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‘Birkirkara players are fighting for their future’, says Stripes president Valenzia

Birkirkara suffered their fourth defeat of the season at the hands of Naxxar Lions. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Will take time to name Tedesco’s replacement

Birkirkara president Michael Valenzia has told his players that they need to assume responsibility for the team’s poor run of form and has warned them that they have to fight for their future in their next matches until the end of the year.

On Sunday, Birkirkara suffered a shock 2-0 defeat to newly-promoted side Naxxar Lions, their fourth upset of the season, which led to the immediate resignation of first-team coach Giovanni Tedesco.

Following Tedesco’s departure, the club committee decided to hand the reins of the team to assistant coach Brian Chetcuti, who is set to take charge of the team for Saturday’s clash against Premier League joint-leaders Ħamrun Spartans as they continue their search for the ideal candidate to take over the team.

Contacted by the Times of Malta, Valenzia admitted that since the start of the Premier League, the team has been hampered by some important absentees due to injuries and personal issues but still believes that the team should have performed much better.

“Unfortunately our Premier League season started on the wrong foot for us as we lost three key players before our first match. Denis Ribeiro was forced to return home due to personal issues while Osvaldo Iorio and Alessandro Coppola suffered long-term injuries,” Valenzia told the Times of Malta.

“With the championship starting in mid-September, we could not find replacements as the transfer market was closed and now we hope to have them back in January. But we still expected much more for the team as there is a lot of quality.

“On Sunday, our coach Giovanni Tedesco was man enough to take responsibility for the situation and he stepped down from his post. But I think he is not the only person who needs to take responsibility for the situation as personally, I believe the players have a lot to answer as their performances left much to be desired.

“For now, we will hand the reins of the team to Brian Chetcuti and the other members of the technical staff and we will take our time to find the right person to take the team forward.”

Valenzia said that after Tedesco’s departure, he was approached by several coaches for the job.

“From Sunday night till this morning (Monday), I had 22 applications submitted by coaches from Malta and abroad for the job,” the Stripes supremo revealed.

“That is clear proof that being in charge of our team is something that is looked at by many football coaches. But I will not rush in making any decision as we must choose the right person. My gut feeling is that we may well continue with the current technical staff until the end of the year to make sure we appoint the perfect person.

“There is also a distinct possibility that we promote one or two coaches from our academy to help the current technical staff with the first team.”

Strong reaction

Valenzia is expecting a very strong reaction from the Birkirkara players, who he states are currently fighting for their future.

“We have two back-to-back matches against Ħamrun Spartans, one in the league and the other in the Super Cup, and then face Gudja United, and in these matches, I expect a strong response from the players,” he said.

“Today I had a meeting with the players and I made it clear to them that it was time for them to stand up and be counted. From now till the end of the year, we will have a look at how all the players in the squad perform and we will take the necessary decisions when the transfer market reopens in January.

“That means that in the next three matches, the players will be playing for their future, it’s as simple as that.”

Sunday’s defeat has seen Birkirkara slip to ninth place in the standings, level with three other teams, namely Mosta, Valletta and Balzan.

One eye-catching element in this year’s championship is that while the joint-leaders Floriana and Ħamrun Spartans are holding a commanding seven-point lead at the top, the other teams are separated by a few points, with the Stripes currently just three points adrift of Marsaxlokk, Hibernians and Sliema who are third on 13 points.

With such a scenario, Valenzia said that all is not lost for his team, particularly given that there are another 18 matches still to be played.

“This year’s championship is turning out to be similar to the First Division championship I used to play a few years back as with two wins you can end up with the top four or with two defeats you end up in the relegation zone,” the Birkirkara chief said.

“Despite all the difficulties we’ve had, we are still three points adrift of third place with 16 matches to go, so not all is lost for us. We need to fight for our season as there is still a lot of stake for us, with the Super Cup coming up, the FA Trophy as well as the race for European places that is still wide open.

“We don’t have any time for excuses and we need to provide the right answers on the pitch. It’s imperative that we roll up our sleeves and work as hard as we can to make sure we turn our season in the right direction.

“The players owe this to the club and the fans who are always behind us.”

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