After finishing their commitments in the BOV Premier League in fourth place last season, therefore just missing out on a place in the UEFA Europa League, Hamrun Spartans hope to continue where they had left.
The Spartans went through a number of changes since last season following the departure of coach Giovanni Tedesco and sporting director Giovanni Farruggio apart from a number of players.
Addressing the media during the presentation of the squad ahead of the forthcoming BOV Premier League campaign at the Giardini Lambrosa in the limits of Rabat, new sporting director Antonio Governucci said that when approached by president Nunzio Antignani, he agreed almost immediately, having also worked with his father in Italy.
Governucci said Hamrun Spartans were an important club who had just missed out on competing in the UEFA Europa League. He said the results obtained last season were the result of hard work and it was now the time to open a new chapter by laying the groundwork.
The Hamrun sporting director said that new coach Manuele Blasi had already been appointed by his predecessor and said that he is working well with him. The rest of the technical staff is made up of assistant coach Fabrizio Antonini, physical trainer Luca Piscitelli, goalkeepers’ coach Alex Camilleri and kit manager Clint Bonavia.
Governucci added that most of the players in last year’s squad have been confirmed and that he is happy with the current squad which includes eight new players and a number of youngsters from the club’s nursery.
From the local market, the Spartans signed twenty four year old goalkeeper Jean Claude Debattista – a club product who was on the books of Swieqi United last season – and Malta international defender Clayton Failla who joined the club from Birkirkara.
Twenty six year old midfielder Nicola Leone and twenty eight year old defender Matteo Cinquini join the club from Italy along with thirty year old Portuguese midfielder Valdo Goncalves Alhinho and three strikers – twenty eight year old Ailton Jorge dos Santos Soares from Cape Verde, twenty four year old Lagzir Souflaine from Morocco and twenty one year old Carlos Manuel Flores from the USA.
Greek defender Orestis Nikolopoulos, Italian midfielder Marco Criaco and French striker Wilfried Domoraud were retained by the club.
“We need to sweat and work hard. We have to keep our feet on the ground but still aim high. I can only promise hard work and not a particular objective, ” said Governucci.
Antonio Governucci described last season’s fourth place as “a masterpiece”. He said that the club was not expecting such a great result but throughout the league campaign the club signed several players to strengthen the squad.
“I could have done that in the transfer market but my main objective was not to put the club in financial difficulties. The club is trying to re-organise itself and maybe correct mistakes which may have been committed in past.”
“The league campaign is long and anything can happen. In the first two months, we had some difficulties but this was something I was anticipating. We promise hard work with respect for the fans, our families and the badge,” concluded Governucci.
New Hamrun coach Manuele Blasi, who had a long career in Italy as a player with clubs like Juventus, Perugia, Fiorentina and Napoli amongst other clubs, apart from playing for the national team, thanked the club and Antonio Governucci for having faith in him. He said he was honoured to be part of the club.
Blasi said that he was hoping to give the fans reason to cheer but admitted that it would not be easy as there were strong teams and the league was difficult. However he still aims at putting Hamrun among the protagonists.
“When I arrived here, I thought it would be easier but from what I have seen so far, it is not. I need to make the new signings aware of this. It is not easy to repeat the fourth place but we will try our best. We have the potential to do well,” said Blasi.
Captain Triston Caruana added that in their last two friendly matches, the team showed remarkable improvement over the previous games, showing that the players were understanding better the coach’s instructions.
The Spartans play their first game against Gzira United at the National Stadium on Friday, kick-off at 18:30. A game which ironically puts the Spartans against their former coach Giovanni Tedesco.
Manuele Blasi admitted that Tedesco knows most of the players but stressed that every game is different and that the Spartans will be determined to do well.