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Fuenlabrada - the mighty challengers: Part 1 (30th September, 2017)

11 minutes.

11 minutes decided the fate of three teams, who had competed over the entire season with ferocity and were all set for a nail-biting finish.

In third, fourth, and fifth, heading into the final game of the season, Fuenlabrada, Rayo Majadahonda and Leioa were all on 60 points. The head-to-head records of the teams were pretty clear - Fuenlabrada would win any hypothetical matchup, and Rayo would win in a matchup against Leioa.

Entering the 78th minute, Leioa were 2-0 down at Arenas, Rayo were 1-0 down at Barakaldo, and Fuenlabrada were winning 2-0 at already relegated Sestao River.

Then all hell broke lose.

Arenas scored in the 78th minute. Almost in unison, Leioa scored in the next minute, but so did Rayo - which meant Leioa had to win. In the 81st minute, Leioa scored and then four minutes later Leioa scored again.

But it wasn't over. Aitor Córdoba was sent off, exposing the Leioa back line, and Arenas' Nacho Pérez scored to kill all hopes of a comeback. And the 20…

Jozabed - the risk-taker on and off the pitch (29th September, 2017)

In 2014, Jozabed Sánchez was a talent at Real Jaén, relegated to the Segunda B that summer.

When Jozabed’s four goals and 12 assists couldn’t prevent Real Jaén’s relegation to the theoretically amateur third-tier of Spanish football, he took the punt and joined Rayo in division one. It was a gamble, a huge one, and no one thought about the signing working out.

Two years later and with 10 goals and 3 assists not enough to save Rayo Vallecano, Jozabed was on his way to Fulham. The stakes of the gamble were even bigger this time. Not just because he had no preseason to work with. Not just because it was a different country, or a different league, but a different mentality. The history of Spaniards failing in the Championship is a long and damaging one. Those who succeed are the ones who fit the physicality-type stereotypes associated with the league. The playing style which made Jozabed shine in La Liga is almost the opposite of that - patient buildup play, quick transitions and short pa…

Success at Eibar, inspired at Rayo. And a milestone forgotten. (28th September, 2017)

Today's post is a short one. Apologies in advance...

It's amazing to think that as of this moment, four of Eibar's starters - and almost half their defense, is made up of players who came to Rayo when their careers were in disarray. Rejuvenated, they are now going on to bigger and better things...

On the left wing, you have Bebé. After a botched transfer to Manchester United, three loan spells with various degrees of success, a sale to Benfica, and a wretched six months and a relegation with Córdoba, Rayo took him in 2015 where he became a deadly left winger, with three goals and nine assists. After Rayo were relegated, he was sold to Eibar, where he has been a regular.

Almost half the defense is comprised of players who fit this category. On the right side of defense there is Anaitz Arbilla. Paco took right-back Arbilla from Segunda outfit Hércules in January 2013, and in 18 months made him a solid La Liga defender, which earned him a move to Espanyol, and then to Eibar. …

A 100 appearances for the club! Adrián Embarba - a player who gives a 100% (27th September, 2017)

Given that Adrián Embarba just reached 100 appearances for Rayo, here is his story - some shared on this blog before, some not...

Football is cruel. Hype is often wrong. And history forgets quickly.

It's easy to forget that Embarba was the least heralded of three signings for Rayo B in 2013. Miki Ruiz was a striker heralded for his pace and strength, his finishing and his shot power. He was from Córdoba, he was ex-FC Barcelona, ex-Real Madrid, ex-Valencia and ex-Hércules, and he had already played for the U-20 Spain team, alongside Jesé Rodríguez and Derik Osede.

He, at just 19, had a bright future ahead of him.

So did Sergio Parla, ex-Getafe, ex-Real Madrid and ex-Alcobendas. The 21 year old center-back, whose ball-playing skills and pace made him a perfect Rayo defender. His future was bright too - sharing hydrotherapy pools with Ronaldo and, despite a torrid time with Alcobedas, his ability meant regular appearances for the first team.

Embarba? Released by Real Madrid, then by …

Rayo Vallecano and 2001 - an international squad (26th September, 2017)

Recently, I wrote a piece about Rayo's 2014 summer transfer window, and the sheer number of signings that were made.

Today's piece is similar - it talks about Rayo's 2001-02 squad, a squad that ended up saving itself from relegation by picking up 15 points in their last 5 games - after a horrendous start that saw them pick up a solitary point in seven games...

Argentina

He was one of 13 players who stayed with the team when they got relegated in 2003.

For some fans, Patricio "Pato" Graff was one of Rayo's worst signings - terribly expensive and played 88 league games (over three seasons), but he never really impressed or dazzled the imagination of Vallekas.

