After avoiding relegation in their maiden season in the BOV Premier League in 2019/20 and an eighth place last season when the league was once again interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Lucia will be hoping to go a step further this season and secure a top-six finish.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday at the premises of Office Group, president Robert Micallef said this season was a bit different than the previous two due to the change in format.
In fact the first phase will see the twelve teams playing each other on a two-round basis with the teams divided into two groups of six teams in the second phase.
“This season, the objective is to continue building on what we have done over the past two years after winning promotion. Each year, we improved and our performances last year showed that we are on the right track. Now we aim to improve on last season.”
Micallef said that this will be a balanced competition which is even more challenging due to the fact that at the end of the first phase, teams would be divided into a championship pool and a relegation pool.
“We want to consolidate our position in the Premier League and improve over last year. We aim for a top-six position although it would not be easy.”
The Santa Lucia president said that the club has been preparing for this coming season since the end of last season.
The club signed ten new players and is still hoping to sign another player – an eighth foreigner, despite the difficulty in trying to bring new foreign players due to the pandemic.
“Our philosophy focuses on promising young players. The average age is 23-24. The club signed a number of experienced foreigners but also young promising players like Jamie Carbone, Matthias Vella, Jan Tanti, Christopher Farrugia, Liam Mackay, Andreas Vella and Emerson Camilleri. “
Apart from captain Alan da Silva Souza, Victor Luis Prestes Filho and Andre Fausto Prates, the other foreigners at the disposal of coach Oliver Spiteri are Vito Plut, Patrick Silva Mota, Francisco Eliomar Rodrigues Farias, better known as Leo Bahia, and St. Kitts and Nevis international goalkeeper Julani Archibald.
The team can also count on the experience of former Floriana captain Jurgen Pisani.
Robert Micallef said he believed Santa Lucia had a competitive squad which could achieve points and added that he had a winning mentality, meaning that the team will go in search of a win in every game.
With regards to the club’s administration, Micallef stressed on the importance of hard work, not only on the pitch but also off the pitch. He said that after obtaining a UEFA licence last year, the club will be aiming to obtain it once again this year.
Robert Micallef said the club administration is working to turn the club into an entity in line with the MFA reforms which will take place in the coming years. He added that the club has already submitted plans for the commercialisation of these facilities – a long-term plan which would make the club self-sufficient.
The Santa Lucia president thanked the committee and supporters who work hard for the club and said that the players will be carrying the logo of the ‘Yellow Army’ on their shirts. He revealed that an official anthem, written by Ivan Farrugia from Bernie and Pod, will be launched during an event for supporters.
The club’s administration has been strengthened with the appointment of Mark Mifsud as full-time administrator and Jonathan Mallia as a technical coordinator apart from a hard-working secretary Ivan Vella and sporting director Mark Piccinino.
“The way you work makes the whole difference. In a company, employees are the biggest asset. Here we have the players and the technical staff. We give them the necessary tools and keep them motivated. The management should be pro-active. “
“Extra motivation – integrity, enthusiasm, loyalty and passion should be transmitted to all those involved. Without these values, we cannot achieve. We deliver and in return, we get what we expect. That is the winning formula,” said Robert Micallef.
He thanked the club’s sponsors, namely Multivend, Konica Minolta and Avanza Training Academy and Levissima.
Coach Oliver Spiteri said that after last season, the club tried to identify the weak spots where the team lacked consistency. He said that they started working since April on the transfer campaign and managed to sign almost all players the club aimed for.
“It was a good transfer campaign. The team will be stronger than last season, in terms of experience and more depth in the squad. I believe we could challenge any other team in the Premier League.”
Spiteri admitted that the team conceded many goals last season but said that this did not mean that defence was the problem but it was more related than the system the team played.
“We conceded many soft goals which could have been avoided. We needed to strengthen our rear-guard. Last year, we played a bit more offensive and this year, we needed more balance on the pitch,” said Oliver Spiteri.
Since last season, the club lost Kevin Ante Rosero who finished as top scorer last season but the Santa Lucia coach is not worried, saying that they signed players who could make the same impact despite having different characteristics.
Jurgen Pisani added that over the past eight weeks, the players worked hard and considering the several new signings, they started to adapt themselves to what the coach required from them. He said that there was a good atmosphere in the dressing room and was looking forward for a positive season for the club.