Achieving promotion to a higher division is always an achievement but doing so after starting the season with deducted points is nothing short of a show of force.
Attard FC, who did just that last season, are now hoping to extend this into the Challenge League and coach Daniel Agius believes his side has the potential to have a good season.
Attard started last season in the National Amateur League with nine points deducted but ended it with a ten-point lead at the top of their group before a final game against Żurrieq FC in a deciding fixture for the winner of the Amateur League. They lost the match 2-1 but the two sides will have the opportunity to revisit past emotions when face each other again this weekend on Sunday (kick-off: 5.30PM).
Coach Agius, who joined the side last season after three seasons with Challenge League side Qrendi, said the promotion was motivated from their deducted points.
“Last season, we had a very tough challenge, but that is what makes even more interesting. The nine points were our motivation and we wanted to show the strength of our group of players, so much so that we finished the league unbeaten and 10 points ahead of the second placed team,” Agius told the Times of Malta.
“After three years of coaching in the first division, I was aware of the level that is needed to have a competitive squad for the Challenge League. Even with the budget of a newly promoted team, we have managed to improve and strengthen the squad with a few pieces which were very important.
“We have kept on believing in the squad we had last season and the unity within it – the group has been together for the past four years.
“The leap into the Challenge League is massive in all aspects – pitches, referees as well as the competition. The advantage was that I already knew what to expect and this gave us the opportunity to prepare for it with the choice of new players with the right experience, as well as the right physical and tactical preparation.”
Attard have since played five matches in this year’s season, winning two and losing three so far.
Their latest achievement was a 3-1 win over Swieqi United last weekend. The latter have been established in the division for a while and this was on paper a David and Goliath affair. Agius believes it is results like his that show the team’s potential.
“Everybody is aware that the Challenge League is much more difficult compared to the Amateur League, with many established clubs who have played there for a number of years, and with budgets to fight for promotion to the Premier League,” Agius admitted.
“Clubs which have been in the league for all this time have an advantage because they are able to strengthen their team every year. In this way, the level of competition rises. But the five games we played have shown what potential our team has, irrespective of the results.”
The replay of the Amateur League decider on Sunday against Żurrieq provides a more balanced encounter for Attard, against a fellow promoted side. However, Agius believes it will not be an attempt for revenge. At the same time, Żurrieq, who have had a bright start to the season, will also be looking to take as many points as they can to follow up on an impressive 4-1 victory against Fgura United, the latter suffering only their first loss of the season.
“After a win, it is natural to have more motivation within the team,” Agius said.
“Żurrieq are also coming from a comfortable win against Fgura. They have also made a number of interesting acquisitions to strengthen their squad. More than the result of the decider, our motivation will be to continue building on the last game so that our squad continues to evolve towards its potential.”
Qrendi vs Żejtun C. 0-3
Marsascala vs Naxxar L. 0-3
Marsa vs Mqabba 2-1
St Andrews vs Lija A. 0-2
Fgura Utd vs Żurrieq 1-4
Attard vs Swieqi Utd 3-1
Sliema W. vs San Gwann 3-1
Mtarfa vs Tarxien R. 2-1
Vittoriosa vs Melita 0-4
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