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A Brit Abroad


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I handed over my "free cabin bag" to the airport worked clad all in red, there was a Swissport logo on his hi-vis jacket, they must be the nominated handling agent. Ryanair said their flights to Palma should only cost £9.99 but such was the gap between the Skype interview and starting in my new job that I was fleeced nearly £300 for my flight from Edinburgh. Only a week had passed since I clicked the green button on my laptop and entered into a prolonged, translated interview with Monti Galmes. Eighty-nine minutes later he offered me the job as head coach of RCD Mallorca. I mean, I only put an application in as a bet after a few pints in The Albert.

In the seven days since that internet chat I had done a little bit of reading into Spanish football. Aside from the odd game on Sky Sports I didn't really have much of a clue about the sport on the continent. I was only interested in helping out Kevin McBride manage the glorious Airdrieonians - that was before that drunken twitter rant, right enough, I had been cast off to coach the supporters' team before long. RCD Mallorca was to be found languishing in the lower reaches of the Segunda Division - rebranded as Liga 1|2|3 for this season alongside such names as Getafe, Levante, Rayo and Vallodolid. The club only entertained around 15,000 a week, which on an island with a population of 800,000 is fairly disappointing. Atletico Baleares are the only real rivals as they also play in Palma and there looked to be a long held grudge with Villarreal, although that hadn't reared its head since Mallorca were relegated in 2013. If nothing else, most Mallorcans were taken by the big two - Real and Barcelona - which was a shame, really.

The flight lasted just over three hours, something about a headwind the pilot said. I was never one for sleeping on flights, I always preferred plugging in a set of earphones and listening to a few albums. I gleaned over the new Strokes album and gave Ladyhawke a listen, although the latter wasn't overly to my taste. Most of my time was spent aimlessly staring at the safety card affixed to the garish yellow seat back a matter of inches away from my face. As the parking brake was applied and the chocks inserted, I rose from my seat and opened the overhead locker - carefully, though, as the stewardess said so (I think she was of Eastern European origin. Quite fit, though) but nothing came clattering down on my head as she had warned. I'd been through Palma Airport many times before but always as a tourist. I'd be heading to the same hotel I normally stayed at in Illetas just a few miles from the island's capital and the Iberostar Estadi. I sauntered through the terminal, past a few customs officers who nonchalantly waved me on without so much as a glance at my passport, and picked up my two bags - one checked in and the other free cabin bag that I parted with at the gate in Edinburgh. It was a stupid system but it meant there was more space in the overhead lockers. I glanced around as I emerged through the arrivals door and immediately saw the sign. "DAVIDSEN" it said, with an RCD Mallorca crest in the lower right hand corner. Good start.

The driver didn't say one word on the way to the hotel. I had stayed in the Bonanza Playa a fair few times before and I knew what to expect. A great view from the balcony across Palma bay, a nicely presented pool area and an English pub across the road. More importantly there was a multi-millionaire's paradise a few miles around the course where I could go and beg an oligarch to put some money into the club should things get harsh. The concierge took my luggage and I sat in the air-conditioned bar on the top floor. I ordered a San Miguel, just the one though as I had a meeting later in the day. The beer was cool and refreshing, I could easily get used to the taste. 

Mallorca was my kind of place. Not too hot in the summer, but warm enough in the winter; year round sapphire blue seas and not overly priced lager. 


Monti's limited English was fairly welcoming in the sense that my Spanish was even more limited. We managed to get through the meeting with some compromise, but my understanding was that my task was to give the fans something to cheer for and be competitive in the Liga 1|2|3 season. It was only a one year contract but there was scope to extend it should he be impressed enough. 

I was then shown to my office at the Iberostar. It was big, spacious and open. A sizeable desk and a tactics board on the wall. An Apple MacBook sat atop the table with a note saying "Bienvenido", I guess it meant hello. I sat in the chair and had a sigh, swung the seat around and looked out across Palma. It was a fairly sprawling metropolis and it was begging for a competitive football team. We'd lost the "Spanish holiday island" mantle in the past few seasons to Tenerife and Gran Canaria but I was confident that we could wrestle it back, given the chance. 

As I opened the new laptop and tried to settle into some work Javier Recio popped his head round the corner. He was effectively my boss on a technical level but he seemed to pander to me, offering me anything I wanted short of a sookie and a couple of E's - I mean Magaluf was only a fifteen minute taxi from the hotel where that was in bountiful supply, but still. It was a weird first meeting, I thought he should've been imposing but never mind. 

Then I met my assistant manager. Alfonso was his name. He was totally dismissive when I asked "Alfonso what?", replying "just Alfonso" - a weird guy, he'd progressed through the ranks since starting as an U19 coach upon retiring as a player from Betis. That meant my first order of business was giving my pal Ian Cathro a call. He was on the same A-license course as me (and Kris Boyd, but the less said about the better). Needless to say Cathro had his head in his laptop and I couldn't get a hold of him, his voicemail indicating that it was better to send him an email. I liked Ian but his inability to lift his head out of the popular Football Manager game was quite galling, even in his coaching role under Rafa Benitez at Newcastle. I composed a quick email telling him that he was welcome to an assistant manager here in Palma. He responded almost instantly with a quite condescending "Aye alright mate, enjoy yourself over there". Turns out email is his favoured method of communication as he was a stuttering mess at any other time. Rumour had it he'd text the Newcastle players instructions for the drill he was taking. w**k.  Anyway, there was no chance I was offering the role to pie-muncher Boyd and Stevie Findlay at Airdrie had already got a new job at Fauldhouse Juniors, so I decided to stick with Alfonso the weirdo. 

However, I did need someone that could translate for me as I met the team. Robert Sarver the American director was the only one kicking about the Iberostar so he would have to do. I tried to tell the ageing team that I thought we should be competitive and try to push for the play-offs. I have no idea if thats what Rob - thats what he told me to call him - said to them, but they seemed to agree with me. Among the squad of late twenty-somethings and early thirty-pensioners there was one guy that stood out, and that was Brandon Thomas. He was English, and the same age as me. A left winger to trade but also able to play up front, I'd found my boozing partner for Magaluf that night...

Rob appeared at my office ten minutes later and lobbed a set of keys at me, keys for a car. "Centro Porsche Baleares" was affixed in gold leaf on one side. "Enjoy that, kiddo, you can have it as long as you're here." he proclaimed. I looked into the car park and clicked the lock button - can never be too careful in this slum of Palma. Sure enough, the hazards on a red Porsche Carrera 4S Convertible flashed. Stunning. "Cheers, Rob thats far too much!" I said. "Don't worry about it," he replied in his grating mid-west American accent. "Swing past the boat later if you want" he added. I thought it wise not to add that I'd be hitting the Magaluf strip with wee Brandon.

As the clock struck 5pm I decided it was time to go back to the hotel and have a few beers. I finalised plans with Brandon - or Brands as he decided thats how he wanted to be known - he was going to meet me at the hotel at ten and we'd get a taxi round to Maga. I'd never been before, I was fairly excited. 


220px-Ian_Cathro.jpg                       brandon_thomas_mallorca.jpg

Laptop w**k                                                                                                                                                                          Good guy and knows where to get a score

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