Forgive me if you’re not a football fan but I have to dedicate this weeks scribes to what is a really exciting time for the island and it’s two professional football teams. A young player breaking into the first team of a Premier League football club these days is pretty difficult and some might say for a young English player even harder. So over the last year we’ve started to see more English players move abroad to get first team football. High profile players such as Jadon Sancho moving from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund and Reiss Nelson going on loan to Hoffenheim from Arsenal have encouraged more players to think about moving to another country to do what they enjoy doing and that’s play football. I learned at the beginning of the season about a young player from Tottenham who had moved here to Mallorca to play for Atlético Baleares. I got his number from former Spurs player David Howells but I’ve sat on it for quite a while to see how well his season panned out. Well we’re nearly at the end and to be honest it’s been pretty damn good. He Played 33 out of 38 games scoring 6 goals with 4 assists, although he mentions he’d have liked to have scored more! The team played 38 won 21 drew 12, lost 5 and won the Segunda B Group 3 championship and are now in the play-offs.
I finally met him last week at the Atlético Baleares stadium on the outskirts of Palma just after training. We sat in the stand and had a good chat about his career to date.
Sam Shashoua was born and raised in Chelsea and attended Harrow School. His Father also attended the school and he was keen for Sam to go to one of the most prestigious schools in England. He played for the school’s first team at football, was an Under-12s county champion at squash and represented the South of England Under-16s at hockey. So his sporting pedigree set him in good stead for the challenges ahead. He left the school straight after his GCSE’s to play for Tottenham full time. He’d been at their academy since the age of 8 and when it came to signing full time he had both Spurs and Arsenal vying for his signature. At this point I tell him I’m an Arsenal fan to which he laughs and shrugs it off. Signing for Tottenham he says was a great feeling he’d got the trial through his younger brother Armando who was already at the club but to sign for the club meant that he was at an equal level to his brother.
He was the Under-18s’ second-top scorer in 2016-17 with 13 goals in 23 appearances and his progress was rewarded with a spot on the first team bench for the first time in a 6-1 win at Leicester City in May, 2017. It was the second to last game of the season and just a week after his 18th birthday. Players that were with him in the team who were also making and have made progress since to the first team were Oliver Skipp, George Marsh and probably the best known Harry Winks.
He honestly admitted that he’d never heard of Atlético Baleares but was told told they were a third division club in Spain who were interested in signing him. He felt that in the U-23’s at Spurs his football might stagnate so was willing to play anywhere to get first team action. He liked what the owner Patrick Messow said about the club and wanted to try something out of his comfort zone, it was a risk, yes but it’s turned out pretty well. One advantage he had was that he spoke Spanish due to the fact his Mother is half Spanish and half Venezuelan and in Baleares no one spoke English.
On the playing side the majority of pitches are astroturf and the playing style is different. He doesn’t get the ball as much as he did at Spurs so he’s learnt to be more effective when he does have the ball and knowing that the chances will be fewer. It’s certainly not the tiki-taka that he expected and he’s had to change his style to take the chances that are given and to be more defense minded when they don’t have the ball.
After a 1-0 away in against second placed Hercules on Sunday which cemented them as the best team of Segunda B Group 3, they learned of their play-off opponents on Monday. I think they got the hardest draw against Racing Santander who won their league by winning 22 games, drawing 12 and losing just 4. Founded in 1913, they are one of the founder members of La Liga and have been in the doldrums since they got relegated in 2011/12. Their ground holds just over 22,000 so much bigger than Baleares are used to but with two plane loads of away fans travelling and a few hundred making their own way it should be a great atmosphere. Sam said he’d love to go there and get a couple of goals to come back to Palma with, giving them a great chance of promotion in the home leg on Sunday June 2nd.
Our thoughts then turned to next season, he has a year left on his contract at Tottenham so he thinks he’ll be going back for pre-season. But he hasn’t given it too much thought as the play-off is such a huge game. Trying to win and get the team he’s been playing for all season promoted is definitely his focus. But he said he would love to step up to La Liga 123 or return to Tottenham and get some first team action. He would love to be in Madrid watching the final of the Champions League but it clashes with the 2nd leg of the play-off so he’ll watch it on TV. He says it’s been an amazing year for English football and after the success at the World Cup it’s crazy to think that there are 4 English teams in the finals of the two European Club competitions. Naturally a Baleares and Tottenham win would be a perfect end to the season. I know Baleares rate him very highly and I hope he decides to stay. It might well encourage more UK players to give it a try.
A Ronaldo style free-kick from Salva Sevilla meant that Real Mallorca ran out 1-0 winners against a dogged Almería side last Sunday. Before the game he had been presented with the player of the month trophy for April and he then drove Mallorca to a hard fought victory. They now play on Monday nightagainst 7th placed Deportivo La Coruña where a win will ensure they are in the play-offs. Osasuna have been promoted and second placed Granada are one win away from second place. Hopefully they’ll do it this weekend at home to Cadiz as next week they come to Mallorca.
My eldest has finished his season and this weekend my youngest will finish his with an away game in Consell. He’s had a great first season at San Francisco in Palma and they can’t wait for pre-season training to begin. Dad Taxi gets a rest for a couple of months!
Enjoy your weekend!
Richie presents the Radio One Mallorca Breakfast show Monday to Friday07.30-11.00am on 93.8fm in Mallorca and 102fm in Calvià, online at www.radioonemallorca.com on mobile through their free App for IPhone & Android, The Tunein Radio App, iTunes, the Spanish TDT TV service and all smart speakers. . If you can’t hear him on the radio then you’ll find him working at Pirates Adventure the islands number one night out and every now and again he may make an understudy appearance!
Feel free to email him at rprior@globobalear.