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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

International News

Just to prove there's light at the end of the tunnel, we can report that Charlton's twin club in Spain, Valladolid, well twin at far as I'm concerned, have appeared to have turned the corner after three depressing years in Division 2 and are currently enjoying some success.

To re-tell the mordid story - which does have several similarities with Charlton's - after 25 odd years of Primera 1 mid-table mediocrity the chairman, Carlos Suarez, decided in 2003 that manager Javi Mores' rather successful trick of getting players in on loan for a season to make the most of a small budget was not what he wanted and hired a New Man. The replacement was Fernando Vazquez, at one time talked about as Ferguson's replacement at Manure but now enjoying life at Celta Vigo.

Vazquez invested all in a young forward from Salamanca, Makukula, and after having a disastrous start to the season including a 7-2 defeat at the Berniebow appeared to have the answer as they reached 10th place in the table until Makukula got injured at Christmas and a terminal decline set in. Sounds familar doesn't it and only 2 wins in the next 16 games meant relegation to the Segunda Division and Vazquez was promptly sacked.

There followed 3 more managers, Kresic, Alonso and Merino in the next 2 years of life in the middle of Division Two before Jose Luis Mendilibar arrived in the summer of 2006. He had been in charge of Primera 1 giants Athletic Bilbao the previous season but only lasted 10 games before he was shown the door after only 1 win. Shades of Dowie, maybe.

Well, all has now changed at Valladolid. An astonishing 18 game unbeaten run, including three victories over Primera 1 teams in the Cup, started last October. Last weekend they beat the all-time club record that has stood for 60 years by going 14 league games without defeat that now puts them 4 points clear at the top of the table.

Into the last 16 of the Cup, tonight they take on Villareal, the team that faced Arsenal in last season Champions League semi-finals. To make sure that not too many big teams suffer giant-killing in Spain all the rounds here are two leg affairs so tonights game forms the second leg. Valladolid won the first leg 2-1 a week ago but have never won in Villareal. Will they make 19 games unbeaten? If anyone's interested, I'll let you know tomorrow.

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