Non League Daily

Balague looks to change hearts and minds at Biggleswade United

For a journalist who is used to reporting on the considerable talents of Ronaldo, Messi and Iniesta, you may question why Sky Sports' Guillem Balague is taking so much interest in Spartan South Midlands Football League club Biggleswade United?

However, if that was a question you felt inclined to ask Balague, then a minute of talking to him about his role as Director of Football with the Barcelona born writer will answer the question in an incredibly positive manner.

And positivity is something that runs through his feelings towards the challenges that lie ahead of him as he looks to play a key role in rejuvenating the fortunes of the Bedfordshire club; something that Balague displays with the eagerness he has shown in the early days of his role at the club.

"We are doing a lot at the moment. For example, yesterday we had a big day and met with the local council to talk about relocating. We met a very big company to talk about sponsorship and spoke to two big kit manufacturers as well. We met with a school to look at facilities for our academy, including new coaching, and that would be situated at this school so that everyone is based in the same location"

"The manager announced recently that he was leaving so I am going to put together the coaching setup for next season. This is just a third of what we are doing so it's a busy time"

So how did it all happen? How did a man who is used to discussing the fortunes of La Liga’s giants come to take over such a role at a club in the ninth level of English Football?

"It started with an email from Biggleswade United chairman Chris Lewis in October. He said we have a club here and would you like to get involved?. I get about a hundred emails with things like this but this one intrigued me.

I had been looking to get involved in a club in Spain with Gaizka Mendieta and we found one but we didn't not to go through with it in the end due to the financial situation in Spain, it would have been crazy.

After that I got my coaching badges and there was always a feeling I would like to get involved at that level and it was an immediate yes to Biggleswade United. We met for coffee the following day and it all went from there"

United currently sit in thirteenth position in their league, with six games left in the season. There is clearly plenty of potential at the club for Balague to work with and he feels that the ideas he wishes to put in place at Second Meadow could well have benefits for the higher levels of the English game, something Balague admits he is "obsessed with".

"The main thing is that we are all going in the same direction. Having seen so many games and having seen so many training sessions I do believe there is a way of doing things to help you maximise your potential. One of the things I am literally obsessed about is what is wrong with English football.

I have had many talks with people at the highest level, including managers and the FA and I have ideas about why. I want to implement these ideas into the club and show that it not all about money; it is about coaching and new ideas"

Both quality coaching and new ideas are aspects of the game that Balague is very keen to impose at United, rather than going for the quick, splash the cash method that has seen many a non-league club in trouble after the initial benefits wear off. He also expressed his hope that the town and businesses of Biggleswade would play their part in bringing a community feel to the club.

"The plan is to coach our way through the divisions. Not to spend money or have to raise a lot of money but to put coaches in place to help us progress. Then we want to link ourselves to the town and to our academy, and ensure everybody in Biggleswade is involved. I want everybody involved and this is why we have trials from the 7-10 April, this isn't a trial for players, it is a trial to show what we can do.

Then on the 7th May we have a day for local businesses. We will have Mendieta and Jim White and myself for a night of beer and talking about what we want to do. We want businesses involved and everybody involved. The academy and the coaching is the first thing to sort out, along with improving our facilities and we are talking to the council and the authorities about that"

Balague has already brought in one high profile name with the addition of former Chelsea and Espanyol winger Quique De Lucas. The player made his debut in game away at AFC Dunstable, a world away from some of the stages the Spaniard used to perform on. However Balague revealed that De Lucas is enjoying seeing a new side to the game, as is his compatriot and fellow new signing Hector.

"Quique lives in London and I will have to convince him to stay next season. He has found it fascinating that when the game finishes you go to the clubhouse and share a beer with the referee, your fans and the away fans. It's a new concept to him. In the case of Hector we have had trouble with bureaucracy but he is now available for selection.

This is fascinating because this is a player that was in Birmingham and through our Fran Constancio, our Academy Director, who is a Pro Licence coach who I brought to the club, he came into the club and we offer to help him settle and we asked him to find a job and accomodation. He came in on the Monday and by the Tuesday he was working, then he had a flat to stay in... He has found a good club to develop at and he is enjoying it"

Life in the ninth tier of the English game compares favourably to its Spanish equivalent according to the lifelong Espanyol supporter. However there is one change that the United players can expect next season, with a lesson they could learn from their Spanish counterparts.

"Some friends of mine, Spanish and English coaches who may not have a job right now but of the highest calibre, are coming to watch us play, want to see us grow. One high profile coach came to watch a game yesterday and we were talking about the standard of the game. We have better facilities here than that level in Spain, the pitch may suffer with the weather but it is one of the best in the league and is good enough for the same level in Spain.

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