The 24 year old Spaniard, José Enrique Sánchez Díaz, seems to be regaining his smile and confidence with Newcastle United, albeit playing in Division 2. After starting his sports career in Levante and being signed by Valencia in 2005, he was then handed to Celta de Vigo to assess whether he was worthy of playing in Division 1.
He played the left side, with his characteristic combination of attacks and great physical power, which caused Villareal to notice him and sign him after his stint with the Vigo team, where he played great football. Newcastle soon set its eyes on him and signed him in 2007, when his status dramatically declined and he experience a costly period of adjustment in the team. At present, he enjoys the confidence of his coach and so he is training hard with the rest of the team to reach their goal of returning to the Premier League. The Prisma talked to him.
How would you summarise your experience with Newcastle, since your debut on 29th August, 2009 against Barnsley?
The truth is that it has been a beautiful experience and I am very happy to be in England. I do not regret coming here; on the contrary, I don’t want to leave now. However, it hasn’t all been perfect, because we are Division 2. Last year, being relegated to Division 2 was hard for all the players, although this year the team is in the race for the title and I hope that we win.
Was it difficult adjusting to the language and English lifestyle?
The adjustment wasn’t difficult; it took me about a year, more or less. The language was a bit of a problem, but I believe that my lifestyle is basically the same as it was before. When I came to England, I had the Spanish players Luque and Solano, who did everything possible to help me integrate, but, shortly afterwards, they went to other teams and I was left as the only Spanish speaker. I arrived here without speaking any English, so it was a bit complicated. Eventually one adapts to everything and the truth is that the clothes I wore helped me fit in more with the context.
Which league do you think has greater potential, the premier or the Spanish league?
I think that, except for Madrid and Barcelona, the two spectacular clubs are now the same, Barça, for everything, and Madrid, mostly for the players it acquired this year. The Premier League is stronger. I think that the Premier League is nicer in every sense, for the people, for the atmosphere and for the stadiums. Moreover, English football is much more about attacking and defending, rather than tactics and kickabouts.
When did you get the nickname ‘The Bull’?
It was given to me by a teammate in the sub-21 Spanish selection, Juanfran, who currently plays with Osasuna. I’m not exactly sure how it arrived here, perhaps because the bull is the archetypal Spanish symbol. It is a nickname that was given to me and does not bother me; on the contrary, it is a compliment.
Newcastle is having a brilliant season and only 13 points separate them from the fourth classification. Would staying in this position represent a failure?
To not rise would be represent a failure because this team has to be in the Premier League for its fans and for what Newcastle represents globally. I think that it is a great club, and has always been a significant club in English football. It has played in the Champions League, UEFA and has a great number of titles in its portfolio. The truth is that it is very strange to see us here in the Championship, so I hope that this year we will move to Division 1, although it’s not going to be easy. It doesn’t matter which team we play against, it will always be difficult. Moreover, we have several injured players, so it is not going to be an easy task to return to the Premier League. I trust the team, but it is a long road to victory.
You have adopted an indisputable role in the line-up of Newcastle. Can no one move you from your left wing position?
I believe that everyone has to work hard nowadays. I am happy with my performance this year, but more than anything I am happy with the performance of the team. Nobody’s position is guaranteed and when you play two games badly, nobody remembers that you have played well. This is football and in football what matters is the present so I must play well in every game. What is important is rising in the ranks and if the team does not rise, as well as it might play this year, people won’t remember.
Newcastle was eliminated from the FA Cup, with a direct rival in the league, West Bromwich Albion. Do they have many chances of doing well in this competition?
The chances of winning the FA Cup are very low. From the fifth round, you have the strong clubs in the Premier League and although it is not impossible, it is very difficult to win. I believe that it was good that they eliminated us, because we have to focus on the Championship. Besides, the fact that West Brown Albion is going on to the next round benefits us. They are a direct rival and will now have more matches during the week at the worst possible moment, as soon there will be many important league matches.
After the team’s great performance, will a return to the Premier League imply a future contract with the Spanish National team?
I wish! What I wish for now is that next year we will be in the Premier League. If we move into that league and if the team and I play well, there is the chance that I could play for the National team. At the moment that doesn’t worry me. It is a dream to play with the National Team, but for now my biggest dream is for this team to return to the Premier League.
In the summer, Spanish teams like Zaragoza and Madrid Athletic were talking about you and now, in the winter, Sunderland and Liverpool seem to be following their footsteps. Is it a good feeling when other teams take notice of you?
It is. It is good when other teams notice you, because it gives you even more motivation than the team and the fans already do, and it means that you are playing well. I have always said that although there have been rumours and things have been said that are not true, I have never said that I want to leave. I am happy here. This team may have dropped to Division 2, I know that, but being in the Championship was partially my fault, because I was part of that team. Therefore, I am very happy to have stayed; I don’t regret anything and I want this team to return to the Premier League, where it belongs.
There are still many people who ask why you were never given another opportunity in Valencia. How was that experience? If given the option, would you return to your city’s club?
It is already a distant memory. I am very thankful to Valencia for the opportunity they gave me, even though I did not play in the club, they gave me the opportunity to debut in the first division. I had just played in Second B, when they sent me to play in the U-20 World Cup and then gave me to Celta. I am very thankful for the opportunity they gave me; each coach is different. They probably think that there are other players better than me and I respect that. Now I think about Newcastle, I am very comfortable here, and so is my family.
I do not want to leave. If in the future I’ll need to leave, that wouldn’t be a problem. If the club continues to grow and the team continues to improve, then I would certainly want to be a part of it.
The South African World Cup is around the corner. Do you see Spain as a favourite for the title?
It seems that Spain is the main favourite, and I don’t say that because I am Spanish, but because Spain won the European Cup. Brazil is also a favourite because it won the Confederations Cup. I think that they are the two strongest candidates. But a World Cup is like the Champions League, in that it doesn’t always yield the results hoped for. One can play a bad game and end up paying for it. I believe that Spain has a great team, but at any given moment you can play against another team and end up being eliminated.