A game of dos mitades
The traditional English centre-half is a hard-tackling, long passing, big unit – and that is a stereotype which Enfield Town’s Harry Fagan utterly fails to fulfill.
But that is precisely why the 20-year-old could be in line to make the unlikely move from playing in English non-league football to Spain’s second division.
The 20-year-old centre back spent four years at Boreham Wood FC before joining Enfield, but it was a Boreham Wood academy coach who set him up with the potentially life-changing opportunity of a trial at Cadiz CF, who are coached by three-time Champions League winner, former Real Madrid midfielder Guti.
“The opportunity came from a coach I met at Boreham Wood, who told me there was a chance of going to Spain as he was well-connected over there,” Fagan explained.
“He asked if I’d be interested, and I feel the way football is played over there suited me more, as it’s more about technique and keeping the ball on the floor. Cadiz asked me to be there for two weeks, but I ended up staying for six – it was brilliant.”
‘I’ve never been the biggest and strongest’
Currently back with Enfield and hoping for the chance to return to Spain next season, Fagan said there was a lot about Spanish football which he felt suited him better than playing in England.
“I’ve never been the biggest and strongest guy in my team,” he said. “If you looked at me from afar you’d think I was a winger or full-back due to my size.
“The training was different to what I’ve experienced in England, it was a lot more tactical and technical”
“I’m all about playing good football, I don’t think the traditional ‘hoof it’ kind of defender is what I’m about, which justifies my move to Spain even more because they have always been known for there ‘tiki taka’ play and playing from the back.”
Traditionally, English football is seen as being very physical, and not necessarily up to the technical standards of the likes of Spain, Germany or Italy, hence the underachievement of the national team and club sides in Europe.
From the first time he trained with Cadiz, Fagan said the difference was clear.
‘Broaden their style of play’
“The training was different to what I’ve experienced in England, it was a lot more tactical and technical,” he explained. “The toughest day was Wednesday, which we would do SAQ (speed, agility, quickness) and the fitness coach would always involve the ball, which I loved. That’s something we don’t do enough back home in England.
“The main difficulty was probably the language barrier – but the lads were brilliant. some of them spoke some English so that helped out a lot”
“Tactically, sometimes I played full-back out there and the coach demanded that I was a lot closer to my centre backs, which is different to what I’ve been told in England – and I thought it worked better.
“Teams back home need to broaden there style of play and maybe it’ll improve us in the bigger competitions against Europe’s elite.”
Being away from home and family was a big challenge – Fagan’s dad has always been closely involved with his son’s footballing career – but it was one he took in his stride.
“The main difficulty was probably the language barrier, living there and communicating with my manager in particular, but the lads were brilliant – some of them spoke some English so that helped out a lot,” he explained.
“I lived in an apartment with three other lads, about 15 minutes from the training ground and next to the sea, and the people who lived nearby really helped me in terms of showing me around the local shops and restaurants.”
For now, Fagan is trying to secure as much playing time as he can with Enfield, eager to maintain the level he is at and living in hope of a call from Cadiz next season.