New Bournemouth head coach Andoni Iraola insists he is ready to fight as a Premier League “underdog” as he became the latest Gipuzkoa-born boss to manage in England.
Iraola was appointed as Gary O’Neil’s successor at the Vitality Stadium last month, following in the footsteps of Mikel Arteta, Unai Emery and Julen Lopetegui; his managerial counterparts who all hail from the same small province in northern Spain.
The 41-year-old played in the same youth team as Arteta and also has a relationship with former Bournemouth manager – and current Newcastle boss – Eddie Howe, who previously travelled to Madrid to study Iraola.
Iraola spent three years in charge at Rayo Vallecano, leading the club into LaLiga before keeping them in the top-flight for the next two seasons before departing for Bournemouth.
“When you start the season with the sense of being the underdogs, we have to gain a little bit of respect from the league,” he said.
“It is pretty similar (to Spain) because of the stadium being not so big or the club not having maybe the history – but we have to use this to our advantage and I am used to this in Spain with Rayo and Mirandes.
“For me this was a great opportunity, it is the Premier League and right now for sure it is best league in the world.
“We knew the club, now I have seen new faces, known new people, I am sure it is the right choice for me and I hope I can be at the level.
“I’m really grateful and the welcome has been very, very nice. We know Eddie, he was in Madrid visiting us and we know (former Bournemouth manager and Howe’s assistant) Jason Tindall and we had talked previously about Bournemouth.
“Obviously everyone here talks about Eddie, that is a sign he did a lot of very, very good things here in Bournemouth, I am happy he has been very successful now in Newcastle but every coach has his own ideas.”
While he goes well back with Arsenal boss Arteta, Iraola has not felt the need to rekindle his relationship with his former team-mate.
“Mikel I know him, we played together when we were nine or 19 years old, we kind of lost the relationship.
“We know that when we meet we will hug and talk about a lot of things. We haven’t maintained the relationship – I could call him right now but…”
Emery, too, has not had a phone call but Iraola holds the Aston Villa coach in high regard and said: “I think I’m not, I’m not on his level because he has shown a lot of things before, he has been really successful almost everywhere.
“He is very good as a coach. We have spoken sometimes but I haven’t talked with him (since getting the Bournemouth job).”
Iraola is very much head coach in every way, insisting he “shouldn’t be signing the players” and is instead keen to get to know his squad and challenge them to play in the style he wants to implement.
“I don’t like the game to be too controlled,” he added.
“We try to attack as soon as we can, we open the game and have a good volume of chances and crosses.
“Sometimes you will suffer at the back but you have to be ready, we have good defenders, also.”