Jamie McGregor's travels around Northern Spain continue with a visit to Santa Cruz, the home of Tercera stalwarts Gijón Industrial.
For many Asturias conjures up images of green fields, snow tipped mountains and pristine beaches, but the northern Spanish province has another side. It's also a place of coal mines, shipbuilding yards and huge steel works. Arguably it's a combination of both of these, a connection with nature and a working class mentality, which makes Asturians the people they are.
|Industrial by name. Industrial by nature|
In footballing terms, the more working class teams are associated with the mining valley which clubs like Caudal, Langreo and Tuilla inhabit. While Gijón is a working class city, El Molinón sits in a residential area just off the beach and opposite a pretty park. However, if you want to experience the industrial side of the city, you must venture away from the centre to La Calzada, a working class district which is home to the city’s huge port as well as Tercera side Gijón Industrial. Like so many clubs at this level, Gijón Industrial was born out of an amalgamation. In this case the year was 1969 and the two clubs which came together were Pelayo Club and Club Calzada. With both clubs having a ground of their own, a stadium had to be chosen and in the end they settled on Santa Cruz, the erstwhile home of Pelayo Club.
Virtute et Industrial - The Campo Santa Cruz
The foundation of Gijón Industrial came at the end of a decade of rapid industrialisation in Asturias. With its large port, Gijón became an important gateway for the iron ore that needed to be imported by the large steel works near Avilés. This, along with the growth of ship building, led to the rapid expansion of the port area and La Calzada in particular. With the manual workers moving into the area, it soon developed a working class feel and where there's a working class feel there is usually a football club. With the club's ground sitting literally in the shadow of the port's warehouses and huge cranes, there is probably no club in the country with a more appropriate name.
|Light Industry - Santa Cruz's Spartan south stand|
Gijón Industrial has never played in any category above Tercera but that doesn't mean they haven't played teams from other provinces. In the early days, the Tercera was an inter-provincial tournament and Santa Cruz played host to teams such as Racing Ferrol, Cultural Leonesa, SD Compostela and Arenas Club de Getxo. The 1977/78 season, the club's most successful, ended in qualification for the Copa del Rey and this saw Badajoz travel north. While Gijón Industrial won the home leg by a goal to nil, Badajoz prevailed, winning the tie 3-1 on aggregate. However, as glamorous as those matches were, Santa Cruz is probably best known for a match that never took place.
|Urban Soul - Santa Cruz in 2012|
The season was 2003/04 and Real Oviedo had sunk to the depths of Tercera for the first time in the club's history. Tercera sides eagerly awaited the release of the fixture calendar to see who would host the regional giants first. As fate would have it, Santa Cruz was the venue the computer chose. Interest in the fixture was such that there was an attempt to have the game moved to El Molinón but in the end it was ruled it had to take place at Industrial's home ground. The game would have been the most significant match ever played at Santa Cruz but unfortunately it was postponed due to security fears. The match eventually took place in December but by then, Real Oviedo had already played away from home and Santa Cruz had lost the right to claim its small place in history.
|The not so saintly main stand at Santa Cruz|
El Estadio Santa Cruz is an unglamourous ground in an unglamourous area, but in spite of this it has a charm about it. With a capacity of roughly 2,500, it's bigger than most Tercera grounds. At peak times in the club's history it has accommodated crowds in excess of a 1,000 which, at this level, is no mean feat. Those crowds would have been split between the two main, all seated stands at each side of the pitch. Like almost all Tercera crowds it has a quirky little bar where you can enjoy a beer while watching the game. In fact, Santa Cruz has two bars, one for each stand. Its toilet facilities are rudimentary and you'll struggle to find a prawn sandwich, but it's all part of its character and long may it continue.
You can follow Jamie on Twitter - @terracethoughts