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Kings of Anglia Issue 10 Magazine Offer

Town to face Spanish giants Bilbao

PUBLISHED: 20:00 23 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:02 03 March 2010

ATHLETIC Bilbao are on their way to Ipswich.

The Spanish club will provide the opposition for Ipswich's glamour pre-season friendly on Friday, August 1.

ATHLETIC Bilbao are on their way to Ipswich.

The Spanish club will provide the opposition for Ipswich's glamour pre-season friendly on Friday, August 1.

Bilbao finished seventh in La Liga, being pipped for a UEFA Cup spot when a ten-game unbeaten run was ended with last night's 3-1 defeat at the Bernabeu Stadium.

That win earned hosts Real Madrid the league crown and Barcelona's 2-0 home triumph over Celta Vigo saw them leapfrog Bilbao into sixth place.

Bilbao are unique in that they sign only Basque players and they retain the tag Athletic because they were founded in 1898 by local traders and engineers from the north of England.

But the Basque-only rule does not apply to coaches and they famously tried to lure Bobby Robson from Ipswich more than 20 years ago.

They had better luck in tempting Howard Kendall to Spain in 1987 after he had led Everton to their second league title in three years.

At the time he was England's manager of the year, but his time in Bilbao came to an end in 1989 when he was sacked and returned home to take charge of Manchester City.

They are about to lose the services of 58-year-old German coach Jupp Heynckes, who is returning home to take charge of Schalke after two seasons at the San Mames Stadium.

Heynckes, a World Cup winner as a player, led Real Madrid to Champions League success in 1998 and also won the UEFA Cup when in charge of Borussia Monchengladbach.

Bilbao are attractive opponents to follow on from last year's pre-season visitors, Celta Vigo, when two goals from Darren Ambrose earned Town victory.

The Basque club's sports director is former Spanish international goalkeeper Andoni Zubizaretta and they have won the league title on eight occasions.

Their last success was back in 1984, a year after they celebrated the best season in their history by winning the domestic treble.

They have won the Spanish Cup on 23 occasions, a record that only Barcelona, with 24 successes, can better.

Bilbao's biggest star is striker Jo Etxeberria, who won his 40th senior cap as Spain were held to a recent 0-0 draw by Northern Ireland in Belfast.

The 25-year-old, who was with neighbours Real Sociedad as a junior, netted 14 league goals in 29 appearances last season.

His more experienced co-striker, 32-year-old Ismael Urzaiz, boasted an identical record. He won 25 caps.

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