The arrival of David Moyes to Real Sociedad may have been considered a surprising managerial move at the time. To many, the idea of a Scot plying his trade in Spain of all places seemed like a strange appointment, a cultural juxtaposition of football playing styles, and a rare trek for someone who prior to leaving for Spain, barely knew a word of Spanish.
However, the reality is that Spain’s Basque region in the north owes a lot of it’s tradition to the British Isles.
The northern areas of Spain have played a crucial part in the nation’s industrial history, stretching from the mining communities in Gijón to the shipyards of Bilbao.
Industry in this part of the country has been the attractive force that has brought many workers from the British Isles throughout history, meaning that Great Britain does have strong historical links between this part of the world.
In fact, the foundation of one of Spain’s leading Basque clubs; Athletic Bilbao, was due to the influx of British workers and Basques cooperating to found one of Spain’s proudest clubs.
Although many years have passed since those days, the landing of David Moyes to become La Real’s new boss, continues a cultural trend that has lasted over a century. We mustn’t forget that only just over a decade ago, Welshman John Toshack was at the helm as the Real Sociedad manager.
Signs of these British influences are still prominent in the genetics of Basque football even to this day. The Basques target strong, well-built players, that fit the tradition of the clubs.
While many other La Liga outfits preach a more patient, artful approach to how they want to play, teams such as Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao have never been afraid to be different, often providing a mixture of creative football and harsh physicality in order to defeat the opposition.
Arguably, what is most remarkable is that despite the money of the modern game, clubs such as David Moyes’ Real Sociedad have been able to maintain their cultural identity amidst the influx of money in the modern game.
Nowadays, clubs such as Real Madrid focus largely on buying world class players to fill every corner of their squad, meaning it refreshing to see how many of the Basque clubs have more or less remained the same.
While many clubs are constantly changing it is important for the heritage of football that clubs from areas such as the Basque Country, where buying success is not a realistic options, continue to have their history intact.
The globalisation of the game has meant football has almost broken apart from its roots, yet as David Moyes has proved, this is not completely true in some areas of the beautiful game.