Based in Elche in the province of Alicante, and founded in 1923 after the merger of all the town’s football teams, Elche Club de Fútbol are one of Spain's most historic clubs.
After going through severe financial crisis through the late 80’s, Elche found it difficult to bounce back. And although they came close several times, they fell at the final hurdle. But, Elche are now back in La Liga for their 20th season and for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, ending a 25 year long wait for first division action.
After 8,383 days, their home ground, the Martínez Valero finally had the opportunity to host a top-flight game, which saw 23,859 fans in attendance. And just one minute and 18 seconds later, they erupted as Elche took the lead thanks to Ferran Corominas’s shot.
After being hammered 3-0 at Rayo, Elche looked at this week's fixture as their their opening game, part two. Because, although their 500 odd fans made a lot of noise away at Rayo, it just wasn’t the same as when they play at home.
The fans were completely overjoyed with the onset of a season, which saw them playing amongst Spain’s elite. They did everything they possibly could, to ensure everyone had a great time. There was a banner in the stadium, which depicted Dr Emmett Brown's car with the words, “Back to The First Division.” Right before the start of the game, there were final touches being done to the 22 VIP boxes and the words Primera were being painted and the club's anthem was sung.
After all, this wasn’t supposed to happen. No one in their right minds expected Elche to get promoted. After finishing 11th in the 2011/12 season, no expected them to mount a charge for promotion. After spending 13 seasons in the Segunda División, they never really looked like coming up.
After all, their head coach, Fran Escribá was in his first season as a head coach, having previously been Quique Sánchez Flores's assistant at Atlético, Benfica and Valencia. Their squad was limited and by no means the best in the division.
But for the first time in half a century, Elche won their first five games and after claiming the top spot, they never let it go. They were unbeaten in their first 20 games, on their way towards setting a new points record at the halfway stage of the season. And their success was built on sound defense.
Whilst there were certainly not the most attractive team to watch, they were certainly the most effective. They notched up 20 clean sheets and 22 victories last year. They won 15 games via just a single goal and drew 0-0 nine times. Their leading scorer was the man who got their first goal on their return to La Liga, Coro. Although he got just 12 and Elche scored just 54 at the end of the campaign, no one had a better defensive record.
Having built their team on solid defense, just one of back four that started last weekend was there, the year before. Alberto Botía came from Sevilla, David Lombán from Barcelona B and Ionat Sapunaru from Zaragoza were all new signings and their lack of cohesion showed, as they could only manage a draw.
In all, nine players have come, including 'The Rock' Carlos Sánchez and Manu del Moral and have all been either loans and free transfers. And whilst it will take time for them to settle in, it will be difficult to maintain their defensive solidity in La Liga and goals will be even harder to come by. And the intensity with which they began on Saturday is going to be virtually impossible to maintain.
Although it is too early to call, it is hard to avoid the feeling that a step backwards is inevitable. Whilst there has been talking of savouring in each moment, it will be a struggle. And although a point against Real Sociedad was a start, it is still only a point.
This season will not be easy, but then again, last season wasn’t supposed to be too. But, they won it. And Elche, having waited for too long will look to make the most of their return to the big time.
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