Like most CD Tenerife football fans, midnight on 1st February was not greeted by me with the chime of the clock, but the slam of the transfer window closing. For my beloved Santa Cruz club it marked the start of the toughest phase of our return season in La Liga. Fans were still smarting from a lead thrown away in the previous days 3-1 home defeat to Zaragoza, just below us in the relegation zone. The solution of course was easy, go out and sign some new players, but in these days of administration and bankruptcy, pitting success against solvency is the toughest match of all.
In the end, the deadline passed quietly, we looked at Ronaldo and Rooney ““ that’s Sid Ronaldo of Basildon United, and Ricky Rooney of Trumpton reserves, but with a shrug and a look at the clubs 30 million euro debt, we decided to stick and not twist. The man with the unenviable task of balancing the books is President Miguel Concepcion. From the small Canary Island of La Palma, Miguel made his money in construction and is the boss and majority shareholder of Islas Airways. The shouts for new blood were loud after the Zaragoza defeat, but Miguel said all along there was no money to spend. Some football club presidents could expect major turbulence after clamping the purse shut so tight, but Miguel’s personal standing with the fans is still more or less in credit; he promised promotion last season ““ and delivered.
Looking forward, Miguel has also declared his intent to see CD Tenerife in a bigger all purpose stadium within 10 years. Plans have even been revealed for a 40,000 plus ground called Estadio del Atlantico, a short free kick away from the iconic Auditorium on the seafront. Alternatively, the current stadium (capacity 23,000) could be extended to 34,400; both ambitious plans that would require a team firmly established in the top flight.
Spanish football hasn’t had the high profile money problems of Portsmouth, Crystal Palace etc, but does share the big club’s tendency to over reach themselves financially. If a valuable lesson was needed, Tenerife need look no further than 2001 UEFA Cup finalists Alaves who have sunk down to the Segunda B Division (third tier of Spanish football) and desperately need 2.4 million euros to avoid folding before the end of this season.
One way to survive is to polish home grown nuggets, to sell on to bigger teams. San Isidro have just received a lifeline 300,000 euros for Barcelona scoring sensation Pedro, an Abades born forward who slipped through CD Tenerife’s net. It’s just as well that the Santa Cruz club have a great youth policy, the latest player to shine in the first team is speedy winger Omar. Currently trying to shake off a niggling injury, he is an inspiration for the future, but has already attracted admiring glances from bigger clubs.
Money coming into the club usually means talent going out, or dancing to the tune of the sponsors and television companies. It’s tough enough finding out more than 10 days in advance, when CD Tenerife will play – Saturday or Sunday- now there is a new twist. The Spanish FA have just approved one Monday night game a week to keep the television audience happy and CD Tenerife have been nudged forward a day for the Mallorca home game (new time 8pm), originally scheduled for Sunday 14 February. That’s a a real Valentine’s massacre for tradition, as the Monday is one of the biggest nights in the Santa Cruz Carnaval diary.
It’s not easy being a Tenerife fan, the hardcore, like the British based, Armada Sur, will always roar the team on, but the gamble of concentrating on reducing the debt, could see the fair weather fans drift away if results don’t improve. The players are going to have to dig deep for the rest of the season, but if we can finish just one place above relegation, Miguel will be hailed as a genius.