Despite that, it is worth noting that in the 2001-02 season, he played 32 games, and picked up 14 yellow cards and one red. He even played the most minutes (2977, even more than Míchel who played 2931. In the league only, Míchel played 2871, Graff 2797).

Switzerland

Guess the player: He was born in Switzerlan…

José Antonio Camacho - a great defender, even greater manager: Part 2 (25th September, 2017)

Yesterday's piece was about José Antonio Camacho the manager. Today's is about the player that preceded that.

Camacho was born in Cieza, Murcia. He moved along with his family to Albacete at the age of six - during this time, his family thought about returning to Murcia, but Real Murcia rejected the player.

He would play youth football at Atlético Jareño (a team in Villanueva de la Jara, in the Cuenca province) and later for Albacete Balompié, where he permanently held down the left-back spot. José Antonio Camacho began to make waves at this time - Héctor Rial wanted him to play for the Spanish youth team, and his performances helped him break into the Albacete senior team, who at the time played in the Primera Regional.

His quality did not go unnoticed - both Real Madrid and Barcelona fought for his signature, but the player chose the team in white and signed for their Castilla team in March 1973. He was almost immediately cast into the first team and its starting XI, his deb…

José Antonio Camacho - a great defender, even greater manager: Part 1 (24th September, 2017)

Following his retirement as a player in 1989, which included 15 first-team seasons at Real Madrid, Camacho began coaching in Real Madrid's coaching staff. His first professional experiences were spent at Rayo Vallecano (1992-93) and Espanyol (1994-96), both of which he helped promote to the top division.

After a spell at Sevilla (1996-97), and another spell at Espanyol (1997-98) where he led Espanyol to a Europa League spot, in the summer of 1998, Camacho took over Real Madrid's first team, but left after only 22 days over disagreements with the club's management.

Camacho succeeded Javier Clemente as national team manager in September 1998, after a shock 2-3 loss in Cyprus in a Euro 2000 qualifier. The tide quickly turned under the new boss, who led the side to the final stages, where it bowed out to eventual champions France in the quarter-finals. Two years later, Camacho's team lost in the same stages to South Korea, now in the 2002 World Cup; following the controver…

Rayo B's next rivals - Internacional de Madrid CF. And Trashorras' fascinating interview (23rd September, 2017)

Ahead of Rayo B's game against Internacional de Madrid CF, this piece is dedicated to the team that formed just 15 years ago, and has played at four stadiums.

International de Madrid was founded in 2002 by a group of businessmen. In its first season, the club joined the Tercera Regional, eighth tier, and played their home games at Orcasitas, at the ground of the Polideportivo de la Asociación de Vecinos de Orcasitas. Internacional finished its first season with promotion, by winning all the games played, scoring 187 goals and conceding only 25.

They achieved a second consecutive promotion in its second season, again leading their group, with 128 goals for and only 17 against. They played the next two seasons at La Dehesa de la Villa. Internacional de Madrid continued the following seasons playing in Regional Preferente - the fifth tier. In 2006, the club moved again, this time to Moraleja de Enmedio.

In 2010 they achieved - for the first time - the promotion to Tercera División by…

When Rayo paid €400,000 to an unwanted player - Álvaro Zazo. And Sesiones AFE (22nd September, 2017)

In June 2010, Rayo Vallecano were asked by a judge to pay Álvaro Zazo for breach of contract. After being removed from the team the previous summer, Zazo denounced the club. He was training with Córdoba at the time. The player, who sued for 600,000 euros, received two-thirds of the amount.

But now, Zazo is just as well known for being unemployed for long periods of time - on 15th March 2015, after nearly eight months without a club, he signed for Real Avilés in the Segunda B. And on 11th January 2017, following almost two years of inactivity, Zazo joined UD San Sebastián de los Reyes in the Segunda B as well.


"Trotamundos del fútbol de Segunda División B", they called him.

Born in Madrid, Zazo played in Real Madrid's cadete and juvenil teams, and finished his formation with local Las Rozas. He made his senior debuts in the 2002-03 season with Toledo, in the third division. A year later he joined Mallorca B for a two-year spell which ended with relegation from the Segunda …

Eating my words - the rise of Diego Aguirre (21st September, 2017)

A 24-year-old Sevilla graduate from Mairena del Alcor, Jozabed joined second-tier Ponferradina in February 2013, leading his club to just a place off the promotion playoffs. They were behind Las Palmas in the league table, but were level on points, head-to-head points, head-to-head goal difference, head-to-head goals scored and even goal difference; only number of goals scored could separate them. He then joined Real Jaén, where four goals and 12 assists in 36 league matches couldn't prevent relegation to the theoretically amateur third-tier of Spanish football in 2014.

