For Birmingham fans, there’s a different kind of “Pep” in town. While the Guardiola train plots its path to Premier League glory again in Manchester, (or may be not after this weekend!), it’s Pep Clotet navigating the challenges of the Championship at St. Andrews.
The pair form a group of four Spaniards currently managing in English football’s top two divisions. Collectively they’ve overseen some of their homeland’s top talent make the trip across the channel to ply their trade in England. And here we check out the Championship’s finest Spanish exports.
“Pablo Hernández baló” by Juan Fernández (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Probably the best-known Spanish player in the Championship is veteran Pablo Hernandez. His star rose at Valencia where he went from youth product to first-team player. He established himself in 2009 when he scored a wonderful goal against Barcelona at the Mestalla in an enthralling 2-2 draw. It might have been a year of transition for the great Catalan club, a little like this season, which has seen La Liga betting balk at the club’s indifferent away form, but it was a night to remember for Hernandez. He’d successfully ousted the fading Joaquin and become a Valencia regular.
His move to England came when Swansea spent a club-record £5.55 million in 2012, but it has been his time at current club Leeds that has cemented his status as a reliable journeyman with goalscoring potential. Last year he helped the West Yorkshire club into the play-offs and made the coveted PFA Team of the Year.
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Blues fans have warmed to Alvaro Gimenez after he arrived at the club in the summer as their eighth signing. The striker, who announced himself with a lovely goal against Barnsley, having deftly controlled Steve Seddon’s sublime pass and dinked the ball over Sami Radlinger’s flailing arms, has looked at home in English football.
The 28-year-old striker enjoyed a stellar year last season with 20 goals for Almeria in Spanish football’s second tier and has an Under-17 national team cap to his name. Gimenez has shown an ability to get in behind defences, strong attributes in the air, clever movement in and around the box, and accuracy when shooting. The new formation used against Boro on Friday, will hopefully allow him more space. While he has only scored once this season, he promises to be a good addition and I’m sure he will score plenty for us.
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Norwich City knows all about Sergi Canós. And it isn’t just because he once played for them. Leading into last year’s league title race, it was his goal that inspired Brentford to victory over Leeds United, leaving the Canaries on the brink of promotion. The Spaniard has an uncanny knack of scoring crucial goals. It’s what you expect from a graduate of Barcelona’s La Masia.
He’s shown plenty of fight during his time in English football. He hasn’t let failure at Liverpool – a club he joined as a 16-year-old – deter him despite the bittersweet memories. Similarly, after a frustrating time at Norwich, he seemed to find a spiritual home at Brentford where he quickly found his goalscoring touch. Last season, having lost and then won back his starting place, the pacey attacker managed a career-high 50 appearances (including emergency injury cover at wing-back), netting nine times.
The Spanish contingent in the Premier League – both on the pitch and in the dugout – might be getting more TV time but there’s plenty of talent in the Championship too. It isn’t as if we needed any further proof of Spain’s rich footballing heritage, but Hernandez, Gimenez and Canos underline just how deep the country’s talent pool is.