From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.09 :: Feb. 28, 2009

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FOOTBALL / WHO REIGNS IN SPAIN

Frustrated by injuries

The majority of Finnan’s Espanyol career to date has been spent watching on from the sidelines, writes Tim Clement.

Barclays English Premier League exports do not have a great reputation for acclimatising quickly abroad — and Steve Finnan has not exactly bucked that trend since he joined Espanyol.

Having clocked up nearly 150 appearances for Liverpool and developed into one of the most consistent performers in the EPL, the 32-year-old right-back has tried to succeed where the likes of Mark Hughes and Michael Owen failed during their time in Spain.

But the Republic of Ireland international’s spell in Catalonia has been hampered by injury as his new side has endured a torrid campaign, which has already resulted in two managerial casualties.

The curse of EPL players abroad seems to have followed the experienced full-back to Barcelona.

Finnan worked tirelessly to earn a reputation as a solid and understated player during his time in English football, providing a foundation for Liverpool’s triumphs in the UEFA Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup a year later.

But the majority of Finnan’s Espanyol career to date has been spent watching on from the sidelines.

Having suffered a further injury setback, which has limited Finnan to just four appearances in the Spanish Primera Liga, he hinted that the club’s training methods may have been responsible for his fitness problems.

“Obviously I am disappointed. I do not like being injured,” he said. “Fortunately, it is not too serious and in a couple of weeks I will be able to play, but yes, it is disappointing. Bad luck? You can see it as you want too. Maybe it is something else, I do not know. I am disappointed.

“Football is hard though and we should be positive. It is clear that the coaching is different here. At every club training is different. I think that I do not need to explain any more.”

Espanyol’s woes on the pitch — they are rooted to the bottom of the Primera Liga — during Finnan’s absence have certainly not helped him settle into life at his first club outside of England.

The poor form of the 2007 UEFA Cup runner-up has seen the inexperienced Mauricio Pochettino appointed as its third manager of the current campaign after Jose Manuel Esnal won just once during his eight-game spell in charge.

With Espanyol entrenched in a relegation battle and Finnan struggling to adapt to the new coaching techniques, he looked on the brink of ending his nightmare stay at the Lluis Companys Stadium in January only to fail a medical at Hull.

Finnan remained coy when quizzed on why his move back to the EPL fell through, as he said: “What do you want me to tell you? I can say nothing publicly. You would have to ask Hull. You ask them. In reality it was not strange; it was not strange for me.”

With the prospect of a further three weeks on the sidelines ahead for Finnan, he will be hoping that his team-mates can lift their performances in the months to come.

While Espanyol’s problems have predominantly been scoring goals rather than keeping them out, it is clear from his solid displays in the EPL that a fully-fit Finnan is capable of helping the club avoid relegation, not to mention the embarrassment of starting life in the new Cornella-El Prat stadium next season in the Segunda Liga.

© PA Sport, 2009, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.



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