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Angel Rangel speaks out : Roberto Martinez finest signing ? Part one
Wednesday, 4th Aug 2021 10:04 by Clive Whittingham ‘Loft For Words‘

Angel Rangel was never really seen as the conventional villain even when he left Swansea City for pastures new. Many swans fans possibly felt that was it for a player who had represented Swansea City for many years since Roberto Martinez brought him to the club. Angel Rangel recently spoke to our fellow fansnetwork site “ Loft For Words” and it was a very revealing interview.

How did you get spotted and end up going from the lower leagues in Spain to Swansea

I was playing in the third tier in Spain at the time, which was as high as I’d ever played, and was working also as an accountant which is what I qualified for. I was playing against Benidorm, you probably know the city, and Roberto Martinez and his two scouts were at the stadium that day. They had a flight out that day that was delayed by three or four hours, they knew there was a game nearby so they came to watch because there was a striker in the other team they wanted to see. I played, it finished 3-3, I had a decent game, and I got a phone call from Roberto. He told me what Swansea was all about, and where it was because I thought it was in Scotland in the first place. I looked at some videos on YouTube, I thought it sounded good, it was near the end of the season so I thought I’m going to have an adventure here because I’d never been able to get any higher than the third tier in Spain. I took the plane to Bristol, came over to Swansea, I’d left 35 degrees in Spain and it was raining really badly in Swansea and I thought ‘oh my God what is going on here’. That was it, the rest is history.

A real sliding doors moment for that plane to be delayed on that day with those passengers and you to be playing in that game?

Exactly, the right place at the right time. If they’d flown that day at the right time they wouldn’t have spotted me. It taught me the lesson that you should always be giving your best in your job, particularly in football, because you never know who is watching. I was lucky to get spotted that day and come to sign my first professional contract at Swansea at the age of 24.

Was it a big decision and risk to move to another country, to a League One club, and leave the accountancy career you’d trained for behind

It was very easy for me. I had to try it. It was my first offer of a professional contract. If it didn’t work out, well at least I can learn English and I’ll go back to Spain and be an accountant and play football at that level. Luckily, my first season at Swansea went very well, we were champions of League One, got promoted, I was named in the team of the season. Everything started so well for me and that’s really important when you move to a new country, new culture, new football, new language, to adapt quickly.

What were your first impressions of English football at that level? A lot of stereotypes about League One football, but not so much in a Roberto Martinez team

The way Swansea were playing at that time was very much a European style of football. A lot of the team was from all over Europe, Spain and Holland, and the style was very clear, Roberto wanted to play that way, out from the back, and needed to sign players he knew could do that. In that division Doncaster got promoted with us trying to play that way but the rest of the teams were very typical, 4-4-2, balls in both boxes, trying to make the games manic and hectic. We won the league that season because we were different and we knew what we were doing.

In the long run, over 46 games, it went well for me but it does take time to adapt. In Spain you are playing against teams that are more tactical, try to stop you playing, whereas in League One at that time the games were more open. There was no build up, the ball was in the air, and you had to be ready for the physicality. Set pieces and situations like that were very big, Roberto would tell us you can be the better team for the whole game, have 70% of the possession, but they’ll put a long ball in, flick it on and it’ll be a goal. You had to be ready for that, and that was the hardest thing for me. I had good team mates around me, Garry Monk was the right centre back next to me the club captain and he helped me a lot at that time. We had a good mix of players who knew the UK game inside out and the foreign ones coming in who adapted quickly.

The Managers at Swansea

What is Roberto Martinez like as a manager for a defender? He’s often criticised for ignoring the defensive side of the game, how is it to be a defender in that system and style

He was only with us for a year in League One and a year in the Championship, he was very much all about who’s playing for us not who we’re playing against. If they score three, we’ll score four, simple as that. Expansive football, open things up, move the ball, try to create chances. We did that but it comes with a risk, you’ll be exposed at the back if your full backs are very high up and the centre backs are exposed. I think he believed at that time he wanted to use our time at the training ground to focus on our style, especially with the ball. It didn’t help that a few of us didn’t speak very good English, communication was difficult trying to perfect the style. Roberto’s way was exactly that, score more goals than the opposition, and that was exciting for the crowd.

Did you like it as a defender?

I liked it at the time because I was getting up and down the line a lot. Later on in my Swansea career I had managers who focused much more on how to defend, like Paolo Sousa who you guys also had. He was in many ways the opposite of what Roberto was, trying to absolutely not concede goals and be strong defensively. Roberto just wasn’t like that, it was tough sometimes I would get exposed in the wide areas one v one with good players but I coped pretty well in League One and the Championship and got used to it, you evolve your own game as you play.

A lot of 0-0 draws with Paolo Sousa, he divided opinion at QPR, how was he with you guys?

When you see how we finished the season with him we were one point from the play-offs, so we did better than we did with Roberto. He left the club a little through the back door in the end, people had become used to watching the team play in the ‘Swansea way’ scoring three or four goals a game, conceding two or three but still winning and being exciting to watch. With Paolo it was a lot more structured, we didn’t concede many but at the same time we didn’t create much either. I think a lot of us learnt a lot from Paolo, obviously defensively he coached things that Roberto hadn’t. Roberto had started the work, teaching us the way of playing out, and Paolo brought that balance. It wasn’t mastered yet, we were defending too much and not attacking, after attacking so much we conceded too many goals, but it was a process and Paolo was a big part of the process towards the ‘Swansea way’. You’ll be criticised if you don’t score many goals and that’s what happened to him.

So did Brendan Rodgers benefit from all of that groundwork?

It would be harsh to say he came in and just found everything there for him. Brendan is arguably the best manager Swansea have ever had. He’s a manager, a coach and a person who works very much on the attention to detail in everything he does. He found a very strong core of players at Swansea who knew who to play Roberto’s way and Paolo’s way, but he definitely brought his own style and recruitment as well - he bought players that fitted the ‘Swansea way’, Scott Sinclair scored 20 goals that season. He really develops players, he makes good players top players, and you’ve seen that at Leicester, Liverpool, everywhere he’s been. He mastered what was already there, we’d played both sides of the game and he created his own style with a core of players craving to learn and improve their game. He was the perfect fit.

Brendan Rodgers has quite a unique way of speaking about football, an odd turn of phrase sometimes, and you hear these stories of him walking around the room placing imaginary crowns on people, that perhaps mean he’s not taken as seriously as his record suggests he should. What makes him as good as he is?

I remember losing at home to Manchester United, I made a mistake with a pass, Ryan Giggs intercepted it and Hernandez scored a winner. I was criticised, my mistake cost the team, but straight away he defended me in the press saying that was how he wanted me to play and if I did that 100 times then 90 times we’ll get into the final third and create chances. He didn’t have to say that. He’s very objective and honest in what he sees in a game.

We will bring you part two of the Fansnetwork Rangel interview tomorrow.

If you enjoyed Clive’s article please consider supporting his QPR site through a subscription to Patreon or tip them via PayPal. Patreon also gives you the ability to listen to these interviews as audio podcasts.
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Photographs licensed from Reuters

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