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'Maxi' Magro lifts City from the doldrums

Vincent Magro - a key player for Valletta in the 70s.

Vincent Magro - a key player for Valletta in the 70s.

The 1970s were not the best of years for Maltese football.

After the years of plenty which the game in Malta went through in the 50s and 60s, the standard began to fall. The decline started to gather pace in the late 1960s and it reached its peak in the mid-70s.

What caused this slump in the fortunes of our national game?

There was really more than one cause in my opinion.

Attendances fell drastically as the fare served at the stadium deteriorated. The advent of television also had a share in the drop in attendances. The age-old cry of 'corruption' was rampant but the biggest factor was probably a shortage of first-class players when compared to previous decades.

Vincent Magro was one of the few Maltese footballers of quality to come out of the Seventies. Born in Valletta on July 27, 1952, he was a fast and tricky outside right.

His play was very much in the style of the old-time, touch-line hugging wingers. This was probably why he was so popular with those of us who remembered the grand old days of the 60s.

Magro was rather small and stocky and he cut a rather unique figure with his long hair which in those days, was just coming in fashion.

Il-Maxi started his career as an amateur with Valletta Vanguards before moving to Valletta FC at the start of the 1969-70 season.

That season he made only two first team appearances but the next year he became a permanent fixture in the team.

Magro struck an immediate understanding with other up and coming star Carlo Seychell.

Between them, the new idols of Maltese football pulled Valletta from the doldrums the club had fallen into at the start of the 70s.

By 1973, the fortunes of the club had improved considerably.

Magro was now one of the established stars of the game in Malta. His exciting play on the wing fired the enthusiasm of the City faithful and moved the team to greater efforts.

In 1973-74, backed by their fanatic bunch of supporters, Valletta beat the challenge of their old rivals from Floriana, Sliema and Hibs to win the championship.

Magro played a prominent role in the first part of the campaign but then suffered a serious injury which forced him to lay low for the rest of the season and miss Valletta's lavish championship celebrations.

The next season, however, he was back in the team with a bang. His consistent good form and clever play on the right wing drove the team on to victory in the FA Trophy, the Independence Cup and the Sons of Malta Cup finals.

Between 1973 and 1980 Valletta went through one the brightest periods in their history as Magro reached the peak of his career.

An automatic choice for the national team, he was capped 24 times and played three times for Malta Amateurs in the UEFA Amateur Championship.

In all, he won 11 major honours for Valletta. He was the undisputed 'darling' of the City clan but in 1980-81 his luck deserted him.

He played in only the first five games of the season. Injuries forced him to stay on the sidelines for the rest of the season.

The next season he was loaned to Msida St Joseph in the Second Division but in 1982-83 he was back with Valletta. His star, however, was in decline and he found it very difficult to command a first-team place.

During the next two seasons he played only a handful of matches for Valletta and although he won another league championship medal at the end of the 1983-84 season he retired from first-class football.

Between 1984 and 1988 he played for Luxol St Andrew's and Sta Venera Lightnings in the Third Division. However, his best days were over and although at times he still produced his characteristic flashes of genius, the red light was flashing that it was time for him to hang up his boots forever.

Magro, whose son Kurt is also on the Valletta FC books but was loaned to Msida this season, finally retired from football in 1988 leaving behind him fond memories of his days with Valletta when he ruled over the City clan with his team-mate Seychell.

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