Despite having 16 seasons of elite football already under his belt, Manuel Pablo (Gran Canaria, 1976) insists that he still "intends to continue playing". On Saturday, in the second last Liga Adelante fixture of the season, he will be faced with one of the most eagerly anticipated challenges imaginable: securing promotion for RC Deportivo de La Coruña once again. Ahead of the game, the legendary Canary Island defender took some time out to speak with LFP.es and to explain the feelings within the team.
LFP.es: You are just one point away from promotion. Is there an element of nervousness ahead of this game?
Manuel Pablo: No. We will approach this match full of eagerness and excitement. We know that this match at home is a final. Although we only need one point, we want to finish as strongly as possible and put an end to our poor run of form in the last few games.
LFP.es: Have any plans been made should the team finally secure promotion?
Manuel Pablo: We want to wrap it up in order to celebrate with the city and get the monkey from the last few months off our back but, at the moment, we haven’t talked about that amongst ourselves.
As well as Eibar and Dépor, what other side would you like to see promoted?
Manuel Pablo: It would make me really happy if it were UD Las Palmas, the club I started my career with. But it won’t be easy because there are a lot of teams fighting it out in the playoff and it will all depend on what shape they’re in heading into these last few games.
"It would be amazing to meet up with Valerón again in the Liga BBVA"
LFP.es: It would be incredible to meet up with Juan Carlos Valerón in the Liga BBVA again?
Manuel Pablo: It would be amazing, and also unthinkable; because when we parted ways last season neither one of us thought we’d ever cross paths in the Liga BBVA again.
What has the atmosphere in the dressing room been like during such a hard fought championship?
Manuel Pablo: There has been a lot of hard work and we haven’t had any margin for error, because the other teams are always right behind you. It’s never ending! This season it has been made perfectly clear that there are no free rides in the Liga Adelante and that you have to fight until the very end.
Deportivo was promoted two years ago and went down again the following season. What lessons have Dépor learned in order not to make the same mistakes again?
Manuel Pablo: One thing that needs to be clear is that we are not that 'Súper-Dépor' side from the 90s and we have to respect every opponent and give it our all in each match. You have to be competitive from the get go, work hard and stay united.
LFP.es: How would you reinforce the team looking ahead to next season?
Manuel Pablo: Every side always wants a goal-scoring forward to sure up things up front, but I’d look to put a squad together that was competitive, deep and had experience which, once we were promoted to the Liga BBVA, would help us stay up in the division.
LFP.es: What was the most difficult moment this season?
Manuel Pablo: Without a doubt the beginning of the season, when there were only 17 of us in the squad and we didn’t know how we’d be able to compete. A lot of the players were very young, had come up from the reserve side and didn’t have experience, but from that moment on we got it into our heads that our goal was to get promoted.
"I’d put a squad together that was competitive, deep and had experience to help keep us up in the Liga BBVA"
LFP.es: As a result would this promotion taste sweeter?
Manuel Pablo: If we gain promotion, this will mean more than the previous time, specifically because of the circumstances we have had to cope with. Despite the last few results and the fact that we haven’t been playing our best football, a win against Jaén would, without a doubt, be the icing on the cake for this season.
LFP.es: Have you thought about retiring?
Manuel Pablo: I feel fine, I have played at a good level this year and I intend to go on. If it were up to me, I’d definitely want to play another season with the team… especially if it were in the Liga BBVA!
LFP.es: The match will be played at home. What message do you have for the fans?
Manuel Pablo: The last few results have not been satisfactory, but we need you now more than ever in order to secure promotion at home. We are sure that they will get behind us in this final, like they have all season, so that we get a victory.