of Bournemouth or Cédric Bakambu of Villarreal. Would love to see someone like Gylfi Sigurðsson in midfield.

Finally, predicted finish for Betis?

Looks like it's going to be 15th. On to bigger and better things next season we hope!


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