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Jerez, Hoddle and a British takeover

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Phil Minshull | 12:40 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

The top flight of Spanish football may now be devoid of any British influence after the return of Jermaine Pennant, loaned to Stoke during the summer after his unhappy season at Zaragoza, but further down the divisions in Spain the Union Jack and St George's Cross are flying high.

Jerez Industrial, not a name many football fans will be familiar with even if they have a penchant for sherry, are currently in contention for the promotion play-offs from their group in the Spanish fourth division with a team consisting mainly of English players.

Goalkeeper Daniel Harford is Welsh, midfielder Lee Lynch - a former West Brom reserve - hails from Limerick, while defender Sean McCashin is a Northern Ireland Under-19 international. There are also a couple of Spaniards as well as a Portuguese midfielder - Adriano Moke, who was once on Nottingham Forest's books - but 19 of the current 25-man squad are English.

This is clearly no ex-pat pub team but a serious professional outfit with the majority of players aged 20 or under, all hoping to develop their game further and attract the interest of a bigger club in England, Spain or anywhere else for that matter.

Glenn Hoddle (right) gives instructions to Ryan Burge

Glenn Hoddle (right) gives instructions to star player Ryan Burge. Photo: Reuters

In fact, the entire squad - with the exception of Spanish striker Alberto Valtierra Martín, who, at 25, is the senior pro and the only surviving member of the squad from the start of last season - are members of the Glenn Hoddle Academy on a full scholarship.

Hoddle, who runs his academy in nearby Montecastillo, got involved with Jerez Industrial last March when he stepped in to loan the ailing club, then in the Spanish third tier, the Segunda B, a handful of players to give his lads some competitive opportunities that were missing at his live-in facility in Andalusia.

It didn't stop Jerez Industrial, who celebrate their 60th anniversary next year and who once reached the heights of the second division back in 1968, getting relegated.

But Hoddle, the former England boss, then got more involved over the summer and added a financial loan to the physical one, providing £160,000 so that the club could pay players' outstanding wages as well as clear other debts and stave off bankruptcy. It meant that the old president and board of directors exited in July, allowing Hoddle-approved officials to replace them.

The team has gone from strength to strength since then. After their 2-0 win over mid-table Mairena on Sunday, with the goals coming from former Oxford United striker Alex Fisher and Spanish midfielder Juanse Pegalajar, Jerez Industrial are only one point and one place behind division leaders Pozoblanco.

Hoddle does not sit on the bench during matches. Instead, he acts as a director of football while his Academy coaches, former England internationals Graham Rix and Dave Beasant plus Liverpool and Rangers midfielder Nigel Spackman, direct two games at a time with help from Spanish trainer Enrique Caballero.

The current star of the side is midfielder Ryan Burge, at 22 the second oldest member of the squad after Valtierra. As a talented teenager, Burge was offered contracts by both Manchester City and Manchester United when he was 15 but opted to stay closer to his Cheltenham home, eventually signing a professional deal with Birmingham City at 17.

Things did not work out at St Andrews, resulting in Burge spending stints at Barnet and in Japan before being handpicked by Hoddle and given the opportunity to re-ignite his career at the Academy.

But how have supporters of Jerez Industrial taken to their new-look side?

Having a young David Beckham or Michael Owen at your club might be one thing - both were England internationals at the age of 21 before adding to their reputations at Real Madrid - but having a team imposed upon you that is comprised of players who did not quite make the grade in England and who are looking for a second chance elsewhere, well, that is quite another.

Glenn Hoddle

Hoddle's goal is to get one of his players into a La Liga or Premier League team. Photo: Reuters

Reaction has been generally positive according to odd-man-out Valtierra Martin, although it is not difficult to detect an element of resentment from some quarters if you sift through the local media.

As Martin himself acknowledged in a recent interview: "The supporters are grateful for Glenn and the new players because they saved the club. I sometimes feel like I am in England when we train but it is no problem. On the pitch, we are all the same."

Hoddle has different targets and objectives to Jerez Industrial's long-suffering supporters - and that may ultimately cause some problems. "To get them promoted would be great but our ultimate goal remains getting a player at a La Liga team or a Premier League team playing regularly for them," Hoddle has said.

And should Jerez Industrial get promoted, would Hoddle sign other players to bolster the side, thereby denying his own Academy prospects opportunities?

Jerez has always had a link to Britain, dating back to the 18th century, when wine merchants were looking for an alternative to French wine. The names of Sandeman, Harveys and Williams are still to be seen on signs all around the area. Now locals are becoming familiar with the names of Fisher, Burge and, from a different vintage, Hoddle.


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