Premier League survival is team’s main objective this season
After three years battling against relegation, Santa Lucia FC are looking for a fresh start in this season’s Premier League as the southerners are banking on their investment in youth talent to ensure a solid future for the club.
To this aim, club president Robert Micallef along with his fellow committee members have embarked on a plan this summer aimed at revamping the senior team’s technical staff while also attracting to the club a good blend of youth and experienced talent.
Alessandro Zinnari, who for the past three years worked as technical coordinator of the national teams within the Malta FA, has been installed as the new first-team coach.
Added to that the club has attracted to the club some of the most youth talent in the top flight such as defenders Sven Xerri and Matthias Ellul, midfielder Matthias Vella as well as striker Jed Valletta.
The club has also lured to its fold Malta midfielder Steve Pisani while also bringing to the club a crop of talented foreign players that will give the team a higher level of competitivity in what promises to be a very challenging 2023-24 campaign.
“For the past three seasons, our team was always engaged in relegation battles and this term is set to be even more challenging given the new format which will see no less than four teams relegated to the Challenge League,” Micallef told a news conference yesterday.
“At the end of last season, I sat down with the other committee members and we decided that we would be starting working in a different way. In the past, we have always worked from one season to another but this time we are taking a more long-term approach.
“To this end, we decided to look at a new technical staff that will help us that will be capable of leading this team this season but at the same time building a solid foundation for the future when working with our young players.
“That is why our choice fell on Alessandro Zinnari who has a lot of experience working at the MFA technical sector with young players and we believe that he is the right man to implement our long-term strategy at the club.”
Youth development is at the heart of Santa Lucia’s plans of the future and last June the club received a significant boost in its bid to embark on its ambitious Commercialisation Project that will see the club’s training grounds revamped into a Centre of Excellence that is focused on players’ development and education.
In fact, the Planning Authority issued the Outline Development Permit and the club is hopeful of completing the necessary documentation so that the full development is issued by the end of the year.
“The club’s major goal is that we can finally start construction works on our project at our training premises,” Micallef said.
“The Outside Development Permit has been issued by the Planning Authority and we are now hopeful that the process will accelerate so that we can attain the Full Development Permit and start construction of the project.
“We hope to have the full documentation ready by the end of this year and hopefully we can start work by the start of next season.”
On his part, Zinnari said that he is delighted to have accepted the offer Santa Lucia to take on such a fascinating project and he said that he is raring to go ahead of the start of the new season this weekend.
“I am really happy to have been given the chance to lead Santa Lucia FC,” Zinnari said.
“I am aware that it’s not going to be an easy task but we have worked really well this summer in our bid to build a competitive team with a mix of young and experienced players. I have always believed that a good Maltese player has nothing less than a foreign player and it’s our goal to help these youngsters maximise their potential.
“Pre-season has gone really well for us. We have just participated in the Mosta tournament where the team has performed very well and now we look forward to the start of the season.
“We have a squad where we have two players for each position and that gives me a great opportunity to rotate the squad in the best way possible.”
Santa Lucia have been handed a difficult start to the campaign when they face Floriana on Sunday before taking on Hibernians and Naxxar.
“We have a tough start of the campaign as we face Floriana, Hibernians and Balzan, three teams with a great history in the Premier League,” Zinnari said.
“This summer all the teams have worked hard to improve their squads and I’m expecting a very tough championship. But I can assure you that we will give everything we have to try and reach our main objective – to retain our league status for another season.”
On his part, club captain Jurgen Pisani said that he was delighted with the work carried out by the club this summer and said that there is a great spirit within the squad for what promises to be a tough campaign.
“This is my third year at Santa Lucia and this year the club has built a great structure that I am sure will reap dividends beyond this season,” the former Floriana FC defender said.
“There are many new players in the squad but there is a great team spirit between us. For the past seven weeks, we have worked hard and hopefully, we can secure our top-flight status as early as possible.”
At the end of the press conference, the Santa Lucia president thanked the club sponsors, namely Elmo Insurance, Multivend Services, Avanza Training Academy, Levissima, Capelli Sport, RS Construction, Maddalena Pharmacy, and Mirya Limited.
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