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La perspectiva de Santutxu - with Thomas Sargent (2nd September, 2017)

Thomas is the founder of bilbaogroundguide.wordpress.com - a blog dedicated to the stadiums in the Bilbao (and surrounding) regions.

You can follow Thomas himself on Twitter: @nousrembobinons

A bit about yourself and your background

I'm Thomas Sargent, I'm 31 and I'm originally from Ingoldmells in Lincolnshire. I am a Grimsby Town supporter but I have had the good fortune to live abroad in France, Ireland and the Basque Country where I have been able to follow some other sides.

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

I first went to a Santutxu game in the 2015/16 season when I first moved to Bilbao. Santutxu is the area of Bilbao I found a place to live and so I decided to support them as they were in the Spanish league's fourth tier.

Describe your first experience of watching Santutxu play?

I thought, during that first game, "oh dear, I've chosen the only long ball team in the Spanish league to support".

To an outsider - how would you describe Santutxu's playing style, what it means to be a fan of the club, and what it means to be a player of the club?

The style of play can be agricultural at times. Quite a few long balls but when they get it on the deck they can play decent stuff. They are a very solid team. I've never seen them get absolutely thrashed - Marquitos, the manager, has built from the back and so they are always in with a chance.

For me, to be a Santutxu supporter, has simply been a way to meet some new people, enjoy my weekly football fix I'd otherwise be missing out on and travel around the Basque Country (all of the matches are within the Basque Country).

I think some players are hoping to use Santutxu as a stepping stone to a higher level. Some players are happy playing at that level for a central club in Bilbao and others, like Asier Ormazábal, have already had good careers and have come back home to where it all started for them.

Describe the importance and significance of a game against a rival? What do you think would be the key differences between a Santutxu fan and a fan of those clubs?

Santutxu don't really have any rivals. The dominance of Athletic Club resigns most other teams in Bilbao to being part of the grand 'cantera' meaning that basically they are a club just looking to give players a chance to improve and move on to the next level if they can whilst maintaining their Tercera División status.

Most supporters at this level do it because they love the sport and everything that goes with it - like non-league in England.

There was a time when Santutxu were in the fifth tier of Spanish football. However, it has since "consolidated" itself in the Tercera, apart from last season perhaps. How would you describe the last few seasons for Santutxu fans?

The 2015-16 where we nearly made the play-offs was brilliant. Last season was nerve-wrecking but we survived in the end thanks to a strong run in, Amorebieta pulling their fingers out in Segunda B and CD Vitoria getting promoted. Convoluted but we got there.

What is your opinion on the utilization of the youth teams? How would you rate the opportunities that youth players get in the first team?

Santutxu's youth system - bearing in mind they have to compete with Athletic Club - is second to none. Last season they won the Basque Cup and the year before were league champions, ahead of Athletic. Young lads are regularly promoted to the first team and borrowed during injury crises. Iñaki Varela, who came from the youth team last season, was excellent during the 2016-17 season.

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

I cannot say a bad word about the board. They have been fantastic with me on a personal level - allowing me to travel with the team, inviting me to club dinners, giving my friends who have come to visit free passes to games and much more. They board are aware of the limitations and happy to see players progress from the local area.

What is the most famous ultra group at Santutxu? How would you describe them and their political affiliations?

This questions is not applicable as they do not exist. If 150 people turn up to a match everyone is pretty chuffed!

What is the feeling of fans of Santutxu and of other clubs towards them? How would you characterize the Santutxu board's support to them?

There is not animosity between clubs at this level in the Spanish league and more so in Bizkaia as everyone is really a supporter of Athletic Club so each clubs knows its place.

How would you contrast the "Santutxu fan experience" under the current board?

There is no fan experience. It's like watching non-league. A game of football with your mates and you can sit or stand where you want.

Your thoughts on the season ahead?

Staying up in the clubs centenary year would be marvelous!

A huge thanks to Thomas for taking the time to do this!

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