BIGG BOOTS TO FILL FOR JIMMY

Martin’s happy to play the con­ti­nen­tal way

The Non-League Football Paper - - NEWS - By Hugo Var­ley

SPAR­TAN South Mid­land Premier side Big­gleswade United are un­der­go­ing some­thing of a trans­for­ma­tion.

Af­ter three sea­sons at the helm, Spanish head coach Cris­tian Co­las left Sec­ond Meadow to take the man­ager’s job at Staines Town and was re­placed by 28-year-old Jimmy Martin.

But de­spite hav­ing been brought up with dif­fer­ent philoso­phies and coach­ing meth­ods, Martin has con­tin­ued to im­ple­ment the con­ti­nen­tal style the play­ers have be­come ac­cus­tomed to from the man af­fec­tion­ately known as “the Pep Guardi­ola of Non-League foot­ball”.

The man with the job of over­see­ing Martin’s tran­si­tion is Spanish author, jour­nal­ist and pun­dit Guillem Balague, who com­bines his job as a pun­dit for Sky

Sports with the role of Di­rec­tor of Foot­ball at Big­gleswade.

“It was cer­tainly dif­fi­cult to see Cris­tian leave be­cause we had grown re­ally close over the past three years,” Balague told The

NLP. “Cris­tian laid some bril­liant foun­da­tions at the club, both in de­vel­op­ing an at­trac­tive style of and in terms of his be­hav­iour to ref­er­ees, the board and the sup­port­ers.

“Af­ter what he achieved here it came as no sur­prise to me that he at­tracted plenty of in­ter­est from clubs higher up the pyra­mid.”

Since Balague was ap­pointed in 2014, af­ter re­ceiv­ing an email out of the blue from for­mer chair­man Chris Lewis, the Bed­ford­shire club have con­sis­tently im­proved on their league po­si­tion­ing, cul­mi­nat­ing in a eighth place fin­ish last sea­son, although an al­lu­sive pro­mo­tion to Step 4 has so far proven just out of reach.

“I came in with an idea of tak­ing the club for­ward but first of all we needed cre­ate a level of sta­bil­ity,” Balague added.

“Ideally we would like to push into the top five or six in the divi­sion now but I am proud with how the club has de­vel­oped over the past few years, for ex­am­ple we now have 18 dif­fer­ent teams, in­clud­ing women’s teams.

“When Cris­tian left I was pre­sented with a very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion over whom to re­place him with but I was im­me­di­ately struck by Jimmy’s pas­sion and his level of ma­tu­rity.

Phi­los­o­phy

”We also de­cided to bring in a young coach called Emilio Gu­tier­rez to as­sist Jimmy, who has a great method­ol­ogy when it comes to de­vel­op­ing foot­balling strat­egy.” Martin spent a num­ber of years coach­ing at Steve­nage Bor­ough, orig­i­nally work­ing within the club’s com­mu­nity foun­da­tion be­fore pro­gress­foot­ball ing to the acad­emy.

He added: “Although it has only been a few months, mov­ing into first team man­age­ment has been an ab­so­lutely bril­liant ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I’ve got a lot of older play­ers in the squad, which has been mas­sively help­ful. I am not afraid to say that I haven’t got all of the an­swers and I do some­times lean on them for as­sis­tance.”

United are cur­rently mid-ta­ble in the Premier divi­sion and the new boss is hope­ful that his play­ers can build mo­men­tum as the sea­son pro­gresses.

“We have started well and although not all of the re­sults have gone in our favour, we have com­peted in ev­ery game” Martin added.

“We have tried to keep a sim­i­lar phi­los­o­phy to last sea­son, with re­gards to play­ing at­trac­tive, pos­i­tive and free-flow­ing foot­ball.

“The club is full of fan­tas­tic vol­un­teers and both the chair­man and Guillem have been re­ally bril­liant in help­ing me to set­tle in, so hope­fully we can re­ward them by get­ting some re­sults on the pitch.”

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