He took the punt and joined Rayo in La Liga. It was a gamble, a huge one, and no one thought about the signing working out. Two years later and with 10 goals and 3 assists not enough to save Rayo Vallecano, Jozabed was on his way to Fulham.
He has since gone to Celta Vigo on loan, and now plays with them permanently.
But why do I bring this up?
In 2014, not many fans could really say that Jozabed was their ideal su…

In pictures: Abdoulaye Ba - from Premer League potential to Segunda stopgap (20th September, 2017)

Today's article is not filled with words. Rather, it is a mini-project I've been working on for a week but have decided to end.

I was trying to assemble photos of Abdoulaye Ba in the news - all of them. Yes, every transfer rumor and done deal that I could find. Why, you ask? I was trying to see what attention a "promising" youngster actually gets.

I attempted to do all, but settled on news mentions to Premier League clubs, a league he has never played in. And even if I missed out a mention here or there, what I found was a fabricated ecosystem that we all consume.

I hope you enjoy watching it from the outside.

The first time Abdoulaye Ba became a "thing" was July 3, 2012, when talkSPORT linked him to West Ham, Stoke City and QPR.


Then ESPN linked him to Aston Villa:


And then the Daily Mail reported that the deal looked dead:


But Mail Online wouldn't give up, saying that Aston Villa wouldn't give up.



But then nothing.

For a year, when the Daily Star was…

The Rayo aficionado - with Mark Rickling (19th September, 2017)

Follow Mark Rickling on Twitter: @mrickling

A bit about yourself and your background

I'm an American living in the nation's capital, Washington DC. In addition to supporting Rayo, I'm a season ticket holder for the local MLS team, D.C. United. ¡Vamos United!

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

Good question. I first started supporting Rayo in the 2011-12 season. As fan of soccer in a country where this sport is an also-ran in relation to other, more popular, team sports like American football and baseball, you're constantly told by the soccer media that you need to pick a foreign side to support. There are innumerable articles and even books devoted to this very subject -- what non-U.S. team is for you the American fan.

Invariably the suggestion turns out to be some Premier League side, and as a result the streets of DC are littered every Saturday and Sunday morning with people walking to their local soccer bar sporting…

The Rayo aficionado - with Juan Manuel Sánchez Fornell (18th September, 2017)

Juan Sánchez is a lifelong Rayo fan...and is @MitaADRV24 on Twitter, give him a follow!

A bit about yourself and your background

I am a rayista through and through, I have tattooed the shield of Rayo on my skin, am very eager to see Rayo at all times...if you ever have the chance to travel to Spain and Madrid, I invite you to go and see a match in Vallecas. It is incredible, you will really like it! I am a subscriber of the club and I love it.

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

I supported the club since I was 5, since Rayo was in the Segunda B (similar to the English 3rd division), my father took me from a very young age, and I loved to go and enjoy the team play.

Describe your first visit ever to Vallecas and the stadium? How would you describe the fans in the stadium, and how intimidating is the stadium for opposition fans and players?

It was great! As I said, it was when I was very small and I saw so much madness for a team and its…

An interesting Twitter conversation with Rayo Herald (17th September, 2017)

After I posted yesterday's piece on Twitter, an interesting conversation with Rayo Herald's Twitter account ensued....

From the Bernabeu to unemployent....My piece on José Carlos and his injury-filled careerhttps://t.co/aWDO4eSIzDpic.twitter.com/cop61HXLCb — Sarthak Kumar (@Vallecanos1924) September 16, 2017
When things were going good he never spent a single second to talk to us (media). Indeed, he does not deserve a single word of support now.. — Rayo Herald (@rayoherald) September 16, 2017
It's true he's quite eccentric. I remember his press conferences especially at AEK were absolutely stunning. — Sarthak Kumar (@Vallecanos1924) September 16, 2017
Recurrently declined to talk here in Vks, regardless of the situation (after training, after scoring twice,..). Why should we care? — Rayo Herald (@rayoherald) September 16, 2017
I understand. But I will always care about every player that comes to Rayo, even if they perform badly or break out hearts off the pitch. — Sar…

The Rayo Report: Sevilla Atlético 0-0 Rayo Vallecano - Captains, carelessness and courage. (17th September, 2017)

Míchel made two changes, both in defense, from the previous league game - a 3-0 loss to Osasuna - with Ernesto Galán and Antonio Amaya being replaced by Baiano and Emiliano Velázquez respectively.

Luis Tevenet also made two changes from their goalless draw at Huesca - Álex Pozo coming on for Miguel Olavide in attacking midfield. Surprisingly, there was a change between the sticks, with Juan Soriano taking the place of José Antonio Caro.

This was a game where Sevilla Atlético was clearly the better team, but didn't take their chances. Other than that, this was a game that both sides probably would want to forget - Rayo had zero shots on target and Sevilla Atlético had just 3.

