It has been a tough year for the Yellow Submarine. Preparation and planning (signings) of the season didn't pan out. A tough UEFA Champions League group, rash of injuries early on in the season and some questionable coaching meant a really slow start.
But this wasn't the first slow start in the 13-year Primera history of Villarreal. What is different this year is that they continued on the same trajectory through the season. There is one game left and the team needs one point to ensure safety. In the past, getting a point off of Atlético Madrid at home wasn't a herculean task. But this year everything is so different.
I am nervous. So are a lot of our fans in Vila-real, Spain and around the world.
Over the past few days I have been reflecting over the yester-years of the Submarine. Remembered how I started following this team and all the ups and downs in all these years.
2003-04 UEFA Cup. I was in India at that time. There was La Liga coverage on TV but it was confined mostly to the games of Real Madrid and Barcelona (surprise!). However, the UEFA cup was on a different channel. The Cup format meant that they showed games featuring a variety of teams. The Submarine made a run to the semi-finals that year. So they were on TV a lot. That is when I started paying attention to them casually at first but as they marched on in the tournament I got more and more curious and interested.
The Submarine reached the semifinals in that tournament. They lost narrowly to Valencia in the Semifinals. But they left an indeliable impression on me. Sonny Anderson, Jose Mari, Josico, Pepe Reina, Javi Venta, a young Riquelme to name a few. A small team who have been in the Primera for just 3-4 years made a deep run in one of the elite competitions of European football beating teams like Roma, Galatasaray and Celtic along the way.
If the 2003-04 was a joy to watch, it just got better in 04-05. Villarreal finished 4th and made it to group stage of the Champions League for the first time. I don't think I need to go over that much because everyone probably remembers that semifinal run vividly. It was pure joy watching "El Maestro" Riquelme direct the team. The team went from strength to strength and consolidated its position in the upper echelons of the Primera División. The team put the tiny town of Vila-real on the map of Europe.
And then came the season of 2011-12. All the early expectation and buzz after securing a place in the Champions League group stage evaporated quickly. I kept lowering my expectations after almost every game. It was not entirely about the results. There was something amiss this season. In the past I used to be reasonable confident that the team will make a run to get back into the top-half of the table. I rarely felt like that this season.
This season has also taught me to appreciate the successes of Villarreal in the past a lot more. Playing in Europe regularly and having success against the elite of Europe so difficult.
The team is at a critical juncture. The regional economy is in the doldrums and shows no signs of recovery. Sr. Roig who has been excellent managing the club all these years is under tremendous pressure. He has been brave in taking tough decisions like firing two coaches who are from within the Villarreal system to help keep the ship going.
It is all in the hands of the players now. We control our own destiny. I hope we can get a point and put an end to this frustrating and miserable season.
If we don't finish our job and end up getting relegated it will be devastating but it wont be the end of the world. I will support the Yellow Submarine more than ever.
We are not down yet and there is a game to be played.
Sunday cant come sooner.
We belong to the Primera.
To close out, a video of a couple of outstanding goals by Sonny Anderson in the yellow shirt.