The new manager of Alavés has radically changed the team, which is out of relegation, and fully trusts salvation.
JAvier Calleja came to Alavés wanting to do something great. The club was in low hours: neither good results nor good feelings. That led to Abelardo’s goodbye, and the former Villarreal coach landed in Alava to change the team’s face. With him, the club does not know defeat, and on the streets of Vitoria you can hear about something called the Calleja effect.
Question. Who is and how is Javier Calleja?
Answer. A very normal person. A coach with enthusiasm, a hunger to achieve important goals and a desire to continue growing in this world supported by an outstanding coaching staff. My coaching staff are friends and family. I don’t really like talking about myself. Let the facts speak, let the words be said by others.
P. How was Javi Calleja before the Alavés option came out?
R. My time at Villarreal is over. I was living in Benicàssim and the coaching staff lived nearby, so we met constantly and talked a lot about football. We watched a lot of games, we analyzed aspects of the game and where to focus so that our methodology could grow. It has been a continuous training and also taking advantage to be with the family.
We have always thought that there is plenty of equipment to be in First
Q. Did you want to go back to training since the Villarreal stage ended?
R. Many. It’s my life, I can’t be without training, it costs me a lot. I had in mind to find a team that would motivate me, that would meet all the conditions to return to the bench, and Alavés has been the one that has filled me.
P. How was your signing?
R. We have followed LaLiga from the beginning. And we looked at the possibilities that we saw to be able to train. We were attentive to Alavés from the beginning because they have always attracted us. When I spoke with friends they have always spoken wonders of seriousness, work, the city …
At first the club decided to direct the situation with Machín and Abelardo, but one day my representative called me, he told me that he had spoken with Sergio (the sports director), that there was interest and how he saw it. When the news reached us, we had no doubts, we have always thought that there is plenty of equipment to be in First Division, and we had time. If it is not removed, it will be my fault, but I am convinced that we will remove it.
Q. What was found the first day?
R. I was interested to know how the dressing room was. I had been told that there was great burnout from the results. My main job was to get the players back: to make them believe in themselves again, to see that nothing was lost and that they were players of a very high level. We decided to take up the challenge because we believed in them, so we had to regain their trust.
Q. What have you done? What is the Calleja effect that is talked about so much?
R. What I wanted to convey to you was that they were not giving their best version and we know of their capacity. To recover their best version, you had to recover them emotionally, and knowing that in football if you are in a negative dynamic you miss yourself many times. You had to forget that past, and you have to recover the best version of each player.
Q. How is that trust transmitted to them?
R. I have been speaking with the team at a group level and later individually so that they would know me and know first-hand the opinion that I have towards them. I wanted them to see that working as we thought there would be a clear path that would work. I needed them to believe that and to prove it to me on the field. I needed an answer, and I have noticed it from day one.
P. Another thing that is being seen since your arrival is that you have everyone plugged in.
A. I believe in the squad, I really don’t believe in only 11 players. We are in a moment of the season in which it is not good to be constantly changing six-seven players, and in the end for some reasons or others they are all in the wheel. Everyone who enters, adds. In all the games that I have played at Alavés, the substitutes are being decisive, and that is a clear sign that they are all important.
Q. Now it’s Eibar, which is as crucial as the previous matches …
R. Or more! And so I am making him see. The game against Valencia was very serious and committed, we had the attitude that I like. Now comes another final, against a direct rival and that perhaps for them is the last bullet. We know how tough it is going to be, I know Mendilibar and I know they will never give up. If we can win, we will take a very important step.
If we are not saved it will be my fault, but I am convinced that we will get it out
Q. Do you think that you can become the hero of Vitoria and Alavés?
R. I do not think about being the hero of anything. I am a coach, what I want is to do my best for Alavés. Enjoy Alavés in Primera a lot. I am delighted here and I want to work to the maximum to give joy.
P. If Alavés is saved, will it continue next year?
R. Right now I want to achieve the goal of continuing in First Division, and I would be delighted, of course. Where they welcome me well and I am happy I would like to spend as many years as possible.
Q. Is Alavés going to be saved?
R. Let no one doubt it. Very convinced. The first to be convinced are us and the players. l