Failla edges team-mate Cohen for the top prize
Three years after his key contribution to Hibs’ 2008/09 title success earned him his first MFA footballer of the year award, Clayton Failla made it a double yesterday as he edged team-mate Andrew Cohen in a tight race for the most coveted individual prize in Maltese football.
Failla was named the 2011/12 MFA footballer of the year last night during the association’s annual awards ceremony at the Grand Hotel Excelsior.
His nomination caps an excellent season for Failla whose return to Hibs helped him to rediscover his best form after two disappointing seasons with Sliema Wanderers.
It also gave him the perfect pre-wedding tonic as the 26-year-old is tying the knot this weekend.
“After two frustrating seasons, I was happy to rediscover my best form after rejoining Hibs,” Failla told The Times.
“It was important for me to change clubs as I had to do some-thing to put my career back on track. I’m glad that my decision to rejoin Hibs has been vindicated.”
Failla was understandably delighted to win the MFA footballer of the year award but stressed that his top priority was to help Hibs reach their objectives.
“The MFA footballer of the year award is a very prestigious honour,” Failla added.
“But, during the season, you don’t really think about individual prizes. My main target was to do well for Hibs. Team success comes before individual glory.
“If I had to choose between winning the league or the MFA player of the year award, I would go for the first.”
Hibs missed out on the league title but earned the plaudits for giving rivals and eventual champions Valletta a stern challenge. The Paolites claimed the runners-up spot but ended the season on a flying note by winning the U*Bet FA Trophy.
Just as in 2008/09, Failla played a key role in Hibs’ success with a string of five-star performances on left-wing or midfield.
Failla’s resurgence not only restored his reputation as one of the leading players in the Premier League, it also boosted his claim for regular football with the national team.
After being picked by interim coach Robert Gatt for the 2-1 home friendly win over Liechtenstein in February, Failla kept his place in the side for the 2-0 victory over Luxembourg, Pietro Ghedin’s first match in charge of the national team.
“It’s been a positive year for me, both at club and international level,” Failla said.
And he hopes to do the same next season.
“The aim is to build on what we achieved so far,” Failla said.
“I hope that Hibs challenge for the main honours.”
As for his future, Failla has no plans to leave Hibs.
“I haven’t received any offers but it has never crossed my mind to play for another club.”
Failla, who succeeds Roderick Briffa as MFA footballer of the year, has joined a small group of players to have won this award twice in their careers.
1. C. Failla (Hibernians) - 45.79
2. A. Cohen (Hibernians) - 44.22
3. W. Barbosa (Valletta) - 38.82
4. Denni (Valletta) - 37.47
5. J. Caruana (Valletta) - 36.71