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Edwards’s glorious comeback for Sliema

Ray Edwards (left) with former Sliema Wanderers stalwarts Gejtu Sacco and Ġużi Bonnici.

Ray Edwards (left) with former Sliema Wanderers stalwarts Gejtu Sacco and Ġużi Bonnici.

Football enthusiasts who lived the late 1950s will surely remember Raymond Edwards.

Tall and well-built, Edwards was a good-looking young man who looked more suited to appear on the silver screen than on a football field. Yet, Edwards was no mean footballer and cut a very good figure at centre-half for Sliema Wanderers.

He played a significant part in the team’s achievements during that glorious period in Sliema’s history.

His career was relatively short as he left the country and his playing days looked numbered at the time.

In Canada, Edwards first turned out for Hungaria and White Eagles FC in the National League. He won the Most Valuable Player Award twice in succession.

Later on, he also played for Malta United, helping them win promotion to the National League in 1956-57. Then, like a bolt out of the blue, Edwards returned to Malta and rejoined Sliema.

He was included in the side for the league game against Rabat Ajax on March 23, 1958. And what a great start Edwards made on his comeback... Sliema won 5-2 and Edwards, playing in the unusual position of centre-forward, scored a hat-trick.

That day, many at the stadium argued that Edwards was a centre-half and not a centre-forward but one thing was certain... he could hit the ball.

In fact, his three goals came from powerful shots. It was true, however, that he was a bit slow on the turn and was not the bustling type of forward, so popular in those days.

Scorching free-kick

Rabat went into this game determined not to concede. They packed their defence to such an extent that for the first 20 minutes Micallef in goal was not tested by the Sliema forwards.

Then, Edwards was pushed in the back near the edge of the penalty area. He took the ensuing free-kick and shot hard past a wall of defenders and into the back of the net.

Five minutes into the second period, Sliema scored their second goal. A Charlie Mattocks free-kick curled into the penalty area and found Sammy Nicholl in a good position to hammer the ball home.

Sliema kept up the pressure but it was Rabat who scored against the run of play. Agius shot hard at goal. The ball was cleared but it dropped to the unmarked Azzopardi who beat Victor Scerri.

This goal instilled new life into the game. Rabat redoubled their efforts but on the half-hour, Nicholl chased the ball on the right and, despite being shadowed by three defenders, dribbled his way through. On reaching the bye-line, he sent in a perfect cross for Edwards to fire home.

Once again, Rabat reduced the arrears when a Peter Micallef free-kick found Pawlu Said who leapt high to head into the net.

This goal seemed to rattle Sliema and for a short while, Rabat enjoyed the upperhand but with five minutes left, Edwards completed his hat-trick.

Receiving the ball from Robbie Buttigieg he unleashed a bombshell which hit the underside of the bar before bouncing into the net.

A minute before the final whistle, Sliema notched in goal number five. This time Walsh did all the spadework. Winning the ball in midfield, he sent a perfect through-pass for Nicholl to nip in and hit the ball past goalkeeper Micallef.

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