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Hinchas y Jugadores - Ponferradina with Chris Pidgeon (10th May, 2017)

A huge thanks to Chris for doing this - check out the Facebook page of his book "The Ponferrada Pendulum" here, and follow him on Twitter here.

He is blogging daily at the moment! Check out his blog, which regularly has Ponferradina news, pictures and articles updated as well as news on his other books here.

A bit about yourself and your background

I am a football supporter from the north-east of England with a degree in History and English. I am married with two children, am a writer and have written about Ponferradina for five years along with various other projects. I have lived in Barcelona and Ponferrada between spells in Italy, Serbia and Bosnia.

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

I became aware of the team after cycling the Camino Frances in 2011, so am in my fifth full season. I was in Lisbon when the team were promoted in the promotion playoffs of 2012 and returned to walk the Camino the following year. The team quickly grew into an obsession and I’ve been hooked ever since.

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

After relegation last year, most of the team left, the manager too. We kept only five players and had a thorough rebuilding under the guidance of new ‘Mister’ Manolo Herrero. Assembling so many new players was always going to be difficult, not helped by now being on our third coach of the season and in terms of the league position, no Ponferradina are not where I want them to be.

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

The resigning of Yuri, who left for China in January 2016, is a significant statement to our rivals and his love for the club is appreciated by supporters so that signing has the most impact. He is slowly getting back to match fitness and starting to look good. Of the rest, Menudo, Chavero and Cidoncha have showed glimpses of potential whilst I liked Raúl Fuster at left back (he left in the January transfer window after just 14 games for la Ponfe) and both Xisco Campos and Nacho Lopez have outstanding levels of fitness. The other excellent signing of the transfer window, Ríos Reina, is currently injured but looked good and is a solid performer at a higher level. He returned to Spain from Cyprus after four seasons in la Segunda.

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

I think the strength of the team lies in midfield as we seem to have lots of possession and create chances with the experience of Andy Rodríguez and our long-serving and current captain Jonathan Ruiz. The negative is our strikers don’t take those chances (our top scorer has five goals) and our defense seem to concede too many goals (we’ve actually conceded 34 in 34 games as I write but other teams seem to score with their only chance of the game and we have a goal difference of minus three). Adan on the right has played well but as a whole we have underperformed.

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

I am grateful that Yuri returned but the management need to take some responsibility. Three managers again this season, same last (when we were relegated) means the recruitment process needs to change. There seems to be a lack of forward planning which is frustrating and some of the coaching appointments have been baffling. A lot of fans are disgruntled with president Nieto, known affectionately as Silvano, who is one of the longest serving presidents, into his 18th year, and was born in El Bierzo.

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

A lot of the fans are frustrated with the team and blame the club management. We are a big team in this league and to be in sixth position is desperately disappointing. When it is going well it is a lovely place to be. I must admit that this season, being away from the city due to work and not attending as many games as in previous seasons, has led me to defend the team a little more than most but generally I agree as we all want the best for la Ponfe.

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

Not really. That is really sad to say but Javi García (three matches played) and Yac Dori (from Niger and played in the Copa Federacion only) are the only youngsters to play at all. Perhaps Víctor Pastrana, on loan from Alcorcón and UEFA under 19 Championship winner) could have a future but I expect that not to be at my club. The Ponferradina Juvenil seem to get good results but there is too big a step up to first team football. A handful of first team players - Adan (23), Abel Moreno (22), Cidoncha (26), Menudo (25) and Ríos Reina (26) - may be able to do it at a slightly higher level in time but certainly not a big future at a much higher level.

Surprisingly though, Deportiva B were promoted this season!

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

I would look to bring in a striker who has performed well at this level this season. Both Celta Vigo II and Racing Santander are in the top two and look good for promotion but if we could prise one of their strikers away that would be good. It’s unlikely to be Borja Iglesias (who has 29 goals in 33 games and is just 24 years old) but Hicham Khaloua (14 goals in 34 games and just 21 years old) may fancy another crack at this division and is currently on loan from Almería so would not cost if we could set up a similar deal or maybe a free. I’d love to see Racing’s Abdón Prats (10 goals in 12 games and 24 years old) join or perhaps Dani Aquino (18 goals in 33 games and 26 years old), the latter hasn’t really done it at a higher level but those last two are likely to cost money. There are rumors former player Sergio Aguza may return and a goal-scoring midfielder like him would be a great help. If pressed for one I’d gamble on Khaloua to play up front with Yuri.

Finally, predicted finish for Ponferradina?

Heart says fourth and promotion via playoffs, head says sixth but fifth certainly within our grasp. As long as Cultural (CyD Leonesa are our rivals) don’t go up.

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