The first half of the 2019/20 season was a miserable one in the Galician city of A Coruña.
Once the city had a football team that was the toast of Spain and even Europe. Champions of Spain 20 years ago, twice winners of the Copa del Rey, regular participants in the Champions League, SuperDepor were one of the teams of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Fast forward to the end of 2019 and things were very different. Depor were rooted to the foot of the Segunda Division, facing the very real possibility of relegation to the third tier.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way though. In June of last year, a packed-out Estadio Riazor cheered their heroes as they defeated Real Mallorca 2-0 in the first leg of the play-off final. Everything that has happened since then is like a bad dream that the club has been unable to wake up from.
The second leg saw the lead squandered and promotion slipped through their fingers. Key players left and weren’t adequately replaced, new manager Juan Antonio Anquela won only one of his ten matches in charge before being fired. His replacement, Luis César, fared no better, only winning one of 11 games (ironically his last one) and to widespread disgust from fans, the club had changed the home shirt from their iconic vertical blue and white stripes to a hooped design.
Institutionally the club has been in disarray as well, with the entire board resigning earlier in the campaign and negotiations ongoing to try and manage the club’s debts which currently stand somewhere in the region of €80 million, a figure which could put the club’s very existence at risk should they suffer relegation.
After such a traumatic six months, 2020 has been all change at the Riazor, but it has a largely familiar feel to it. In as coach is Fernando Vazquez, returning for a second spell in the hot seat having guided them to promotion in 2013/14 before being sacked in the summer over disagreements with the board over the club’s transfer policy. Vazquez is unlikely to be a long-term solution but he brings experience and most importantly, knows the Club.
And if there’s one thing they need, it’s a steady hand at the wheel. Since Vazquez departed in 2014, ten managers have come and gone with only one, Victor Sánchez del Amo, making it through a full season. The first move Depor made in the transfer market was aka pleasingly retro one, bringing back fans’ favourite Emre Çolak. The Turkish midfielder was a cult hero in his first spell at the Riazor and certainly made an impact on his return, scoring the vital goal in a win over Racing Santander and jumping into the stands to celebrate, earning himself a second booking in the process. Other transfer targets include Celso Borges and Pablo Insua, both of whom would also be returning for second spells at the Riazor.
That game against Racing was notable for one other thing – the return of the stripes! Given the poor showing in the first half of the season, plenty of people had dubbed the hooped shirts as cursed. They never clicked with the supporters, with plenty complaining, with good reason, that with the change the club had surrendered part of their identity. Even so, nobody expected the announcement earlier this week that the club had asked La Liga for approval to change home kit mid-season and it had been accepted.
That meant it was a much more familiar-looking Depor that clinched the victory against Racing, their third win in a row, to finally move off the bottom and to within two points of escaping the relegation zone.
A few weeks ago all looked lost, and there’s still a long way to go, but Depor are finally moving in the right direction.