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Hinchas y Jugadores - Girona with Darren Smith (14th May, 2017)

Darren Smith appears on The Week In Football show every 3 weeks reporting on the 2nd division and Girona in particular. Been doing that for 3 seasons and after reporting on 2 play-off failures is hoping for better news this time! You can check it out here.

You can also follow him on Twitter here.

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

I'm Darren Smith, 49, and a lifelong season ticket holder at Sheffield United, visiting 70+ grounds. 8 years ago I moved to Girona and started watching them as I was missing my fix on a weekend. This coincided with Girona having the best team in their history. Have made the play-offs in 3 of the last 4 seasons despite, until this season, having a bottom 4 budget. New owners came in last season and use Pere Guardiola as a consultant. This has opened up a very useful link with Man City where we loan players from them and used their facilities in the summer.

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

This season the budget was upped significantly but, at the same time, 2 of the best players left (Lejeune to Eibar, Isaac Becerra to Valladolid) so play-offs again was probably best could hope for. However, Girona have exceeded that and been in top 2 all season, typically 8 points clear, so, with 8 games left*, nothing less than automatic is expected.

The key to this has been the head coach, Pablo Machín, who has shown he can build a promotion chasing team even on a low budget and losing his best players, and a formation, 3-5-2 that he has stuck rigidly too since he arrived 3 years ago. Players suited to this system are signed and everyone knows their job and fits perfectly. No star player but difficult to play against. 3 big center-backs, tireless wing-backs, hard working midfielders and forwards.

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

The best of the new signings in the summer was Portu, a fast attacking midfielder with low center of gravity and loves running at defenders.

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

If we have a weakness it is a lack of a prolific striker but we tend to spread goals around. If we don't go up though it will probably be due to a failure to sign a striker in the winter window.

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

Club still struggles to get supporters through the gate, only averages 4k despite on-field success. Ground is very basic and capacity only just over 9k. If promoted we will rely very much on the Manchester City link, hopefully signing players for us with a view to selling on at a profit as well as taking promising youngsters on loan.

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

Overall, Girona fans are very happy with life but dreading the possibility of slipping into the play-offs (and losing!).

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

Pablo Maffeo is a 19 year old right wing back currently on loan and would benefit from La Liga experience. Whilst strikers like Rubén Sobrino who City placed with Alavés because there are in La Liga would come to us.

*At the time of writing.

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