La Liga: A new era but the same chaotic Real Betis

“Real Betis have decided to bring [insert name] tenure in charge of the first team to an end,” is one of the most used statements by the Sevilla club in recent years. This weekend it was used again, this time with the name Gustavo Poyet.

On Wednesday the Real Betis supporters issued an ultimatum: “Either Poyet goes or we do” as they vowed to boycott all home game until the manager was sacked. On Saturday he was.

In June the barrio of Heliópolis in the south parts of Sevilla was filling with hope. This was going to be the season in which Real Betis got back on track. With Miguel Torrecilla as their new sporting director, they had an exciting new project on the horizon, they were going to fight for Europe and might even get some stability in a club that for the last decade had been shaking.

That was the idea, the hope and the belief but it would not prove to be the reality.

Torrecilla had previously done wonders at Celta de Vigo, where during his six years at the club, he had taken them from the Spanish second division to Europe. A revered figure in Sporting Director circles, now Torrecilla was going to do the same with Betis. Though with a smaller time-frame because Betis didn’t want to wait for six years, they wanted Europe now.

Appointing Gus Poyet was his first move and it was followed by a few interesting player signings with Aïssa Mandi, Felipe Gutierrez and Tony Sanabria standing out. The fans were loving it so much that they chanted their new Sporting Director’s name during pre-season.

Four months in, that excitement is long gone. Betis are 14th in the table having picked up only 11 points in 11 games. Gus Poyet has, finally, been fired after ranking up a long list of negative records.

This was going to be the season in which Real Betis changed. It was going to be a new Betis, but instead, it’s just continued to be very much the same chaotic Real Betis.

Chaotic. That’s probably the best word to describe how it’s been at Real Betis in recent years. Football wise it’s been a rollercoaster. Since 2009, they’ve been relegated to Segunda A twice but have also played Europa League football. Watching Real Betis in recent years has, in lack of better words, been comical: goal posts, missed penalties, a wave of cards and a growing injury list – Real Betis have long run out of luck.

But the football is just a small part of the chaotic environment surrounding the club, where scandals off the pitch have succeeded each other, so have the lawsuits. Since the ex-president Manuel Ruiz de Lopera was formally indicted for fraud in 2010, it’s been nearly impossible to keep track on who is running the club.

Current President Angel Haro is the club’s seventh in only six years and he first took on the role after previously declaring he didn’t want it. While new sporting director, Miguel Torrecilla, is too the seventh in six years on his position at the club.

Still the position with least continuity in the club is the coach. In the entire history of Real Betis it’s difficult to find coaches that lasted longer than one or two years and in recent years there has only been three: Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, Victor Fernandez and Pepe Mel. All having had two terms on the Verdiblanco bench.

Serra was the one who did it the best. Taking charge for the first time in 1994, with Betis in Segunda Division, he won promotion in his first season, while reaching a sensational third place in La Liga during his second. In 1996-97 they would finish fourth in the table and reach the final of the Copa del Rey. Following his departure in 1997, the club would again suffer instability leading to relegation in 2000.

As Serra returned to the bench in 2004-05 Real Betis would reach one of their best ever season’s as they finished fourth in the league, qualified for the Champions League and won the Copa del Rey, for only the second time in club history.

While Victor Fernandez sat on the bench for two rather mediocre years, in-between Serra’s two terms at the club, in 2002-04 and later returned for a six months period in 2010.

Pepe Mel however is a complete other story. He’s been the one brining the little sunshine the club experienced in recent years. He’s rescued them twice, resuscitating them twice but he’s also got the boot twice, leaving the Benito Villamarín in tears.

Mel was the top scorer when Betis won promotion to the first division in 1989-90. He first became the club’s manager in 2010. At the time the the team was in the second division with one player declaring they were as good as “dead”. It changed under Mel, he took them back to the first division and a year later they qualified for Europe.

However it would not last. He didn’t see eye to eye with sporting director Vlada Stosic and key players were sold or went injured. Everything that could go wrong did and Betis was once again heading towards relegation. After three and a half years in charge, Mel was sacked only fifteen weeks into the 2013-14 season.

385 days later, he was back.

With Pepe Mel back in charge Betis won promotion again, but history would repeat itself. Only this time it went faster and by January 2016, Mel left Betis in tears.

The only continuity at Real Betis is there fans, the most loyal football supporters in Spain. Over the last two years they’ve only get to enjoy 12 victories at Benito Vilamarín.

In the end even the most loyal fans got sick of it. “Either Poyet goes or we do” they said. So Poyet went.

Talking to Deportes Cuatro after his sacking, Poyet seemed more relived than anything, saying that “Everything was made difficult from the start” as people at the club was very “divided” and “negative”.

Now Víctor Sánchez del Amo has been appointed to take his place, how long he last only time will tell.


Read more from Alexandra here
Follow Alexandra at @AlexandraJonson


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