Lorca – Estadio de San José

Sometimes, you have to wonder whether it is worth it? All that effort, money and stress and what do you have to show for it? However, before you get too depressed about the club you follow, spare a thought for the good people of Lorca, tucked away in the south east corner of Spain. Over the past 120 years, they have had to endure the formation and closure of 10 senior teams and have followed the different incarnations at five separate stadiums. Here we chart the history of the first four homes of football in Lorca.

Estadio de San José – Home of football in Lorca from 1951 to 2003.

The Lorquinos have a Geordie to thank for bringing football to their city. Manuel José Pelegrín y Dunn was born in Newcastle in 1857, before moving to his father’s native Lorca in the 1890’s. Still clinging to his roots, Manny Pelegrín set up Sociedad Lorca Foot-ball Club in 1901, adopting the black & white stripes of his beloved Magpies. Early matches were played in the square next to the Plaza de Toros, before moving to the Campo de los Llano de Santa Quiteria in 1904. Here the club remained until 20 January 1924. Later that year, on 12 October, Lorca FC inaugurated the Campo de la Rueda with a 2-0 win in a league match against FC Cartagena. The club won the second division of the Campeonato Regional de Murciana in 1925 and progressed to the top division where they came upon the regional big-wigs such as Real Murcia & Cartagena FC. Lorca FC took some heavy beatings during their time at this level and with interest in the club on the wane, it folded in June 1928.

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Almost immediately, a new club was formed. Lorca Sport Club took up residence at Campo de la Rueda and entered the Campeonato de Primera, but finished last in the league. The following 1929-30 season saw the club compete in the first ever Tercera competition and finish a creditable third ahead of Albacete, Hércules CF and Imperia Murcia. However, all was not right and with finances tight, the club withdrew from the 1931 Copa del Rey, rather than face the long journey to Oviedo. In the summer of 1932, Lorca Sport Club decided to withdraw from all competitions and folded. Move on a year and another pretender appeared on the scene. Club Deportivo Lorca competed in the Campeonato Regional de Murciana in 1933 and thanks to some restructuring, made it to the Primera Categoría Regional championship for the last season before the Civil War. Unfortunately, it did not reappear after the hostilities had ended, and as the Campo de La Rueda took one hell of a pounding, the search was on for a new club and a new stadium.

The rudimentary Campo de Fútbol del Instituto Ibañez Martín.

It took until the summer of 1940 for the next senior team to emerge. Lorca Fútbol Club started out in category one of the regional league, but in season 43-44 appeared in Group VII of the Tercera. Maybe they shouldn’t have bothered as they won only one of their 18 matches and finished bottom of the league. They were still using the dilapidated Campo de la Rueda up until December 1943, but then moved to the Campo de Fútbol del Instituto Ibañez Martín, It was first used on 16 January 1944 in a goalless draw with Cartagena, but was barely an improvement on La Rueda. The club and the stadium saw out the remainder of their days in the regional leagues, as first Lorca Fútbol Club folded in 1950, and then its successor Club Deportivo Lorca, used the stadium until the ground closed on 30 September 1951. On 28 October 1951 CD Lorca opened the Estadio Municipal de San José with a 6-1 friendly win over Pinosense. Hopes were high that Club Deportivo Lorca would be more successful than its predecessors, and initial signs were promising when the club debuted in the Tercera for the 1952-53 season. However, results were at best modest and the club never finished higher than third in the Tercera (61-62), before finishing bottom in season 65-66 and folding with accumulated debts of over 150,000 pesetas.

October 1951 & opening day at the Estadio Municipal de San José.

Maybe the folk of Lorca were a bit sceptical about the city’s footballing dreams, for they went without a senior team until 1969, when CF Lorca Deportivo was formed. Nothing in its first decade as a club suggested this manifestation would be any different from the others that had gone before, as they hung around in the regional leagues. Home was the modest Estadio de San José, although by the early 1970’s it did have a simple cover on the west side of the ground and a grass pitch, used for the first time on 8 September 1971 with a friendly against Real Madrid. The first signs that this club could be different from the rest came in 1979 when it won promotion to the Tercera. Two years later and the city’s first Tercera title and promotion to Segunda B was won and with momentum behind them, they didn’t stop there. Approaching the final day of the season, Lorca Deportiva needed to win at Algeciras to earn promotion to La Segunda. They could only draw and local rivals Cartagena FC sneaked through by the narrowest of margins.

At least Lorquinos could rely on the Estadio de San José.

Undeterred, the club regrouped and two seasons later won the Segunda B Group II title and with it promotion to the second division. Mixing with the likes of Cadiz, Real Oviedo, Las Palmas & Celta Vigo, Lorca Deportivo was always likely to struggle, and so it proved with their dream finishing after the one season. With budgets cut following relegation from La Segunda, Lorca Deportivo suffered a dismal 85-86 campaign in Segunda B and dropped to the Tercera. The writing was on the wall and despite a brief return to Segunda B in 1987, the club was back in the Tercera in 1989. Disenchanted with the running of the club, a group of fans set up Lorca Promesas in 1991, and by the 92-93 season, both were competing in the Tercera. The city’s fans had got behind Lorca Promesas, who were also playing at the Estadio de San José, and over the next two seasons outperformed the supposedly senior team. The end came for Lorca Deportivo at the end of the 93-94 season, when relegation to the Regional Preferente saw the club wound up. Lorca Promesas and another local club, UD Lorca, joined forces during the close season and formed Lorca Club de Fútbol.

2002 – Cramped and ageing, the Estadio de San José nears the end.

Lorca Club de Fútbol continued the city’s tradition of under-performing, debt-ridden clubs. Between its formation in 1994 and final breath in 2002, it won promotion to Segunda B on three occasions, only to be relegated after a season-long stay. In a farcical final season, the players and staff went unpaid for five months, but still managed to reach the play-offs. Eventually, with debts of 1.3 million euros, Lorca CF joined the increasingly crowded Lorquino league in the sky. I think you can guess what happened next. Yes, the formation of Lorca Deportiva CF in the summer of 2002 by Antonio Baños. A place in the Tercera was bought for the club and the team immediately obliged by winning the league title and promotion to Segunda B. In fairness, it has to be said that there was an incentive to start afresh after Lorca CF’s demise. In October 2001, the local municipality had started work on a new stadium some 5km to the south of the city. It was ready for use towards the end of the 2002-03 season and on 9 March 2003, Lorca Deportiva beat Caravaca 2-1 in the final match at the Estadio de San José. The future of football in Lorca would now be played out at the Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco.

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