The Anoeta stadium in beautiful San Sebastian. | R.D.


After a week when I read “I remember when in the good old days the hardest thing about having a baby was choosing a name – nowadays it’s choosing a gender!” – Real Mallorca’s coach Luis Garcia Plaza confirmed during the week that he’s signed an automatic extension of his one-year deal after seeing the side promoted last season.

His new contract means he’ll remain linked to the Son Moix club until June 2023. On the playing side RCD Mallorca return to the Basque country for the third time this campaign when they play joint top Real Sociedad in the beautiful city of San Sebastian tomorrow at 9 pm.

The remainder of October sees the Palma side face three formidable opponents, Sociedad (A), Valencia (A) and Sevilla (H). LGP will have to make changes for tomorrow’s game in the Anoeta (now called Estadio Reale Seguros for commercial reasons) after the international break which saw five of our players appearing for their various countries. Matthew Hoppe and Lago Junior have flown halfway round the world after being selected for USA and Ivory Coast respectively. Lago was an unused sub in three games and Hoppe only managed 18 minutes, coming off the bench against Costa Rica on Thursday, and didn’t play at all in the other two matches. He has no chance of playing tomorrow as he won't arrive back in Palma until late tonight.

We’re still without two pillars of Real Mallorca, the injured Take Kubo (who may be out until December) and Antonio Raillo, who turned 30 on Wednesday and hasn’t been able to play since our opening game. His anklebone problem is now being examined by the eminent sports injury doctor, Dr Ramon Cugat in Barcelona. There is a possibility Raillo will need surgery but for now that’s only an option and there’s no defined recovery period. Both players are huge losses to the club at the moment.

LGP has been complaining about two La Liga games being postponed because of South American players coming back late from the Comebol internationals. “We, for example, have Matthew who is also in this competition not available because he hasn’t arrived back on time. Why isn’t our game postponed as well?” He also made the point that we’ll lose Baba and maybe Lago Junior for a month in January/February next year when the African Cup of Nations takes place in Cameroon.

Tomorrow’s opponents haven’t lost at home since April and we haven’t won there since 2003 when Luis Aragones was at the helm and Samuel Eto’o scored the only goal. With both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid’s games postponed, Real Sociedad have a real incentive to go top on their own come 11 pm. These postponements now mean that four games need rearranging in an already cluttered La Liga fixture list.

The presence of the two Madrid teams at the top is to be expected but Sociedad overtaking them is less so. They have gradually phased in and developed players from their academy (Zubieta) and for example, of the 14 players who featured in their Copa del Rey final victory in April 2020, eight of them came through the ranks. Another marker regarding the health of the Txuri-Urdin (blue/whites) is that their B team (under Xabi Alonso) are currently playing in La Segunda, making Real Sociedad the only Spanish club with representation in Spain’s top two divisions.

Ex Manchester City legend David Silva is Sociedad’s only player over the age of 30 and in current Spanish striker Mikel Oyarzabal and the Swede Alexander Isak their fire-power is pretty awesome. Oyarzabal was introduced to the senior side by David Moyes who coached Sociedad in 2014/15.

I see the Mail on Sunday has brought back “Spot the ball” with a £10,000 prize up for grabs. The idea is simplicity itself. The paper prints a freeze-frame photo of an action moment from a game and then removes the ball. The reader then has to guess by putting a cross on the centre of the invisible ball where they think it should be. The key back in the day was to think “outside the box” – well outside the box, in fact, as the ball would rarely be anywhere near the penalty area or indeed anywhere else you might expect it to be. When the results were given out the following week the ball was always nowhere near where I put my cross. What was it with the players? They never seemed to be looking anywhere near the ball.

Did the competition panel deliberately pick out the most cross-eyed boggle-goggled players or did they sit in the stand flashing laser pens in the No. 9’s face to put him off? A friend of mine reckoned the players were taking back-handers to deliberately look in the wrong direction or they leapt for the ball that was in fact on the ground between their legs. In those far-off days players didn’t get a trillion quid a week like now, so playing spot-anything-but-the-ball would have been a good way to supplement their meagre wages.

AND FINALLY, I was doing a crossword in the pub and said to my Scottish mate “I’m stuck on one, Jock: ‘Trapped on a desert island,’ eight letters starting with ‘m’.”

He answered “Marooned.”

I replied “Thanks, I’ll have a pint of lager then!”