Real Mallorca's Abdon Prats scores one of the goals of the season so far. | R.D.


After a week when legendary football coach/raconteur Tommy Docherty passed away – some of his famous quips were (1) “The Liverpool theme song is ‘You’ll never walk alone,’ Crazy Gang Wimbledon’s is ‘You’ll never walk again’!” (2) “People ask me why I’ve never won the manager of the month award, you have to be a manager for a whole month to win it!” (3) When asked to compare George Best and Ryan Giggs, Docherty replied “Giggs isn’t fit to lace George’s drinks!” – Real Mallorca start 2021 with an away game at Asturian side Oviedo. Kick off in their Carlos Tartiere stadium is 21.00. IT’S LIVE ON SPANISH FREE-TO-AIR CHANNEL GOL.

With 23 games left to play on the 2020/21 La Liga SmartBank calendar, the Palma side have made one of the best ever starts to a season and lie one point behind league leaders Espanyol. We’ve played 19 games, won 12, drawn 5, lost 2, scoring 26 goals and conceding just seven, the best in the division.

With the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic still very much hovering over us, Real Mallorca face their biggest challenge. That is to consolidate themselves as serious automatic promotion contenders and take one of the top positions come May. Our journey, as the new year starts, is well under way and consistency is now a major part of our expectations.

The squad were hit with a couple of Covid scares last week when two players, reported as being Marc Cardona and Jordi Mboula, have been isolated, testing positive after returning from the Christmas break. Strict protocol regarding quarantine laid down by La Liga, the health authorities and the club is being adhered to. We’ll also be without two suspended players, Raillo and Cufre, and the talismanic Dani Rodriguez who’s injured. Our coach Luis Garcia Plaza has done a remarkable job so far and his rotation system is something that must be continued. The competitiveness in the squad is there for all to see and no player feels left out. Team spirit is vital to the cause as the tight fixture schedule doesn’t get any easier.

The Winter transfer window opens up Monday and Mallorca are waiting to see what’s on offer. There are already rumours circulating about two of our players. Sporting director Pablo Ortells hasn’t discounted new players coming in, saying “Just as there may be additions there may also be exits.” La Liga outfit Levante are sniffing around our midfield revelation Iñigo Ruiz de Galarreta who has a contract at the Son Moix until 2023. There’s no way Mallorca will sell him in January unless there’s some kind of astronomical offer on the table. Mid-table Levante certainly won’t be able to pay the necessary big bucks to prise him to Valencia. The 26-year-old Basque has been one of the first names on the team sheet after breaking into the first team earlier in the season displacing Baba who’s no longer first choice. Galarreta has played 16 games, starting in 11 with three assists and he’s hit the goal frame twice.

His partnership with Salva Sevilla is one of the keys to our success at the moment and his distribution, creativity and ball stealing attributes have been brilliant. Galarreta is a product of the famed San Mames academy at At. Bilbao and played under Marcelo Bielsa (now at Leeds United) in 2012. After several bad injuries he’s been moving around the second division and finished off at Las Palmas. He signed for Mallorca in 2019 and was loaned back to Las Palmas.

The other player on the transfer periphery is 23-year-old Palma-born Antonio Sanchez. He’s now rejected two re-signing offers from Mallorca and is waiting to hear from at least three La Liga clubs (all in the bottom four). Mallorca know Sanchez can walk away on a free transfer in the Summer but Mallorca won’t drop the asking price of six million euros which they won’t (in the present economic situation) get anywhere near. Sanchez is on the minimum salary for a professional player in La Segunda of 80,000 euros, so his case may prove troublesome. What Mallorca don’t want is to see the present squad broken up with such an important part of the season on the agenda.

Due to continuing Covid restrictions, it looks increasingly unlikely the Son Moix turnstiles will be operating for some time yet. We have to hope that in 2021 when promotion is well and truly on the agenda, Mallorquinistas even in a small number can take their seats and cheer the team on and over the line. Fans’ participation is so important to see us heading back to the promised land of La Liga. The American owners have got the club back on a firm financial footing and institutionally there’s peace in the boardroom.

Funniest football story of 2020 for me was when South Korea’s FC Seoul were fined in May for filling empty stands with life-size sex dolls. Seoul said the inexcusable mistake, which made the K League look “salacious” was due to a mix-up with the supplier. A spokesperson said “It’s true they look and feel like real humans but the manufacturers told us they were not for sexual purposes.” (Here’s the best bit) “We did however double and triple check this.” So much for plastic fans!

AND FINALLY, a cowboy walks into a saloon and orders a whisky. When the bartender serves the drink the cowboy asks “Where is everybody, the place is deserted?” The barman replies “They’ve gone to a hanging.” The cowboy enquires “Who are they hanging?” and is told “Brown Paper Pete.” “Brown Paper Pete?” says the cowboy, “What kind of name is that?” “Well,” the barman tells him, “he wears a brown paper hat, brown paper shirt, brown paper trousers and brown paper shoes.” “That doesn’t seem to bad a crime. What are they hanging him for ?” Back came the answer “Rustling!”