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Watch: Mangia calls for reforms to boost youth development

Malta coach Devis Mangia. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

National teams head coach Devis Mangia has called on the football authorities in Malta to start looking at how they can help young players gain more playing time in domestic football or risk to jeopardise the future of the national teams.

Mangia was speaking to the media on the second day of preparation of the national team ahead of this month’s World Cup qualifiers against Croatia, on November 11, and Slovakia three days’ later at the National Stadium.

The Malta coach spoke of his concern about the development of young players in Malta when asked to give his views on the level of football being shown in the Premier League this season.

“It’s clear that with less teams in the Premier League, the level of football shown has increased this season,” Mangia said.

“But one area I would like to see improve is the intensity shown by the players during matches. In my opinion, this should start from the players who form part of the national team set-up as they should be aware that when they play internationals, they have to make a step forward in this area.

“Players of good level need to play more games of high intensity as they know that when they play internationals they need to pull out a different kind of performance and if the level of intensity in the championship improves it will help the national team players to adapt better when facing these matches.”

Mangia admitted that his biggest cause of concern was the limited playing time the young players are being given in the Premier League and said that all stakeholders in Maltese football must try and find a solution.

“Looking at the statistics this season, my biggest concern is the development of our young players,” the Italian coach said.

“The biggest problem is in the U-21 bracket. If you omit Paul Mbong, Shaun Dimech, Alex Satariano and Adam Magri Overend, who are now in the senior set-up, there are only 17 players who play in the Premier League that are eligible for the U-21s.

“From these 17, only three players played more than two games in the opening five matches on the season and there are nine players that have played less than one game. Clearly, with these numbers we have huge problems.

“The next U-21 group, born in 2002-03, the situation is even worse.

“In 18 months, our U-19 selection will be playing in the European Championship finals here in Malta and we need to ensure that we do something about it and give these players a future.

“We need to work hard to ensure there are more young players who are playing more regularly in the Premier League or else we will struggle to have competitive selections in the next few years.

“I have my ideas of what can be done, and I will discuss my ideas with the MFA. But this can only change if all stakeholders of the game sit down and work together and give clubs incentives to encourage them to provide more playing time to their youngsters.”

Confidence

Turning his sights back on the national team, Mangia said that he was pleased with the development shown by his team since he started working with the players in July 2020.

Mangia said that he was pleased that the players were showing a lot of confidence but said that it was important not to raise the expectations on the team who is still developing.

“The team has made a lot of improvement since we started to work together,” Mangia said.

“But this is not the time to raise expectations and put unnecessary expectations on the players. We have some young players that still need to make experience at international level and maybe they will also commit some mistakes which is normal.

“That is why it is so important that all stakeholders help us to keep down the level of expectations on this team. We are trying to build something for the future and we need to give our players to develop step by step.”

Mangia said that James Brown is doubtful for this month’s qualifiers as the St Johnstone defender picked up another injury with his club.

“James picked up another injury with the club and we are monitoring his situation,” Mangia said.

“He has underwent some tests with his club and we are awaiting for results. But for sure, if he will not be fit to play in these matches he will not travel and then we will have to take some decisions.”

On the other hand, Mangia was asked on the situation of Alex Satariano who has struggled for first-team football with Frosinone, and the Malta coach admitted that Frosinone could decide to send him out on loan in January.

“Alex Satariano should be proud and happy to have earned a contract with Serie B side Frosinone,” Mangia said.

“When you enter in another situation you have to adapt
and understand that you need time to force your way in the team.

Frosinone started the season with a project but then there were some clubs that folded and the club lured two players from Chievo who made it more difficult for Alex to play.

“From what I know, Frosinone are very happy with Alex Satariano’s application and behaviour in training and it could be that in January the club could do something that will benefit Alex’s development so we just have to wait and see what happens.”

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