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With the final day of the season poised to kick off, Deportivo needed favours in 2 games. A loss for Hercules was important but if Bilbao were to just scrape a point against Xerez then it would all be for nothing. The day hung in the balance with Deportivo staring once again into the abyss.
With the club desperate for some fortune after a truly torrid 15 years, Racing Santander would be the club that stood in the way of potential safety. Any manager would encourage players to stay focussed on the game and task at hand, to do their part and worry about the rest after the game.
It might be true, but who among us wouldn’t be able to shake the fear of the worst, especially with fate out of your own hands. Many fans and players alike would have resigned themselves to misery. Failure was inevitable, as it had been in 1973, 1974, and 1980 before.
It never seemed to work out for the club, with tragedy and disaster cursing the club. Dépor had in recent years at least maintained stability in the 2nd tier, threatening promotion on a couple attempts, but they once again would return to this state of peril.
One Game to Save Themselves
As fans packed Estadio Riazor, many had relegation etched as a certainty in their mind. Who could blame them? The club seemed consigned to Football purgatory. Kick off neared around Spain, with 3 games that could result in salvation for just 1 team.
The teams lined up, taking their positions on the pitch and awaited kick off. A brief moment of silence quickly punctured by the ref’s whistle, greeted by a roar of encouragement from the home faithful. It was clear that nerves were afflicting the players.
As the first half unfolded there was little in the way of clear cut chances, a stodgy game lacking a lot of quality on both sides.
Unbeknownst to the players, Bilbao and Hércules were enduring the same fate, with all 3 games poised to finish 0-0 going into the second half.
Nothing would change in the final minutes of the first half in any of the important relegation matches, as the ref in Riazor would perhaps mercifully bring an end to proceedings for now.
Whether anything was said regarding the state of affairs is unknown, but currently Bilbao would be staying up, even if Deportivo were able to fashion a victory.
Tension Around Estadio Riazor
The second half would kick off, Dépor praying for some luck. Luck in football is a lot like the proverbial London bus, you wait all season for one and suddenly they all come at once. On the fiftieth minute mark in Alicante, Hercules would go a goal down, Castéllon taking the lead through defender Ximet. Something had gone their way and safety was in the realm of possibility.
Just a minute later Xerez would take the lead vs Bilbao, midfielder Dieguito scoring a goal to give Deportivo the driving seat. Just one goal, and as things stood, the unthinkable prospect of safety was theirs. In the space of a minute, Deportivo suddenly found themselves in charge of their own fate.
Still, the game remained 0-0, chances falling to both sides, Jorge in the Dépor goal forced into a few important saves. In the 64th minute the complexion of this relegation battle would change once again. In the 64th minute, Alicante revelled in the ecstasy of an equaliser. Juan Carlos Varas Retuerto, known as Carlos, would provide a lifeline for Hércules.
As things stood, Deportivo would be going down, a point behind Hércules. A goal would still save them. As the match ebbed away, fans and players grew increasingly desperate. Safety very much in the palm of their hands.
15 minutes later, Hércules were once again behind, Dépor’s job couldn’t be any simpler, yet that final piece of the puzzle wouldn’t fall into place. On the 85th minute, Xerez would all but confirm their victory over Bilbao with a late 2nd. The elusive winner in Riazor, nowhere to be seen. As stoppage time was called some fans headed to the exits, it was so typical, things had finally gone their way, yet they couldn’t capitalise.
It couldn’t be a more depressing ending, with the club in 600 million (€4 million) Pesetas debt, it simply couldn’t sustain another season in the third tier, it couldn’t afford to lose more players and rebuild following promotion. The once great club had faltered at the final hurdle, despite everyone else in the race tripping at the hurdle before. They just hadn’t made their chances count.
A Hero is Made
As the match entered its 92nd minute, Deportivo would be awarded a corner, the many fans that remained roaring the team on for this final chance. The ball was whipped into the penalty spot. Cleared. It would fall to a Dépor player (Hard to tell the player from footage but possibly Modesto) on the right hand side of the edge of the box, every instinct telling him to whip it back in or shoot himself.
Defying any rash thoughts, he’d stay calm, and deliver a stroke of genius, a precise, first time reverse ball to Vincente who had drifted into space in the box between defenders. Racing were at sixes and sevens as defenders scrambled to make a tackle as he touched it down just outside the six yard box.
Thousands watched on, the hope of an entire club resting on Vicente’s shoulders. There was no time to think as the striker quickly took it out from under his feet and poked it home past Alba’s near post into the Racing net.
It was utter pandemonium, a minute from time Dépor had won it, relegating Bilbao despite an inferior goal difference. Equal points were decided by the head to head record between teams, which thankfully enabled Dépor’s safety.
It was a magical moment, and without it, there would be no story of what was to come next. Among Deportivo fans, this goal would be regarded as the end of their darkest period, signalling a change in fortunes. This change in fortune would come in more ways than one the following Summer.
In an effort to revive the club’s financial health and restore its sporting stability, the club would undergo a complete administrative overhaul. The Colegio de Los Salesianos hosted a historic assembly in which new club president Augusto César Lendoiro would be elected with the support of fans, players, and staff, all striving to return Deportivo to its rightful place. The summit of La Liga.
There was much to do yet, the club’s fanbase had severely dwindled after years in the twilight of Spanish Football. With a lack of social presence coupled with poor support, an immediate priority was re-establishing the club as an exciting team to support.
Before anything could be done on the field, the large debt that had been accrued had to be taken care of. Sorting the debt seemed an almost impossible task, but with support and some good results this season it could be achieved. The club would move forward adopting the motto “ Walk or Explode” in reference to their precarious position financially.
The 89 season would feature much of the same squad that had come so perilously close to relegation the season before, the club unable to commit much spending for a rebuild. There was one signing however, in the Brazilian Raudnei. A signing that would begin a culture of bringing in South American’s that in later years would bring much joy to the streets of A Coruña.
Signs of Things Yet to Come
Bolstered by renewed optimism, an exciting signing and the first steps of a new era, the club would go on to perform immensely in the Copa Del Rey. Making it all the way to the Semi- Finals, only narrowly losing 2-1 to Real Valladolid over two legs, the club would begin to recapture the hearts of fans, despite a mid table finish in the league.
What’s more, Raudnei would capture all the plaudits scoring 6 in 11 games in the cup. The cup run and renewed interest in the club would help greatly with finances. By the end of the season, Dépor would experience a second miracle. The club would, for the first time in a decade, have a surplus of funds.
With the campaign over Dépor fans were excited for the next season for the first time in years. A fresh sense of optimism imbued both the sides and fans, as the new ownership had immediately made a huge impact, transforming not just the stability of the club, but the whole mood of the City.
With some luck and the right signings, anything felt possible. Success felt just around the corner, the scale of this success however, would surely go beyond anything that even the most blindly optimistic fan could have invented in a fever dream.
Stay tuned for Part Three for the birth of Super Dépor!
Written by Oscar Bowerman