Real Sporting de Gijón's recent commanding form has sent the Asturian coastline into raptures. Helped along by the prolific Mareo football academy as well as Stefan Šćepović’s goals, Sporting is currently on top of the world and the Liga Adelante. Leading the ship is José Ramón Sandoval, a coach who rose through the most modest ranks of Spanish football and who is unable to hide his joy at the current situation, although he insists on keeping his feet on the ground.
"My evaluation is very positive. We knew this was a two-year project and at the beginning we would have to work really hard to achieve these numbers. The fact that Sporting is top of the league is incidental because we are only a few points ahead of other clubs. However, it does point to a job well done by the club", Sandoval explains exclusively to LFP.es.
While Sporting views the rest of the league from above, the club's fans' expectations are being increased as they are now the closest they have been in two years of a return to the Liga BBVA. "The city, the club, the stadium, the facilities, the youth academy are all good reasons as to why Sporting deserves to return to the Liga BBVA. We are on the right track, but this is a project and we have to take it one step at a time, and enjoy the ride. The great thing is that the fans are really getting into it, and that is fantastic for the players", the 45-year-old Madrid native declares.
22 matchdays have pasted by since Sporting last sat atop the league table, and the team returned to first place last weekend thanks to a 2-1 away win against Real Madrid Castilla with starman Stefan Šćepović, who is the top scorer in the division with 16 goals, finding the back of the net. However, not everything hinges on the Serbian international. Sporting has a great balance of experienced and younger players, which has helped them make a mark on the league table.
"Alejandro Barrera has been making a name for himself in the Sporting youth system, not to mention Luis Hernández, Santi Jara, Sergio Álvarez, Álex Serrano… young players who are maturing well by being around the veterans. The level of competition needed to get a place in the team has helped these players develop even faster and that manifests itself on the pitch". As a result, Sporting has scored more than any other team in the Liga Adelante (37 goals), and has become a very difficult team to get a result off both in El Molinón and away from it.
Nonetheless, the competition is still wide open, with only six points separating the play-off positions from the relegation zone, which requires a bit of prudence: "We have to be consistent. My career has been underlined by working with humble teams that work hard". Perhaps it is too late now to put a cap on expectations in Gijon, a city that lives and breathes football and that is anxious to return to the Liga BBVA. "The city and the club transmit a lot of passion for football. It is a unique place, where you’d like to stay forever in order to enjoy it", the coach concludes.