Special thanks to Tom Kingston for his great work on this article. Tom splits his time between Bristol & Elche and has impeccable taste in following Elche CF & Bristol Rovers. Tom provides excellent updates on all aspects of the Spanish game via his Twitter account @FutbolTom
It is Sunday 2nd June 2013 and the supporters of Unió Esportiva Olot 3-2 on aggregate to secure promotion to Segunda B. However, unlike some of the second XI's that ply their trade in the third tier of Spanish football, Elche Ilicitano is a reserve side with some pedigree.
|Sun-kissed simplicity - The Estadio Díez Iborra|
Founded in 1932, just 9 years after the formation of the first team, Elche Ilicitano reached its peak in the 1960's. Unsurprisingly, this coincided with the golden age of of the first team, which saw it become established in La Primera and reach the final of the Copa del Rey. To understand how Elche CF went from provincial nobodies to top tier stalwarts, you need to know about the vision of club president Manuel Martinez Valero. Here's a handy link to the story. Elche Ilicitano initially reached the Tercera in 1963, but it took 5 seasons to launch a serious challenge for promotion. After winning Tercera Group 10 in 1967-68, the club progressed to the play-off phase. Here they racked up victories over Real Avilés & CD Ourense to earn a place in a restructured, single division La Segunda. The new structure saw 20 clubs spread across the length and breadth of Spain, and featured heavyweights such as Sevilla, Sporting Gijón & Celta Vigo. Elche Ilicitano persevered, and thanks to a late run of form that saw 4 wins in the last 6 games, avoided immediate relegation. They still had to face a play-off, and to add additional spice to the fixture, Ilicitano was paired with Hércules CF, the historical rival and sworn enemy of their parent club. Incredibly Ilicitano came through a two-legged play-off to beat Hércules 3-2 on aggregate.
|I've got love for you if you were born in the '80s|
The good times didn't last for long and Ilicitano dropped back to the Tercera in 1970, losing a relegation play-off to Racing Santander, which went to a third match. Regional football followed in 1972, and whilst they returned to the Tercera in 1980, they were never the force they had been. Worse was to follow in the early 1990's, when following the near financial melt-down of the first team, Ilicitano found themselves back in the Regional Preferente. The last decade has seen the club switch between the regional & Tercera, but rarely challenge for promotion to Segunda B. That changed with two successive promotions, with form that mirrored the improvement in the first teams fortunes.
|Awaiting its makeover - The Estadio Díez Iborra in 2013|
Over the years, Ilicitano has shared facilities with its parent club, using both the Campo de Altabix and when the occasion called for it, the Estadio Martinez Valero. In 1980, the club and the municipality developed a sports city to the east of the town, around a kilometre north west of the club's main stadium. The development included the small Estadio Díez Iborra, and Ilicitano has called it home ever since. Following the agreement of a multi-million euro remodelling project between the municipality and the club, the sports city has seen a gradual improvement of facilities, as well as the introduction of new ones. Three new artificial pitches have been added, along with new physiotherapy and media facilities. There are plans to add a roof over the stadium's only spectator facility, a 1500 capacity terrace on the west side of the ground. The redevelopment is unlikely to lead to any increase in capacity, bearing in mind that Ilicitano can go back to sharing with the first team, just a kilometre down the road.
|Not so noisy neighbours - A kilometre separates the grounds|