Sanchez: we want to keep working hard and keep getting better

Ivan Sanchez
Ivan Sanchez

Ivan Sanchez has made an impressive beginning to his Blues career since joining from Elche.

Blues beat off significant competition for the winger's signature after he guided the Spanish side to promotion in the Play-Offs.

And it's been so far, so good for Sanchez, whose contribution to Blues unbeaten start has made people sit up and take notice.

His knack of gliding with the ball seems to come effortlessly and his clever use of possession plus delivery has made the attacker an important performer already.

Here, in a first interview since arriving, sat down with Sanchez and with help from Jon Toral as translator gained an insight into his pleasing start.

BCFC: Ivan, how have you settled in so far?

IS: I'm really happy with the way I've settled, until now. It has been a lot easier than I would have thought, leaving Spain for the first time.

It was a quick turnaround from the end of the Segunda Division Play-Off Final on 24 August to coming here?

True, the season in Spain finished really late due to the COVID situation and everything happened quickly. But I spoke to the Head Coach and said that I wanted to start here as soon as possible, to get going as soon as I could.

Having played all your career in Spain, what are the biggest differences and challenges you have had to come to terms with?

In Spain the league is a lot different. I would say it is more tactical. Everyone is more organised and the biggest difference is probably physical. The physicality in England - everyone comes and presses you really quick and really hard. It's something I am still adapting to, but I feel as if I'm doing a good job with that so far.

You have made a very good impression very quickly; what has that been down to?

The biggest thing for that has been my teammates. Everyone in the dressing room. We have an excellent group of lads and they have all helped me. That's settling in on the pitch and off the pitch. It's good also to have a little group of Spanish players around. But it's the whole group, who have made me feel welcome. I feel I have started well and I'm confident, and that always helps you to keep everything going.

What advice have your compatriots given you, someone like Jon Toral in particular who has a lot of experience of England?

The biggest advice people like Jon have told me is to learn the language as soon as possible. And even whilst I am still learning it, communicate with the rest of the lads in English as best I can even if I don't use words correctly or people have a little giggle at me in the way I say things! But still, try and speak to them and try to do things together, like eating and mixing, for example.

What made you want to come to Birmingham City? You had helped Elche back into La Liga and had offers from other clubs in Spain?

It was difficult. After three good seasons over there and to finish off with promotion. I've wanted to play in the top division as well. I had different offers I listened to but when Karanka and Dong contacted me and explained the sporting project and everything going on in the Club, the things the Club is doing, it was something that really interested me. I'm 28 now and England is a league that has always appealed to me. It was an opportunity, at my age, that I wanted to take.

You've already made a Championship team of the week and impressed fans and teammates alike - are you happy so far, or is there more to come?

It has been fairly easy at the minute because of my teammates and how everyone has made me feel welcome. It has been a good start for the team as well. On a personal level and a collective level, we just want to keep working hard and keep getting better. Hopefully, yes, there is plenty more to come.

The Head Coach has made the team a lot harder to beat. Even as an attacking player, how important is that over the course of a long league campaign?

It is key to be solid at the back. We have really good defenders at the Club. As a team we have been really solid so far and that is something to build on. Offensively with players like Toral, Bela, Crowley, Jukey, Leko it has been easy for me to adapt on the pitch and play with these types. We need to take advantage of the fact we have been solid, it is down to us further up the pitch.

And in the final third, the attacking parts of the pitch, what are you being asked to do specifically?

As an attacking player, the gaffer always gives you a freedom. To the wingers, the number 10. He wants us to express ourselves and combine with each other. He asks us to get the ball in the box when we have a striker like Jukey who is going to win most aerial duels. Also in and around the box get shots off so I can chip in with goals. I need to help, in my case, with the right-back defensively for the team as well.

Are you comfortable more on the right, where you have started for Blues, or the left, or even as a 10?

I feel more comfortable on the right. I enjoy it there. In my career I have played in the three positions. I have played a few times on the left but I don't feel I'm the type of player who goes past people down the line and gets to the byline; I'm more a player who comes inside from the right and links and combines with my teammates to create chances that way.

What are the ambitions of the team this season, what are you aiming for? The Head Coach has talked about this being a project and building something?

I know the end of last season was tough. The team stayed in the Championship only in the last few weeks. It was important to be solid and start well this season. But we need to go step by step. Calmly. There are a lot of new players in the building so people have been adapting and getting to grips with the league as well. As I mentioned before, there is a great group of lads here to do that. It has been a good start but we need to do things gradually to have a good season where we don't suffer.

I think it is fair to say the fans have enjoyed watching you, even only if it has been through BluesTV. How much do you miss not having fans in the stadium and how strange are these games behind closed doors?

It's one of the things I've missed most in coming to England. To not have fans... it is a country where in the Premier League and the Championship the passion of the crowd is exciting to see. It's something I was really looking forward to experience. Obviously the complicated situation the world is living, hopefully we can see the light soon. And for the team as well, having St. Andrew's full and the crowd behind us will give us an extra plus because I have been told about our fans.

What would your message to the Blues fans be, Ivan?

I'd like to thank them for the warm welcome, on social media and when I have met people in the street. Thank you for that. Hopefully I will see them soon at the stadium cheering us on and try to give them something to be happy about.