Premier League club Santa Lucia FC are aiming to build upon improvements made since their promotion to local football’s highest division, with the goal to solidify a Championship Pool berth this season.
Club president Robert Micallef spoke to a press conference on Wednesday, emphasizing that their goal is to keep on building upon the work that started two years ago.
The Malta Football Association’s new format for the 2021-22 brings back two divisions within the league used a number of years ago. This means that clubs will need to start on the right foot in order to claim a place with the top teams and challenge for this year’s honours.
“We’ve seen improvements from last year and this shows that we’re working well,” Micallef said.
“Our aim is to consolidate ourselves in the Premier League and improve what we had last year to earn a place in the Championship Pool, despite it being very difficult.”
A highlight of this effort is the ten new signings the club has made throughout the summer transfer window.
“we’ve made ten signings and the transfer window is still open – we’re working on bringing another player,” the Sta Lucia FC supremo said.
“At the moment, we’ve got seven foreign players and our plan is to have another one. However, our philosophy here at Santa Lucija has always been to promote prominent Maltese players so we want to mix the experience from both the Maltese and foreign players that we have.”
Coach Oliver Spiteri, with the club since 2019, said he has been working on his team since April and explained that the club has managed to bring in most of the players on their wishlist.
“I think it was a very good transfer campaign. The team will be better than last year both in terms of experience, and squad depth after that caused a number of problems last year,” Spiteri told the press conference.
He added that the club has fixed up spots where they saw negligence by appointing a number of new staff members in what he called ‘an ambitious project’.
“When the work is done right, the players feel better in training and give better performances on the pitch,” he said.
Asked about preseason, Spiteri said that despite playing a number of friendlies, he was not particularly interested in match results.
“Certain players played certain minutes. Some can develop further and some we already know their potential. The most important thing was that the players had the ball at their feet after four or five months away from the pitch,” he insisted.
Asked by the Times of Malta about what we can expect from the team this year, Spiteri insists that despite it being difficult, that difficulty will be for every team this year due to every team doing its own business this summer.
“What I can say is that Santa Lucija will be fighting for every game with a knife in our teeth. But I believe we should have a balanced league and one which people who have not been to the stadium will enjoy on their return,” he said.
One of Santa Lucija’s primary tasks has been replacing last season’s Premier League top scorer, Kevin Ante Rosero, who is now playing in Greece with Volos NPS.
“When I came here (Santa Lucija), Kevin Ante (Rosero) was not here. He came and we worked on him. I believe that this year, we’ve brought in other players who can have the same impact. Rosero was very fast and so we played a different game but the players we have now have qualities of their own,” Spiteri explained, pointing to replacement Slovenian forward Vito Plut, who joined from Tarxien Rainbows.
“Even from our tests, Vito Plut is one of the most in-form players we have. He’s very experienced and has played with a lot of clubs.”