By Hugo Varley
SPARTAN South Midland Premier side Biggleswade United are undergoing something of a transformation.
After three seasons at the helm, Spanish head coach Cristian Colas left Second Meadow to take the manager’s job at Staines Town and was replaced by 28-year-old Jimmy Martin.
But despite having been brought up with different philosophies and coaching methods, Martin has continued to implement the continental style the players have become accustomed to from the man affectionately known as “the Pep Guardiola of Non-League football”.
The man with the job of overseeing Martin’s transition is Spanish author, journalist and pundit Guillem Balague, who combines his job as a pundit for Sky Sports with the role of Director of Football at Biggleswade.
“It was certainly difficult to see Cristian leave because we had grown really close over the past three years,” Balague told The NLP. “Cristian laid some brilliant foundations at the club, both in developing an attractive style of football and in terms of his behaviour to referees, the board and the supporters.
“After what he achieved here it came as no surprise to me that he attracted plenty of interest from clubs higher up the pyramid.”
Since Balague was appointed in 2014, after receiving an email out of the blue from former chairman Chris Lewis, the Bedfordshire club have consistently improved on their league positioning, culminating in a eighth place finish last season, although an allusive promotion to Step 4 has so far proven just out of reach.
“I came in with an idea of taking the club forward but first of all we needed create a level of stability,”?Balague added.
“Ideally we would like to push into the top five or six in the division now but I am proud with how the club has developed over the past few years, for example we now have 18 different teams, including women’s teams.
“When Cristian left I was presented with a very difficult decision over whom to replace him with but I was immediately struck by Jimmy’s passion and his level of maturity.
”We also decided to bring in a young coach called Emilio Gutierrez to assist Jimmy, who has a great methodology when it comes to developing footballing strategy.”
Martin spent a number of years coaching at Stevenage Borough, originally working within the club’s community foundation before progressing to the academy.
He added: “Although it has only been a few months, moving into first team management has been an absolutely brilliant experience.
“I’ve got a lot of older players in the squad, which has been massively helpful. I am not afraid to say that I haven’t got all of the answers and I do sometimes lean on them for assistance.”
United are currently mid-table in the Premier division and the new boss is hopeful that his players can build momentum as the season progresses.
“We have started well and although not all of the results have gone in our favour, we have competed in every game” Martin added.
“We have tried to keep a similar philosophy to last season, with regards to playing attractive, positive and free-flowing football.
“The club is full of fantastic volunteers and both the chairman and Guillem have been really brilliant in helping me to settle in, so hopefully we can reward them by getting some results on the pitch.”