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Watch: Winning the Challenge League the target for Melita FC – Matthew Naudi

Melita FC president Matthew Naudi (centre) addressing the news conference this week.

Coach Clive Mizzi lauds ‘perfect-timing’ of Palermo friendly

The BOV Challenge League season is finally set to return this weekend and with Sliema Wanderers and Naxxar Lions now up in the Premier League, the impetus will be on clubs like Melita FC, who were part of the top six teams to make the Championship Pool last season, to step up.

Speaking to a news conference, Melita FC president Matthew Naudi emphasised this, saying that gaining promotion was a target the club wanted to reach during this coming campaign.

“We’re not just interested in winning the Challenge League, nor just interested in getting the promotion to the Premier League but we want to do this with a strong financial framework by being financially responsible and with a technical structure which promotes development,” Naudi, who was appointed as club supremo back in June, said.

The Saint Julian’s-based club presented their squad for the new campaign this week after a summer of preparation which included a strategic partnership, and a friendly, against Serie B side Palermo FC.

Matthew Naudi speaks on the club’s intent to keep investing in their nursery. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

In spite of a successful run since getting promoted from the lower tiers of Maltese football, Naudi told the news conference that there were still issues that kept the club from growing further.

“We felt and still feel that we can do much better,” Naudi admitted.

“Despite the good results, the spirit was somewhat lacking, and motivation was in decline around the squad. So, we formed a technical committee and appointed Neil Zarb Cousin as our director of football to spearhead the changes we had to make.

“After that, our search for a new technical team began and Clive Mizzi topped our list. He has brought to the club a new impetus with his experience in the Premier League and Challenge League prior to joining us.

“His coaching philosophy, I believe, aligns perfectly with ours at the club. He has a commitment to player development and tactical innovation but also has a winning mentality – a perfect fit for our club.”

Mizzi, who joined over the summer in place of former coach Saviour Debono Grech, has brought with him more than 10 years of experience as a coach in the Maltese leagues, and speaking to the Times of Malta, he said the ambition is to achieve the club’s goals on merit.

“Coach Saviour (Debono Grech) and his team have done a great job here before I came in. In the four years he was here, Melita confirmed themselves as a top club within the Challenge League.

“Now it is my duty to build upon this so that we can achieve what we aim for,” Mizzi said.

“Our ambition is based on the fact that we know we’ll be playing against competitive sides and we are aware that it is a tough league. But I believe we have a lot of potential and players who can go on and do great things.

Melita FC coach Clive Mizzi speaks on the team’s objective for this season. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Asked about the friendly match against Palermo, Mizzi believes it came at the best time during pre-season.

“Our pre-season training was supposed to consist of training and friendlies against local sides, but we’ve had the fortune of playing a friendly against a Serie B side with huge ambitions,” he explained.

Club philosophy

“The friendly against Palermo came at the perfect time and it helped the team bond very quickly.

“It also served as a good experience for both the young and older players as I’m sure they will remember this match and can reproduce this during the league.

“As coaches, the game has helped us move forward as we’ve touched upon things that a club like Palermo, who have certain expectations, work on and we’ve seen the way a professional club works.”

Melita have during the summer invested in new dressing rooms and a new pitch surface which club president Naudi believes will serve over 400 players at all age groups as well as more than 40 coaches whom are part of the club.

However, the investment that has been going on for most of the club’s existence is that of its homegrown players.

Melita have signed seven new players over the summer, bringing over five overseas outfield players and two local goalkeepers. However, in a squad of 29 players, 22 of them are club-based.

“More than a strategy, this is a philosophy that distinguishes us from other clubs in Malta,” Naudi told the Times of Malta.

Melita FC coach Clive Mizzi speaks on his vision for the club this season. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

“We pride ourselves in having one of the top nurseries, definitely in the top three nurseries if you ask me. It is the secret of our success throughout the years.

“Twenty-two of the players are homegrown and it was similar last year, it was similar when we were in Premier League five or six years ago. So, it is a strategy that can work but we have to adapt for the future.

“With the Premier Division now having so many foreigners, that could affect a bit the strategy, but we are adamant on keeping this philosophy because it has been a recipe for success for the team.”

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