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Aquilina quits coaching job at Valletta

Says differences with club forced him to leave

Happier times for J.J. Aquilina (right) as he rushes to celebrate with the players and club officials after a Valletta goal.

Happier times for J.J. Aquilina (right) as he rushes to celebrate with the players and club officials after a Valletta goal.

J.J. Aquilina is no longer coach of Premier League club Valletta FC.

Yesterday, he told The Times that he had resigned from his position with immediate effect following a meeting with high-ranking committee officials on Thursday evening during which the team's position was discussed. In the end, both sides were unable to iron out differences and Aquilina said he had no other option left but to relinquish his post.

"True, Valletta are not high in the Premier League standings at the moment, but it's not the end-of-the-world situation they had figured out," he said.

"I guess the committee had started to panic a little bit too early in my opinion. There's a lot of matches still to be played and I was convinced we could have improved and reach the Championship Pool.

"Unfortunately, they had different views from mine and I realised that I could no longer carry out my duties adequately and the way I want to."

At present, Valletta are joint sixth in the standings with Pietà Hotspurs on the 11-point mark. The Citizens only managed three wins and two draws from ten matches... indeed a poor record by Valletta's own standards which threatens their bid for European football next season.

Aquilina said: "We had to contend with a series of injuries to key players but despite that Valletta still beat the likes of Hibs and Marsaxlokk in the first round.

"We were on the way to recovery and I am sure Valletta would have finished higher at the end of the first phase. Last year we did well and it's a pity things had to finish this way."

Aquilina joined Valletta in 2004 after a short stint in the Premier League with Marsaxlokk. In his first season in charge, Valletta gave champions Sliema a good run for their money but eventually the team slipped to fourth place in the final standings.

Last summer, Aquilina almost lost his job at Valletta due to work commitments but then extended his stay with another one year after reaching agreement with his employers. That brought about some stability to the club after Valletta had changed three coaches in the previous three seasons.

Last summer, Valletta also had talks with Joe Grech who pulled out of a deal in the last minute. Grech, formerly of Msida St Joseph, is engaged by the Malta FA in the youth sector.

Contacted yesterday, Paul Spiteri, Valletta FC executive vice-president confirmed that Aquilina had 'passed on the message' that he was leaving.

"We have analysed the situation thoroughly and accepted his resignation," he said.

"This was not a case of us starting to panic but we are simply not happy with the situation.

"Two years ago Valletta played in the Relegation Pool and that's not a scenario we would like to experience again. Certainly, our ambitions are much higher than that. Something had to be done to turn around our season."

Asked about Aquilina's replacement on the City bench, Spiteri gave no names and said they will not be rushing into conclusions.

"The team won't be in action again until December 3 so there's plenty of time for us to evaluate all possibilities and choose the right man for the job," he said.

Valletta yesterday played a friendly at the Aloysius Sports Complex against Naxxar and won 1-0. Mark Galea was the scorer for the Citizens.

The team, who had several regular players missing, was led by assistant coach Anton Cremona and skipper Gilbert Agius.

Coaches at Valletta last four years

G. Deanov 2001/02
D. Fenech 2002/03
A. Marinov 2003/04
J.J. Aquilina 2004 - Nov. 2005

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