Sliema Wanderers will be aiming once again for a place in the European competitions, seeking to improve over last year’s performance. This was revealed during the presentation of the club’s new players and sponsors.
President Keith Perry said the team was keen to continue where they had left last season. He said that last year, the club had three specific targets – keeping the club’s finances in line with MFA regulations, obtaining both the UEFA and the MFA Licence and securing a place in the UEFA competitions. The club secured a joint-third place to qualify for the UEFA Europa League. A sign that Sliema Wanderers were no longer ‘spectators’ but challengers for the main honours.
Photos: Copyright © Joe Borg
The Sliema president said the past year was a busy year for the club with works on the new state-of-the-art gym, new administrative offices and maintenance works at the Sliema Wanderers complex in Tigne and the creation of a database for all players registered with the club from the younger ages in the nursery up to the senior squad.
Perry said the club was on the right track and revealed that works on the laying of a new artificial turf pitch at the complex and installation of new floodlights will start in June. Studies were carried out by the club’s architects, MFA senior vice president Ludovico Micallef and the company in charge of works at the complex to see what were the best options for the replacement of the artificial turf pitch. It was agreed that the new pitch will be laid on top of the existing one. Other works will will be carried out at the complex during the coming months include quarters for the senior team and the technical staff.
Keith Perry said the squad started pre-season training on the 3rd June, taking part in the UEFA Europa League. The performance was quite positive and he said the club was satisfied with the work done. The team started its BOV Premier League campaign on a positive note, defeating Qormi 4-0.
The Sliema president said the club now has to focus on more challenging objectives which include strengthening the club financially ahead of next year when the Financial Fair Play regulations will be enforced. He said the club had this in mind for some time and has been working hard to attract more sponsors to the club. The club was also strengthened in terms of administration. Dr Clifton Grima has been appointed as general manager of both the club and the complex. The latter has two full-time and one part-time employees.
As regards the team, Perry said the club wanted to continue where they had left last season with a joint-third place. He stressed on the need of more consistency.
The Wanderers will have seven foreigners on their books. Apart from Paltemio Barbetti, Stefano Bianciardi, Matias Muchardi and Stanley Ohawuchi who joined the club in the January transfer window, Sliema secured the services of Nigerian striker Abubakar Bello-Osagie who played for Qormi and Valletta, Sengalese midfielder Pape Gueye and Italian striker Andrea Navarra.
Malta international defender Jacob Borg joined the club from Balzan while Trevor Cilia returns with the club after spending time on loan with Floriana. Young Dylan Borg, brother of Jacob Borg, has been promoted to the senior squad while Dale Micallef, Gabriel Aquilina and Axl Xuereb are training regularly with the senior squad.
Coach Alfonso Greco had singled out players like Abubakar Bello-Osagie and Jacob Borg as ideal players to join the club after doing well in games against Sliema. Pape Gueye had also impressed while playing for Birkirkara against Sliema in the Euro Cup. On the other hand, Andrea Navarra – scorer of two goals in the game against Qormi – was recommended by the coach as a promising youngster.
The fact that Sliema did well last season meant that there was no need to change much. Although some of the club’s products went on loan with other clubs, the Wanderers have no less than eleven nursery products in squad.
Keith Perry thanked coach Alfonso Greco and physical trainer Arturo Zeppetella for their loyalty for staying with the club despite the Italian sponsor’s failure to honour their promises. JoJo Bajada was confirmed as assistant coach and will be in charge of the Youth team as the Youth squad will work hand-in-hand with the senior squad. Mark Vella returned with the club as goalkeepers’ coach.
Perry finally thanked Robert Arrigo and Ministry for Education and Employment Evarist Bartolo, the committee, team-manager Rupert Perry, technical staff, the Sliema Wanderers Nursery committee and the sponsors, namely AtoZ Electronics, choosemalta.com, Ozosystem Ltd, Zarb Coaches, Chick King – Mosta, Maximuscle, San Benedetto, Sixt, Peppi’s, ZT Developments, Golden Harvest, L’ Aroma, Park Hotel, Quest, The Convenience Shops and Michelle Colombo.
Italian coach Alfonso Greco said that the club had managed to build a good squad, signing the players the team needed in order to improve. he said he believed the club made the right choices and the main objective will be that of improving over last season.
Greco said Birkirkara once again start as favourites for the title but Saturday’s test is an important one for the Wanderers as it should give an indication of the difference between the two teams and how do they compare with each other.