Strikers score at CDT!

It was a strange decision at the time and one that would prove to be rather premature. The referees had made their way to Madrid, as requested, on Saturday lunchtime, and Granada’s players were prepared for their flight from Malaga airport.

But by 1pm, there was no sign of the strike ending and the League’s rulers decided to cancel the Santa Cruz match.

It seemed a tad hasty. The match was not until 5pm on Sunday, and there was always a chance that flights could be back to some sort of normality on match day. The League were having none of it.

As I’m sure you now know, the strike was halted early evening and there were more than enough flights from Madrid and Malaga to accommodate the needs of those who needed to get to Tenerife.

If they had left the decision a few more hours, everything would have been fine. After all, Las Palmas were able to get to Vigo for their Sunday lunch-time kick-off with Celta.

It means that Tenerife have slipped back into the relegation zone, but last weekend was no disaster.

The plethora of draws has worked to our advantage, and January will surely decide which way the season goes. With the Granada
match having been rearranged for Wednesday, 26th, it means that Tenerife have four home matches in that month – and three in a week!

The derby match with Las Palmas on the 23rd will be followed by Granada, and then the Santa Cruz clash with Girona. Throw in the home game with current bottom team Albacete and you can see how any possible promotion push comes down to next month.

This weekend, Tenerife have another vital away clash. Recreativo, like Tenerife, were expected to be challenging for promotion at the start of the season. Like Tenerife, they have sacked their manager and, like Tenerife, there is evidence that the squad are starting to gel.

They are unbeaten in six matches, and their home form is excellent. Recently, they saw off Numancia and Cartagena without conceding. Couple that with fine draws at Cordoba, Xerez and Barcelona B and it’s easy to see why they are charging up the league.

This weekend will see Tenerife facing their former captain and the man who, single-handedly, split Tenerife fans down the middle. Forget Team Jordan or Team Andre. For three years, you either loved or hated Manolo Martinez.

I remember a few years ago trying to explain to a Spanish journalist that he was what the British called Marmite. I failed miserably.

Martinez is the closest thing I have seen to an old-fashioned English centre-back. Sure he could be clumsy when bringing the ball out of defence and, yes, he could miss the odd header or get tapped for toe in a sprint. But he was the sort of player every successful team need.

He was the grit, the guts, the player who was happy to put his head where the studs were flying. In his first six months, he was played as the holding midfield player. He struggled to contain the forward runs and was often swamped in midfield.

Then one day, coach Jose Luis Oltra saw what we knew all along. He played him at centre-back and suddenly, the light was switched on.

For the next two-and-a-half seasons, he would be a regular and, more often than not, he was tossed the captain’s armband. A natural leader, he looked after the team.

I vividly recall a match at the Heliodoro against Hercules. It was tasty from the off and Martinez was strutting his stuff. Their best player was a striker called Tote, who looked just like his Italian sound-a-like Totti. He could play a bit like him as well, and Tenerife knew this.

Twice, Martinez stole the ball from him and left a little calling card. Tote was not a happy pooch. A few minutes before half-time, Tote threw an elbow at Martinez as the ref was looking the other way.

It caught him flush in the face and the crowd went mad. But Martinez knew the script. He dabbed the blood away, got to his feet and smiled at Tote. The Hercules striker started with the verbals, but Martinez said nothing. He just nodded.

Two minutes later, Martinez picked the ball up from a throw-in and moved away from Tote, but he sensed what was coming next. Tote’s blood was still up and he couldn’t resist sliding in on Martinez.

He caught him low, and then kicked out as Martinez lay on the ground, doing his best Saving Private Ryan impression. The Tenerife subs and coaching staff flew out of the dug-outs, the crowd went wild in the grandstand and the referee had little choice.

Tote was shown the red card instantly and, as Martinez slowly regained his balance, a massive smirk broke out. This incensed Tote to such a level that it took four players to haul him away.

It was a classic “old man” move that tipped the balance Tenerife’s way and, with the man advantage, led to a home victory.

It will be strange to see him playing against us. Like Culebras, who left in the summer, Martinez didn’t want to go. He turned down several English clubs to sign for Recreativo and now, after missing the last few weeks through injury, he will be back this weekend.

In a press conference this week, he spoke of how much he is looking forward to it: “I enjoyed every minute of my time with Tenerife,” he said. “The promotion season was just the best of my playing career.

“Last season was hard, but we were close to staying up and I am proud of our efforts. It will be strange to be playing against so many of my friends – that’s for sure.”

Tenerife travel without Ricardo and Natalio, who remain suspended after last weekend’s postponement. Marc Betran and Omar face late fitness tests, and Tenerife fans will be delighted with any points return from this tricky match.

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