Sevilla lose grip on top spot but Pablo Machín is confounding expectations | Sid Lowe

For the second time this season Sevilla have been knocked off the La Liga summit … but that might not be the end of the story

“Given the choice between a tractor and football, it was an easy decision.” No one in his family of farmers liked football and Gómara – population then 752, population now 310 – was a town without a team, but Pablo Machín had other ideas. This wasn’t among them, mind you. A defender whose career was ended by a torn cruciate, he hadn’t got very far – Spain’s regionalised third tier was the highest level he played – and although he took his coaching badges while doing social work in lieu of military service, the first team he coached was a school team and he qualified as a teacher instead because there was no way he’d make it. The team he coaches now began this weekend as the best in the whole of Spain.

Machín is only 43, which makes it sound like it all happened fast; it feels like it has happened fast too, not least because it is only four years since he left the province of Soria where Gómara stands exposed on the plane, and one and a half since he made his primera debut, but it hasn’t really. It’s 20 years since that knee injury. He worked as an analyst, goalkeeper coach and assistant and although he finally managed Numancia, his team, he departed in tears, the atmosphere bitter, and fearing it was over. When someone finally called, it was a club in administration and on the verge of relegation. He, meanwhile, was alone: the day he won his first game, he celebrated by going to the cinema, one of two men sitting silently in the dark.

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via Football | The Guardian