At 90 minutes, when the pitch invasion started, Córdoba were staying in the Segunda Division for another year as they trailed Las Palmas 1-0 in the play-off that would send the winner to the top flight for the 2014/15 season.
At 99 minutes, when order had been restored, Córdoba were heading to the big league as Uli Davila tapped in an away goal that made history; for the first time in 42 years the club from Andalusia would be among football’s elite.
Euphoria was the emotion that swept through the south of Spain. Albert Ferrer, the man who worked the miracle told Canal Plus:
It was an incredible way to finish the game. You always have faith that in the very last move, you can grab something. We had the luck that we’ve lacked at other times. Today it’s been the reverse. Behind all this there’s been a huge amount of work.
Things were looking up and so were Córdoba.
Now, though, the situation is very different. The mood is bleak and the atmosphere is ugly as the rigours of the Primera are proving to be too difficult for los Blanquiverdes to cope with. Nine straight defeats, which is their worst run of form by some distance this term, and on to a third manager.
They’re adrift at the bottom of the table, suffocating with 18 points and just three wins with 10 games left. They’re down and will soon be out.
Their sorry and chaotic season was reflected perfectly in last weekend’s defeat to Real Sociedad, their 16th of the campaign. In parts, some sympathy can be shown to Córdoba, they’ve tried and simply not been good enough, but some of the decisions taken from the top of the hierarchy, with the intention of taking the club forward, have been more detrimental than helpful.
Against la Real, despite taking the lead and showing signs of brightness, they were second best and in the end suffered a now expected capitulation, losing 3-1 and three players too. When chances are presented to Córdoba, the quality isn’t there to grasp them by the scruff of the neck, no sangre fria.
At the other end the decision-making and actions in defence remain baffling, throwing pressure on themselves which they can’t handle and being punished. Ending the game with eight men was embarrassing, a lack of discipline is seeping through the side and it’s evident there’s also a lack of belief among the players. And it’s no surprise given the number of managerial changes.
Even though Ferrer was afforded the opportunity to bring in 12 players – with seven being shown the exit – in the off-season, patience hasn’t been on the agenda of a club that ironically needed almost 100 minutes in the second leg of their play-off to get to Spain’s top tier in the first place.
The optimism with which los Califas started the season very quickly dissipated with no win in eight straight jornadas. It cost Ferrer his job. In those eight matches they picked up four points but considering they took on Real Madrid and Valencia away while they entertained Celta Vigo, Sevilla and Malaga at Nuevo Arcangel, it wasn’t fair by any means.
Ferrer, an honest, intelligent man, schooled by Barcelona to play football by being positive, stood by his philosophy and was let down by those above him. It wasn’t as if Córdoba were utterly terrible, they endured a tough start, trying to come through it the way the manager believed was best – with the ball.
Once they lost by the odd goal, twice by two and once by three. Surely, with more time and experience of the division, the cohesion would improve, game-plans would be executed better and results would therefore arrive.
Córdoba’s loss is Sky Sports’ gain though. ‘Chapi’, a pundit on Revista De La Liga, constantly displays his wealth of knowledge of the game and is a delight to listen to.
His successor was Miroslav Đukić, a man with a point to prove after being sacked by Valencia the season before. A much less charismatic character than Ferrer, one who demands huevos – and loads of them. Appointing someone with a tough personality was understandable; the shock of losing the manager who achieved promotion so early needed to be eradicated and Đukić’s hard-line approach had potential to make the team solid.
The Serbian initially seemed to galvanise the players, squeezing what he could out of them. They looked better, tougher to beat and more threatening with Fede Cartabia and Nabil Ghilas in particular hitting some form during the middle of the campaign.
In his first eight games they picked up nine points, including their first win against Athletic Club, then another against Granada. Four more points would follow but then came the eight-game run of losses that saw him get the sack. Đukić finished with 13 points from 17 matches.
Towards the end of that stretch of games, Córdoba’s impotency in attack, dwindling creativity, lack of energy and carelessness in defence was enough to show there was no way back; they needed to build momentum, instead others were stretching their advantage on them.
During his farewell press conference, Đukić said:
When we first arrived we always knew it would be a difficult challenge. For a time we managed to revive the team, get wins and escape from the relegation zone. We even improved the play of the team and competed well, but in key moments we didn’t have the luck we needed, because we weren’t winning games we’d played well in, or we lost them. That’s discouraging for the team and dwindles confidence. It made the team anxious and nervous. We competed well, but weren’t getting the results.
Again, what did sacking Đukić achieve? It’s another hasty move that makes little sense. Sure, it would be difficult for the ex-Real Valladolid coach to continue beyond this season but when confidence is low, and the team is bereft of belief or soul, appointing Jose Antonio Romero seems to be the final act of acceptance that Córdoba will be playing in the Segunda come August. Like Đukić said, not what the supporters deserve.
Córdoba have become slightly better as the season has progressed but the same problems that haunted them when the campaign was young are still doing so now. If Romero’s 10 matches in charge see them making the same mistakes and slip further away, will he too be given the boot when the time is deemed right?
Bad management has cost Córdoba dearly; on the pitch there hasn’t been the determination and organisation to escape from the relegation zone for long enough that, say, Eibar or Elche have.
Least wins and most defeats, a troublesome combination. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Córdoba at the bottom or Barcelona at the top; winning home games is pivotal and Córdoba have only managed nine points at Nuevo Arcangel. A few players have stood out, mainly the aforementioned Cartabia and Ghilas who offered some, all too brief, hope of survival.
The reliance has been too much for the duo to handle despite their best efforts and, unlike Jonathas at Elche for example, they just don’t have something extra that could see them individually drag the Andaluz side out of this mess.
Córdoba have taken many hits over the course of 28 jornadas but unlike those fighting above them, their fate is nearly sealed. They have thrown in the towel.