After the summer it’s almost time to kick off the 2016/17 season. Although football never really went away this summer, the qualifying rounds for UEFA’s club competitions were already well underway by the time the curtain came down on Euro 2016.
I’m currently back home in Northern Ireland, where the domestic season is due to kick off this weekend. Well, unless, like me, you were looking forward to the Coleraine v Portadown fixture which has been cancelled due to Portadown being suspended from football for failing to pay a fine. A proper ‘Only in the Irish League’ situation. I’ve got a month’s worth of Coleraine fixtures before I return to Spain, including what will be my first trip to the completely refurbished Windsor Park next Wednesday.
I have been busy on the travel planning front since the La Liga fixtures were announced in mid-July and I’m delighted to say that my first trip of the new season will be to the historic city of Córdoba on the first weekend of September, where I’ll be of course visiting the historic Mezquita, as well as taking in Córdoba v Lugo.
In the short-term, my football travel plans are going to mainly see me staying in Andalucía, I’m looking forward to seeing Sevilla and Betis a bit more often, particularly the former with Jorge Sampaoli in charge. I still have enough to see in Málaga to merit a return visit, while Granada is a city which needs to be crossed off my ‘must-see’ list, even before the announcement of Paco Jemez as coach of their team. Although it’s one of the longer journeys I would have to make, I’m very keen to see Almeria as well.
Closer to home, promotion for Cadiz and Sevilla Atletico (Sevilla’s B team) means Segunda (or La Liga 2 as it’s recently been rebranded) football and the opportunity to see a couple of bigger teams (already pencilled in the dates of Real Oviedo’s visits), but also rules out two easily accessible opportunities to see Recreativo play away. Ah yes, good old Recre, who have managed to survive the summer despite much financial uncertainty and will once again be playing Segunda B football. I’m planning on getting a season ticket this year, the first time I’ll have ever owned one for a club other than Coleraine, quite the milestone in my football supporting life.
Looking ahead into 2017, Gibraltar remains on my wish-list, particularly after reading in a recent issue of FourFourTwo how their league is played entirely in one stadium with matches staggered over a weekend. The Gibraltar national team plays their games in Faro, not too far across the Portuguese border from Huelva, so I’m interested in seeing one of them, while also hoping the Spanish FA bring one of their qualifiers to a relatively local ground. In terms of bigger trips, I have unfinished business in Barcelona, two previous visits haven’t been enough to see everything and I’m currently thinking about making it my big trip for the Easter holidays.
As for this blog, well I’m going to aim for fort nightly posts, most likely alternating between my most recent trips and my favourites from the past. There’s a great big world of football out there, I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!