Sometime last Millennium, Mr GCL visited Chelsea FC’s old training ground, Harlington, for the first time. To play for his university side against some Imperial College eggheads. Post uni, he returned as deputy ed of The Official Chelsea Magazine.
This side of the New Millennium, Mr Gran Canaria Local’s reinvented himself as a travel journo. Recently, though, he went along to UD Las Palmas‘ Barranco Seco (Dry Ravine). As Mrs GCL escorted kids, including our Alex, in her role as president of Pequeño Valiente. And it was a trip down memory lane for Mr GCL. Here’s why:
In Jose Mourinho’s first spell as Chelsea manager, January 2005 to be precise, the club left Harlington for state-of-the-art Cobham. Where there’s a secret entrance which connects the training ground to the local railway station. Security’s a lot tighter than Harlington where students used to dump Chelsea players’ possessions outside the changing room to clear the way for their own stuff.
Barranco Seco, which is open to all, feels as ramshackle as Harlington. Indeed, the sports facilities at next door’s private Heidelberg school appear to have received much more investment. Which only adds to Barranco Seco’s charm.
Mr Gran Canaria Local still plays football. Unfortunately, for his tender English skin, it’s on astroturf. When he moaned about this to a Hoya de la Plata team-mate, he was told that the pitches used to be gravel.
There are only three grass pitches on the island. At CD Maspalomas’s ground, UD Las Palmas’ Estadio Gran Canaria, and at Barranco Seco. So, Mr GCL transports himself back to the likes of Hackney Marshes as training ends and he steps onto 6,566 square metres of natural turf.
At Harlington, Mr GCL watched footballing wizard Gianfranco Zola stay behind after training to practise free kicks. At Barranco Seco, he’s left open mouthed by local hero Juan Carlos Valerón. Well into the winter of his career, Valerón’s the most gifted Spanish player of his generation.
There were also legends on the Chelsea backroom staff who Mr Gran Canaria Local ran into at Harlington. The likes of Gary Staker, a onetime steward promoted to Claudio Ranieri‘s translator thanks to Italian parents. At Barranco Seco, you’ll see the one-and-only Tino ‘el Escachao’ Vega. A goatherd aged nine, he’s now the club scout.
If Valerón and Vegan connect UD Las Palmas’ past with its present, watching the younger players from the club’s cantina gives hope for the future. After the heartbreak of the 2013-14 season‘s play-off defeat, UD Las Palmas sit pretty at the top of Segunda A. So visit Barranco Seco to watch the Primera Liga superstars of the (not so far-off) future.
Contact details: Barranco Seco S/N, 35015, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Opening hours: UD Las Palmas train most weekdays at Barranco Seco from 10:00am until midday. For more exact times, consult their website.