Balzan will be hoping to extend their Premier League stay to four consecutive seasons as they prepare for the BOV Premier League 2013/14 campaign with a completely new squad under the guidance of Italian coach Riccardo Tumiatti. Tumiatti had replaced Ivan Zammit in the final part of last season.
While addressing a press conference at the Melita Gardens on Monday, Honorary President Anton Tagliaferro said a lot had happened in the last six months. He said Balzan managed to secure a top-six finish and stay in the top division for a second successive season and hopefully this would be once again at the end of the coming season.
Tagliaferro said that after the club parted company with former coach Ivan Zammit, Balzan needed a change. The club decided to take a different approach and rather than relying on players who were on loan from other clubs, they spent a lot of time watching other games to target young players who had potential.
In fact, Balzan signed Steve Bezzina, Luke Sciberras, Mark Spiteri, Justin Grioli, Gianluca Calabretta Godwin Mackay and goalkeeper Michael Falzon. Andrew Scicluna joined the club on loan from Birkirkara. A number of players from the nursery, namely Juan Carlos Corbalan, Gianfranco Micallef, Andrew Cassar, Shaun Bugeja and Kevin Camilleri, are training with the senior squad.
As regards foreigners, Balzan secured the services of Albanian midfielder Erjon Beu, Norwegian Kai Risholt, Italian midfielder Fabio Vignaroli and Spanish striker Jose Luis Armario Negrin. These join Spanish goalkeeper Daniel Miguelez Martinez who had joined the club in January. Another new arrival is Australian Charlie Fuller from the AC Milan Soccer School in Australia.
Anton Tagliaferro said he is glad the nursery was producing players and the club has now built a strong squad by signing several new players. The squad has been training hard all summer and is now geared up for a positive start.
The Balzan Honorary President said he is confident a good season lies ahead although he is aware that it could take the team sometime to settle down since they have a completely new squad.
“We have a young and new team and it will take time to settle down. However we have got the base to do well. In the Premier League, there are the top four teams – Birkirkara, Valletta, Hibernians and Sliema Wanderers – and then there are eight teams who are quite close. Against the top four, realistically we have to fight hard to get some points as we did last year. Two of the remaining eight teams make it to the top six,” said Tagliaferro.
“We need to improve on last year and play good football. The squad is not just for this season but also for the coming years.”
Tagliaferro thanked former coach Ivan Zammit for leading the club to promotion from the Second Division to the Premier League and retaining top-division status.
He did not regard what happened towards the end of last season as a failure, saying what Zammit did in his spell as coach was incredible considering the limited resources available. He also rejected a claim that Balzan were mistaken in relying on players on loan.
Anton Tagliaferro said the squad was getting mature and therefore the club had to target some promising players. Riccardo Tumiatti, assistant coach Silvan Ciscaldi and George Borg spotted and signed players they felt were honest and hard-working.
Balzan coach Riccardo Tumiatti, who had originally joined the club earier this year as Nursery Technical Director, said he was happy with the work done in the five weeks of pre-season. He said the club managed to built a very good group who work together.
Tumiatti said the team’s objective should always be to do better tomorrow than we did today and that the key is hard work.
“When you change a lot of players, you need a lot of time to build the squad,” said the Balzan coach.
In fact, Balzan only retained three players who played last season, namely Aaron Agius, Dylan Grima and Ryan Darmanin.
Riccardo Tumiatti said that when the club was searching for new players, they not only chose good players but men with a positive mentality to work hard for the club. He concluded by saying that the club’s future was positive now that they could rely on players who were property of the club.