In recent times, Club Deportivo Castellón has been forced to live in the shadow of Villarreal CF. If the Footballing Public’s fawning at the Yellow Submarine’s exploits wasn’t bad enough, Castellón’s fans had to experience the humiliation of demotion at the end of the 2010-11 season, after the club failed to pay the players wages. Castellón have finally returned to Segunda B, but are a long way from the heights that saw them play in La Primera as recently as 1991.
The early years of football in Castellón de la Plana and the club’s former homes, the Campo de Sequiol and the Estadio Castalia, and covered here. This article starts in 1986 when the club moved out of the antiquated Castalia, whilst a new stadium was built by the municipality. Rather than head a few miles south to those upstarts at Villarreal, the club spent a season by the sea. Grao de Castellón to be precise and the minuscule Campo San Pedro. Embellished with temporary stands, San Pedro was the most unlikely and smallest stadium in the second division during the 86-87 season. Housing just over 6,000, and up tight to the town’s beach, Castellón made San Pedro a home from home, losing just two matches and even beating division champions and old rivals Valencia 1-0.
Meanwhile, back in town, work was under way on building a new stadium. Designed by Joaquin Tirado, it borrowed heavily from the design of the Mini Estadi. The orientation of the new build was turned 90° with the new main stand now up against the marathon tower. At a cost of 500m pesetas, the new stadium had an all-seated capacity of 15,000 and was full to the brim on 17 June 1987, when Castellón played Atlético Madrid in a friendly, just as they did 40 years earlier when the old Castalia opened. After a season of settling in, Castellón won their third second division title in 88-89 and returned to La Primera. They earned a creditable 14th place finish in 89-90, but year later Castellón was relegated and haven’t made it back since.
The next 20 years saw Castellón split its seasons between the second & third tiers. The seasons in La Segunda were usually spent at the wrong end of the table, whilst good campaigns in Segunda B were few and far between. When they did get it right in the regular season, the play-offs would often trip them up. Then came the 2010-11 season and all of its woes. Economic problems became evident midway through the season when reports that the players had not been paid surfaced. There were even on-pitch protests from the players, with some taking legal action against the club. With the debts outstanding at the season’s end, Castellón was demoted to the Tercera. Even then, the RFEF held out an olive branch, no doubt worried about maintaining the numbers in Segunda B after the demise of Benidorm CF & UE Lleida and the demotion of Alicante CF. The directors would not or could not meet the wages and so Castellón started the 2011-12 in the Tercera for the first time in 43 years.
On face value, the Nou Estadi Castalia looks unchanged from when it first opened 25 years ago. It has however undergone a few, subtle changes. In January 1988 the seats behind the goals were removed in advance of a Copa del Rey tie with Barcelona. This raised the capacity to 17,000. Upon promotion back to the La Primera in 1989, two rows of seats were added to the rear of the stands behind the goal and the east Preferencia, adding another 1,000 to the capacity. The terracing behind the goals were re-seated in 1996, giving the stadium a seated capacity of 14485, or 16,000 in total. The outside of the stadium has also been spruced up, as has the magnificent marathon tower, although it is no longer the focal point it once was and now has the air of a naughty schoolboy, being made to stand in a corner, behind the main stand.
These past two decades can’t have been very easy for the supporters of Castellón. Watching their club slip slowly into decline as Villarreal win the plaudits and the town’s young fans. Villarreal has now surpassed Castellón’s collective total of seasons in the top flight, and whilst El Submarino Amarillo’s recent descent to La Segunda would have been greeted by some fans of Castellón with cheers, the reality will set in when their beloved team line up for the league fixture against Villarreal B in Segunda B.