By Sid Lowe
on January 23rd, 2017
With the La Liga club struggling, the local-born manager who took them back to the top has departed, saying the team do not reflect him any more
The revolution ended in tears. “This is hard,” Abelardo Fernández said, voice breaking, fingers rubbing at his eyes and kneading at his temples while the president gently laid a hand on his neck. “I’m not crying because I’m no longer the coach of Sporting Gijón,” he insisted, “I’m crying because of the affection I have for everyone here.” Wednesday morning at Mareo in the green, rolling hills south of Gijón where cowbells ring, and the man who declared “Sporting are revolutionary, like Asturias” , who rescued and represented the club, who often seemed to be the club, was leaving.
A handful of people waited outside, applauding when he appeared. There were hugs, thanks, more tears, and then he climbed into his car. “See you later,” he said. He will too. Abelardo’s son plays in Sporting’s U15s, so he’ll be back. Just not as coach any more. Born in Gijón, a fan, former player, youth team manager, and season ticket holder, he’ll probably see them at the Molinón too, but not from the bench. After two and half years as coach, a period which felt longer to everyone else and like a lifetime to him, whose legacy will last longer still, he did so with Sporting in the relegation zone, possibly returning to where they were when he took over, only they shouldn’t return to there exactly, not now – and that’s thanks largely to him.