Espanyol stars attempt to show a united front ahead of vital weekend clash at Villarreal.
It’s not easy for Espanyol being the second team in the city, particularly when your neighbours and rivals are the current league and European champions.
With just one win from their opening five games and just four points on the board, it’s not even as if Espanyol can quietly go about their business of trying to put things right whilst Barcelona steal the limelight. Not when the City’s two sports papers are both rabid Barca fans and take particular delight in Espanyol’s current plight.
As a result there is a seemingly endless supply of newspaper stories involving training ground bust ups, dressing room division and player unrest at Montjuic. A lot of it may be true, but the latest stories involving a ‘source’ from within the club who has claimed that the team’s stars are not pulling their weight has provoked an angry response from the players.
Ivan De La Pena said “Whenever there are a few bad results at this club, the same people get the blame, usually the captains. We haven’t said a word, yet all the negativity seems to be focused on Tamudo and me”
He is upset that the club haven’t come out and stood by him in the face of criticism and denies that there is a split in the dressing room between him, Tamudo, Luis Garcia and the rest of the Espanyol players “The problems in the dressing room do not exist. They have never existed. It’s only natural that I have a strong relationship with Tamudo or Luis; but I get on fine with everybody”
“I think all this criticism is made just to divert attention away from the real cause”
The former Barcelona player refused to be drawn on what the ‘real cause’ may be but denied that it had anything to do with the allegations that the dressing room is divided.
“It hurts me because there aren’t many dressing rooms with as good an atmosphere as at Espanyol. I’ve been in a lot of them and I should know”
“All we can do is deny it. It’s up to them if they want to believe us or not. We can’t do any more than that”
Ahead of this weekend’s game against Villarreal, De La Pena says that Espanyol can win “and I hope that the situation changes”. If the team loses then the situation may change anyway, with Valverde losing his job as manager.
The negative press provoked an even angrier response from Tamudo, who said “Espanyol are bigger than any one player. I’m not the cause of the team’s problems. I’m not going to talk about this any more. It’s a subject that has no grounding and it’s even worse if we keep going on about it”
Tamudo, fit for the game at Villarreal, said “I just want to play, score and win matches. Whether I play or not I am the happiest in the world when Espanyol win and the most annoyed when they lose”
Like De La Pena he denies that there are any rifts in the dressing room and insists that “I have no idea where these rumours come from when people say that we are not 100% behind Valverde. He has our support and our respect and he is the right man to take us forward”
It still hurts, after all these years at the club, when people come crawling out from under a stone to criticise us. As time goes on I’ve grown a little immune to it and I’m happiest just going about my business - training and playing football”