THE RETURN TO SEGUNDA B AND PROMOTION TO SEGUNDA A.
Eibar began the 1986-87 season full of excitement at the prospect of returning to the Segunda A, the second level of Spanish football. This dream became reality in 1988, which would be a season to go down in the history books. Apart from the glorious promotion, it was also memorable for goalkeeper Garamendi scoring a ridiculous goal from his own penalty area against Pontevedra, which saw him become a fan´s icon and a popular player nationwide.
The game in which Eibar would finally clinch promotion, against Durango, was attended by thousands of passionate Eibar supporters. The promotion was celebrated with a fantastic reception and widespread elation in Plaza Untzaga, in front of the town hall.
The club´s primary objective after gaining promotion to the Segunda A was to remain in the division and continue playing against excellent teams. In this year Eibar signed a historic collaboration agreement with Athletic Club de Bilbao, which marked a rift in relations between the club and Real Sociedad.
S.D Eibar was able to consolidate their position in the division through a fluctuating spell of both good luck and bad. In some seasons the club managed to avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth, whilst in others they were able to secure a comfortable mid-table finish.
In 1990, the club commemorated their 50th anniversary celebrations with a friendly against the Amsterdam-based club, Ajax, which finished 1-1 thanks to a penalty from Luluaga. The stormy weather on this day would have reminded Eibar´s older fans of their 25th anniversary friendly, in which the team faced Girondins de Bordeaux in an exciting game which finished 5-3.
The year 1992 constituted a great challenge for Eibar as it converted to a Public Limited Company (PLC). The new, official title of the football team became Sociedad Deportiva Eibar S.A.D. This conversion was greatly assisted with the financial support of Athletic Club de Bilbao, who helped Eibar to raise the required fee of 66 million pesetas (€400,000) in the early phases of the conversion.
The 1998-99 season culminated with another miraculous escape. With the club´s relegation from the Segunda A looking all but certain, the team somehow managed to salvage 21 points from a possible 27 in the final nine matches of the season. Manager Alfonso Barasoain, considered “a magician” by fans, managed to steer the team to safety with a 3-0 victory over Toledo in Ipurua, as Mallorca B lost at home against the already-relegated Hércules. This exciting climax encapsulated Eibar´s reputation as a determined outfit with a ´never say die´ attitude.
Blas Ziarreta arrived in the Eibar dug-out in the 1999-2000 campaign, whose tenure was characterised by a notoriously physical playing style. In the following season, Eibar secured the three-month loan signing of a young player from Real Sociedad who would go on to leave his mark on football both domestically and internationally, Xabi Alonso. In 2002, president Juan Luis Mardares stepped down after fourteen years in charge and was replaced by Jaime Barriuso.
In the 2003-2004 season, under the leadership of José María Amorrortu, the club went toe-to-toe with Real Madrid in two hotly contested cup matches which would put Eibar on the footballing map. This famous cup tie helped to discredit the mythical association between Eibar and anti-football.
During the same season, SD Eibar incorporated the existing feminine side in the city into its ranks, which had until then belonged to Eibartarrak. The feminine team was founded in 1991 and had competed in the First Division on many occasions. This team also finished runners up in the Queens Cup of 1999 and, under the name of Eibar in the 2009-10 season, competed in the Super League of feminine football.
José Luis Mendilibar was at the helm for the exhilarating 2004-05 season. The squad was stacked with players who would go on to achieve successes in the Spanish First Division. A special mention must be given to 19 year old David Silva, who would go on to be proclaimed world champion in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, alongside his aforementioned compatriot Xabi Alonso.
The final game of this season saw the club play host to Racing de Ferrol. Eibar came within 17 minutes of being promoted to the First Division but ultimately, and agonisingly, failed to cross the final hurdle. The team, which was captained by Gaizka Garitano, remained in Segunda A.
This extraordinary squad was picked apart and consequently relegated to Segunda B the following season after 18 years in the second level of Spanish football – a record which remains untouched until this day.
Coach “Manix” Mandiola led Eibar to a succesful season in 2006-07, with a play-off victory over Rayo Vallecano securing the club´s return to the Segunda A. Despite successfully avoiding relegation in the first season back in the league, the club was once again relegated to Segunda B in 2009. At this point, President Jaime Barriuso stepped down from the hot seat owing to personal reasons and was replaced by the determined Alex Aranzábal. The first port of call was for the club to reassess their objectives due to the complicated and delicate economic climate.