Ascoli are a small club with a big heart, promotion for a club this size is not easy and yet they continue to amaze, decade after decade, by making it back to the big time. There has been an Ascoli side in Serie A in each of the last four decades and, as we move into a fifth, they are once again on the ascendancy.
Ascoli were formed in 1898 in Le Marche, which lies on the Adriatic coastline south of Emilia-Romagna. They had spent most of their existence in the lower echelons of the Italian leagues until 1971, when they were promoted to Serie B. This started an honourable trend for the Bianconeri as their fighting spirit and good football eventually gained them promotion to Serie A for the first time in their history, in 1974. This was a short-lived stay but, after relegation in 1976, they were back up again two years later for a longer, eight year spell. When Ascoli eventually fell back into Serie B again in 1985, many expected them to bay away from the top-level of Italian football for a longer period of time but, true to form, the plucky little side from Le Marche again strove hard to regain their place in 1986. The story continues in similar form, relegated in 1990 and then promoted in 1991, relegated in 1992 and then, after a long period away from top-flight football, they returned in 2005 until 2007. The one characteristic about the club seems to be a never say die attitude, and the one thing that the fans at the Stadio Cino e Lillo Del Duca can never complain about is being bored, their yo-yoing between the leagues can be called nothing if not dramatic. The club has also seen its fair share of talent over the years and players such as Gianluca Pagliuca, Patrick Vervoort, Oliver Bierhoff, Liam Brady and Fabio Quagliarella have all kept the fans of the Picchio entertained.
This season saw Ascoli approach the new campaign with a feeling of mild optimism; a 9th place finish last term had not been a bad season, although it had not been a fantastic one either. The Argentine Frederico Vismara had been brought in from Chacarita Juniors BA, Jan Hable from Fiorentina had also been recruited and Frederico Moretti was the other notable signing, brought in from Catania. The season started with a trip away to Grosetto in which the Bianconeri were pleased to get away with a point, they had chances to win the game but so did the opposition. It was not a bad start to the season; a point away from home on the opening day is not to be scoffed at. Their first home game of the season saw them fight it out with Modena in another game that ended level, this time a 1-1 draw. Matchday three saw Ascoli really turn up the heat and Albinoleffe were lucky to come away from the Stadio Cino e Lillo Del Duca with only a 2-0 defeat. If Ascoli could get a result in their next game away at Piacenza then their season really would be in full flow.
The Stadio Leonardo Garilli saw Piacenza and Ascoli play out a classic, Ascoli went in front after only four minutes, when Luigi Giorgi jumped on a loose ball to slot home. Piacenza then won a penalty on 38 minutes but Daniele Cacia saw his spotkick well saved by Bianconeri goalkeeper Enrico Guarna. The second half had only just kicked off when the away team had a penalty of their own and it was brilliantly dispatched by Antonino Bonvissuto. The home side managed to get a goal back almost immediately when Mattia Graffiedi finished well at the near post, although this seemed to shock Ascoli and their response was quick, Vittorio Micolucci got on the end of a cheeky back heel and smashed the ball home to make it 3-1. This you would have thought would have killed the game but Mattia Graffiedi had not given up the fight, even if Piacenza had, he scored his second of the game after connecting with a through ball from a free kick and proceeding to rifle the ball into the bottom corner. Ascoli finished the game off in the final minute, Andrea Cristiano smashing the ball into the roof of the net from twelve yards, rounding off a superb display.
Ascoli are now in second position and have Serie A in their sights, Empoli are the next opponents and victory here will certainly give the club from Le Marche the feeling that 2011 could be the fifth decade in a row that Ascoli can once again grace Italy’s finest stadia like the Giuseppe Meazza and the Stadio Olimpico.