Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, the penalty scoring goalkeeper who has won the hearts of West Ham fans and the applause of the opposition. Commonly known as just ‘Adrian’ the former Betico has settled in to life in London with a series of impressive performances. Hammers fans traditionally love players that show immense passion and unrivalled pride at playing for the Claret and Blue club from East London. It’s hard to find a player, especially a goalkeeper, who exudes as much passion as Adrian.
Hailing from Seville, his fierce and thick accent remains when speaking about his time and the club – but every sentence is meticulously put together with a motive behind every retort – it’s heartwarming to hear that he still adds the occasional ‘no?’ on to the end of a sentence to double check that he is making sense. Adrian has had to overcome adversity at every stage of his career to date, and never made a huge impression for Real Betis until his La Liga debut back in 2012. It was against Mallorca… Betis lost 4-0. But they were down to 10 men, and Adrian was only introduced to replace first choice stopper Casto. Many Betico’s will want to forget Casto whose dreadful performances lead to Betis’ relegation. Previous to his debut against Mallorca a cruciate knee ligament injury had extended his stay in the reserves to seven seasons, but on his arrival in London he showed no signs of taking time to adapt.
When being approached by West Ham and Sam Allardyce, who had taken extended leave to convince the Andalusian to give up the sunshine and beaches in exchange for bitterly cold nights at the Boleyn Ground, he called on Liverpool’s cult-hero Pepe Reina to give him some advice. Reina told Adrian a story about the history behind West Ham and English football, he was sold. Truly bought into the passion the fans had for the club, or cl-oob as he pronounces it. You can see the reflection on the pitch, as Adrian routinely shows his emotions.
The best example of this would be in the penalty shoot-out against Everton in the FA Cup final. After saving a penalty from Naismith, it was goalkeeper vs. goalkeeper, Spaniard vs. Spaniard, as Joel Robles and Adrian faced off to send their respective teams through to the next round. Robles smashed his penalty off the bar. Pulsing with confidence the run-up was unnecessarily long, time enough to shed his gloves and stutter up to the spot before sending Robles the wrong way. Bursting with emotion, the keeper accelerated into a sprint over to the ecstatic fans before sliding on his knees, arms outstretched. VAMOOOOOOOOOS!
Now, Adrian plays a focal part in West Ham’s change in ideology under Slaven Billic. The Hammers have started impressively this season, despite their blip against an magnificently impressive Spurs last weekend, and have beaten some of the top teams. Their style has changed drastically in the off-season, from a direct team who relied heavily on the long ball to a unit who prefer to express themselves with the ball on the floor. Ultimately, all attacks will start from Adrian and his footwork is something that has been criminally understated by onlookers. What they can’t miss, though, is hig magnificent shot stopping and presence in the box. It’s rare to find a keeper who adapts so quickly to the physicality of the Premier League, with the keeper himself saying “In Spain, referees will blow for a free-kick if anyone touches you. Here, other players are given more of a chance. You need to be strong in your area”.
As West Ham continue to soar up the table towards the heights of the Europa League, they will continue to be admired. Adrian, however, is more than contempt to stay out of the limelight and focus on doing his job to a fantastic standard. A standard which already has Vicente Del Bosque asking “what about the West Ham goalkeeper” in his press conferences.
About the Author – Ben Jarman
Freelance football writer with a penchant for Spanish and European football. Work published by Fulham FC, Italian FA and the Evening Standard.