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Greens buoyed by new signings, new sponsorship deal

Club president Said welcomes ‘local lad’ Licari

Malcolm Licari has joined Floriana from Marsaxlokk. Photo: Jason Borg

Malcolm Licari has joined Floriana from Marsaxlokk. Photo: Jason Borg

Floriana are looking forward to 2012 with renewed optimism.

The feelgood factor in the Greens’ clan was unmistakable yesterday as the club’s spacious trophy hall provided the perfect setting for a news conference in which president Johan Said presented three of the team’s latest signings and a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Micallef Swimming Pools.

Two of the new arrivals, Polish-born winger Andre Grabowski and Nigerian striker Onome Sodje, have already played for the team but ‘local lad’ Malcolm Licari has yet to make his bow as his move from Marsaxlokk to the FA Trophy holders will not be ratified before the start of the January transfer window.

Earlier this month, Floriana also recruited Eric Akoto but the Ghanaian defender was not present for yesterday’s news conference as he was due to return to Malta last night.

“Over the past few months, we have been analysing the weaknesses in our squad,” Said observed.

“After losing Tyrone Farrugia to injury (cruciate), we tried hard to find an adequate replacement and we think that we have finally found the player (Akoto) to fill Tyrone’s void.

“With regards to our foreigners, the press criticised us, saying that we were weak in that area, and they were right.

“My wish was to strengthen the squad with the acquisition of Maltese players and, day after day, I was doing my best to lure back to our fold those players who are from Floriana.

“I had been chasing Malcolm Licari since the first week of my presidency. He is from Floriana and I believe he will be an asset to our club.”

Floriana have given trials to many foreign players this season but Said is confident that their patience will pay off.

“In our search for foreign players, it was not just talent that we were looking for but also character because we wanted to make sure that they fitted in well with the rest of the squad,” he explained.

“I believe that we have reached that target and that Floriana can challenge for a UEFA qualifying spot.”

On Floriana’s policy to try out foreign players during the course of the season, Said said: “I’ve only been in football a year and two months. At the start of last season, I noticed that a lot of money was being spent on bringing foreign players for trials... the expenditure was equivalent to the club’s wage bill for one month.

“I’m a person who learn from my own mistakes. Every foreign player who was interested in having a trial with our team this season had to pay for his flights and accommodation.

“If the technical staff want to retain a player, they speak to me and I consult the committee. The next step is to talk to the player and, if we can afford his wages, he gets a contract. That’s our way of doing things.

“I have a budget and I want to stick to it.”

Said expressed his gratitude to Charles Micallef, a former Floriana committee member, for his morale support as well as his decision to sponsor the team until the end of the season.

Grabowski, whose dynamic performances have been instrumental to Floriana’s positive run of late, promised to do his best to help the club win some silverware this season.

“I’m very happy to be at this club,” he said.

“The players and club committee have been very nice to me. I hope to help Floriana win the trophy and the league this season.”

Sodje, who marked his debut with a goal in the 4-2 defeat of Ħamrun Spartans, has been impressed by the unity in the Floriana squad.

“The first thing I noticed when I joined the club was the togetherness of the team,” Sodje said.

“It’s a tight, small group and everybody made me feel welcome. It helps to know that every player here wants to work for one another as together we can go places.”

For Licari, joining Floriana felt like coming home.

“I want to thank the club for bringing me back home,” the former Malta U-21 international said.

“I’ve been around for a long time but I’ve still got the hunger to play and achieve more success in my career.

“It’s a new challenge for me and I know that in football, it’s the results that count. The training is hard and the squad is very competitive but that’s a good thing.

“My wish is that, together, we succeed in putting Floriana back where the club belongs.”

Coach Michael Woods believes that Floriana – third in the Premier League table on 30 points – have what it takes to challenge for a top-two finish.

“I’m satisfied with the consistency of the team as well as with the signings we have made,” Woods said.

“At the start of the season, my first objective was to claim a place in the Championship Pool and we’re almost there. We’re now looking to go to the next level and, with the squad strengthened, I’m confident we can challenge for a top-two finish.”

Asked whether Floriana will be looking to sign more players next month, Said said that depends on the out-come of their attempts to loan out four players.

“If we manage to loan these players, we could then maybe afford to bring in another player,” Said remarked.

“The present situation at Floriana is that there are many players who want to join us while those who are here don’t want to leave.”

According to Said, Premier League and Division One clubs have expressed an interest in signing Floriana players on loan and discussions are on-going.

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