Joseba Etxeberria “We’ve Earned The Right To Compete For Promotion”
The remaining games in the Segunda B and Tercera season will not be played, but there is good news for Bilbao Athletic and Basconia. Because both teams are currently in the top four of their respective tables they will compete in the promotional playoffs. Changes have been made to the formats to ensure that the playoffs move quickly and Joseba Etxeberria is thrilled about the opportunity to compete for a place in the Segunda.
“It’s good news and we were waiting for it,” said the Bilbao Athletic manager during an interview with Onda Vasca. “There were still 10 games left and I think relegations would have been excessive punishment, but we have played 28 games and have been at the top all season. We’ve earned the right to compete for promotion.”
Preparing players for the first team has always been the top priority, but Etxeberria admits that reaching the playoffs was a goal set at the start of the season.
“From the very beginning we said that we had to be prepared and plugged in, regardless of whether there was a chance to be in the playoffs, but we thought we could do it. We are a reserve team and we owe it to the first team, we must always be prepared. There will be plenty of motivation.”
Going into the playoffs Etxeberria sees both positives and negatives with coaching a team full of young players. His biggest concern is the mental aspect of returning to football.
“I have the feeling that, physically, the young players will tolerate it better, but it will be more complicated psychologically. Veterans will have more trouble restarting, but they have the maturity that helps in this situation. The kids are more restless after being locked up so long. What worries me the most is the state of mind.”
The manager is unsure when Bilbao Athletic will be allowed to return to training. Everything depends on the first team, but he doesn’t believe there will be any difficulties in coming back.
“We’re waiting to be told something. The first team must start training first to see how much space they will need. After that is settled we will return. We’re awaiting news from the club. There are many alternatives at Lezama. It’s large and I don’t think we will have too many problems.”
Etxeberria has been very pleased with his team all season. “I’ve been very happy with the daily discipline of our players, with session from Monday to Saturday,” he said. “Every week we have group meetings and it’s a joy for me. I’ve coached very good groups, but this has been the best.”
The playoffs will be held at a neutral venue with Pinatar Arena in Murcia said to be the top choice being considered. Etxeberria would have no problem traveling the 800km with the goal of winning just three games to earn promotion.
“There would be a maximum of three games per team and it can be played in about ten days. Regarding the facilities, there are options and the Federation has been working with the Pinatar Arena for some times, which is fantastic. I don’t know if it will be there in the end, but there are many options. The reality is that we are three games away from promotion, but with the knowledge that it will be very complicated because there are great teams in the playoffs.”
Looking past the current season, revenue loss will significantly limit clubs ability to sign players. In light of the situation Athletic’s unique policy will keep the club in a strong position.
“I think in the short term the health issue will benefit teams that trust in young players. All of this has an impact on the economy and football is no stranger. We trust in Lezama and young players, so from that aspect our philosophy is an advantage. Regardless of what may come in the world of football, we aren’t going to change our way of being.”
Whether or not Bilbao Athletic win promotion there’s no denying that Joseba Etxeberria’s first year on the bench has been a massive success. Despite facing many injuries and other challenges the Kumeak have been one of the most impressive teams in all of Segunda B and have the quality to compete for promotion.