Team structures

Sevilla Atlético may not have made many changes in personnel, but they did make a crucial player position change. Álex Pozo took the place of central attacking midfielder Miguel Olavide, meaning that Curro, a right winger, was playing in the center. The captain of Sevilla Atlético came head-to-…

José Carlos - a story of injuries (16th September, 2017)

Donning the number 9 shirt, José Carlos had the ball at his feet on the right wing. He dribbled the ball infield towards the edge of the box, faked a shot and fooled the entire defense - all with his left foot. He then shifted the ball to his right and took a shot from outside the box that goalkeeper Manu Herrera saved at the near post.

His left foot was deadly. A Recreativo academy player and Sevilla graduate, he was ousted - despite his value to the Sevilla team, and despite his speed and trickery making him the perfect impact sub - by new coach Gregorio Manzano. Cartagena in the second division took him for six months, before AEK Athens signed him permanently - along with Juan Cala - in the summer of 2011; another new coach, Marcelino, refused to put his faith in him.

Reuniting with Sevilla coach Manuel Jiménez, José Carlos gained his form, and some versatility too - whether in central midfield, the wings or just behind the striker, José Carlos was playing with a renewed vigor. He …

Santi Comesaña - la perla and a wannabe-Sergio Busquets. (15th September, 2017)

On the outskirts of the hustle and bustle of Vigo, a 20 km coastal drive south takes you to a small town of 18,000 people called Nigrán, which, amazingly, is also a 20 km drive north from Portugal.

It is off the radar on the footballing madness in Vigo - off the radar in general too. Infrequent buses and a highway are the sole connection between the two.

But its close proximity to Portugal, combined with the cooler temperatures due to being located in the lap of high mountains, have helped grassroots football develop here and link the two countries. "Schools" such as ED Val Miñor and Ureca, and teams such as Nigrán CF and Racing Vilariño have all set up here.

And it's working - players like Thiago Alcántara, Rafinha Alcántara, Rodrigo Moreno (all Ureca) and Pedro Vázquez (ED Val Miñor) have all come from the good work of these schools. Full back Jorge Otero was born in Nigrán but was quickly picked up by Celta Vigo, where he played senior football for seven seasons.

By t…

Rayo Vallecano and 2014 - a wave of new arrivals (14th September, 2017)

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"

At the end of the 2014-15 season, Rayo survived comfortably, and surviving felt normal. It wasn't. It never was, and never again will be taken for granted.

It's surprising that I took it for granted then. We were on the division’s smallest budget. We lost our best center-back - and sometimes our free-kick taker ahead of Trashorras - in Alejandro Gálvez. We lost out best striker in Joaquín Larrivey. We lost our best goalkeeper in Rubén Martínez. We lost midfielder Adrián González. We even lost Anaitz Arbilla - a player who went from being a Segunda player with Hércules to becoming a La Liga quality defender and earning a move to Espanyol. In 18 months.

With so much quality leaving the squad, Rayo were backed into a corner. And in that situation, apart from Antonio Amaya returning to Rayo from Real Betis, Rayo had to compensate by bringing in quantity.


Rayo took huge risks on many players - …

The Rayo aficionado - with Oscar Salto Acevedo (13th September, 2017)

Oscar has been a lifelong Rayo fan, and is @salto_acevedo on Twitter - give him a follow!

A bit about yourself and your background

My name is Oscar, I am 37 years old. I am married thanks to the promotion - of the last promotion - to La Liga and the celebration that we had. I am the father of two twin girls who do not know who Cristiano, Messi or Griezmann are.

We carry rayismo in our DNA.



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

I have been a fan of Rayo for more than 30 years, specifically since 1984, because of my grandfather's heritage.

Describe your first visit ever to Vallecas and the stadium? How would you describe the fans in the stadium, and how intimidating is the stadium for opposition fans and players?

My first time in the stadium was a long time ago - I think it was against Valencia C.F who at that time competed in the second division. The stadium was a "pass" mark, as the phrase says: this is Vallekas and here you…

Michu - the pre-Swansea story, and the post-EPL impact (12th September, 2017)

The picture of Sandoval's star player hung dangerously in his office. He was the face of a Rayo Vallecano side that was poor but proud - hardworking, humble, hungry, hopeful.

Miguel Pérez Cuesta, the player that no one had ever paid for and no one had heard of, was the highest scoring midfielder in La Liga with 15 goals.

Michu was born and raised in the proud confines of the city of Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. A city known for being the birthplace of Fernando Alonso and Juan Mata, for the University of Oviedo - whose list of graduates include Sid Lowe - and for its unwavering dedication to art, culture, and dance.

Michu debuted in 2003 - at the age of 17 - and played for Real Oviedo for four years, a club he saw move from the Tercera to the Segunda B and back again. He was the main player, the fulcrum of the team. Unfortunately, the club’s main concern was not how they were playing, but rather if they were playing. With financial problems and a relegation to the fourth tier, M…