“Sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? But sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude, in Los Angeles.” - The Stranger, The Big Lebowski.
I’m not talking about THE Dude but he is certainly A dude. And I’m not talking about Los Angeles, I’m talking about Las Palmas. After Paco Jémez’ first weekend as the manager of pío-pío, they sit bottom of the league looking up at 17th place and safety, a full five points above them, half of their miserly haul of 11 for the season so far. Whether it is a pipe dream or realistic target, Jémez is going to spend the rest of the season trying to keep Las Palmas up by doing things on his terms.
The Canary Island born lover of commotion took over at Las Palmas during the winter break with his eyes on turning the side into regulars in the top half of the table or at least outside of the bottom three on the last day of the season. Scarcely have we seen the stars align like we have at Las Palmas for their appointment of Jémez.
He could not be arriving at a better time to a club crying out for a figurehead, a light in the dark, a visionary for a more sustainable future in the top flight. Although his recent outburst suggesting the team "can only aspire to play in the second division as what we have is not good enough to play in the first" might sound like hopelessness, he's transmitting messages through the media. Back me or I'm gone.
They’re already onto their third manager this season, four if you include Paquito, the former player turned match day delegate turned manager. They had Jorge Almíron ready to take over before bureaucratic red tape scuppered that plan, with the rules stating he had not been a coach for long enough at the required level to manage in LaLiga. The door, previously eased shut on Jémez, who said he needed some time with family in the build-up to Christmas after a spell in Mexico, swung open once again.
With Las Palmas lacking direction since Quique Setien’s doomed last season in charge, the club has been crying out for an idealist in the mould of Jémez to grab the project and make it his own.
He must have been licking his lips as he sharpened his sword when Loic Rémy and Moroccan winger Oussama Tannane arrived late for his first session in charge. It was a chance to wield his power and to test the owner’s commitment to him as the man in charge. “From now on, if a player does something deemed improper, the club will have to act or I’ll resign,” he said with the same frank tone that often accompanies his most important messages. He advised the club to look for new teams for the players, one of whom is the club's top scorer, and they haven't been seen since.
"There are routines that are not correct, and we have to change things. We're going to give the players tools to do that,” he said, and he has constantly laid out his plans for a complete overhaul to the media so everyone is perfectly aware that change is coming. “The first thing we need to do is get the fans back with us,” he said, because he knows he will need their backing when the difficult times arrive. And they will. Because that’s what you get when you hire Paco Jémez, the rough with the smooth. The intricate, team-made goals along with the calamitous defending. But with the support of the management at the club and some, not a lot, of money to spend to build a squad, Jémez could be at the start of his best project yet.
He will need time though. As Juanma Lillo, a coach from the same school of thought as Jémez, said in an interview in the Blizzard: “You can't validate the process through the results. Human beings tend to venerate what finished well, not what was done well. We attack what ended up badly, not what was done badly. The media does that. And beyond the possibility that maybe you don't have the capacity to judge whether the methodological process is the correct one, it's flawed to judge on those grounds."
Jémez has started his process by signaling change. He has already brought in three players in an overhaul of the squad including Jairo Samperio, Gabriel Peñalba and Alejandro Galvez with each of them bringing something the manager needs. Peñalba, for example, a key component in Jémez’ strategy to bring the ball out from the back and started at the weekend against Eibar. Meanwhile, Leandro Chichizola, who had been on the bench for the last eight games, started in goal. Sergi Samper, who was out of the squad or on the bench for the last seven games also started, and Hernan Toledo was given his first start of the year along with Momo, who was given his third start of the season. The Jemez revolution has begun.
Quique Setien fell on his sword in pursuit of greater autonomy at the club, Manolo Marquez walked after six games when he said he didn’t’ “feel comfortable” and Pako Ayerestan was brought in fighting fires while trying to plant the seeds of some kind of comeback without the club ever truly committing to that much-needed revolution - doomed from the start as reverberations from previous mistakes continued to haunt the club.
It’s Paco Jémez’ time now with plenty of work to do as he cleans up the mess that has become Las Palmas while he plots what will have to be a Houdini-like escape from the relegation places. Who knows what the results will look like but the process will be carefully crafted by the bald-headed idealist and for everyone else, it is guaranteed to be an enjoyable watch.