Stripes eye top-four finish

Ryan Scicluna pens new three-year contract

Paul Zammit (right) was among the new signings unveiled by Birkirkara during their squad presentation yesterday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Paul Zammit (right) was among the new signings unveiled by Birkirkara during their squad presentation yesterday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit has set his sights on securing a top-four finish in this year’s BOV Premier League as the Stripes look to find their feet after a rather chaotic start to the 2017-18 league trek.

Two weeks have now passed since Zammit agreed to return to the Stripes’ hot-seat to replace Peter Pullicino who lost his job after only two Premier League matches.

Having arrived at Birkirkara on transfer deadline day, Zammit found himself in the unfancied position of having to work with a squad of players that was in its entirety assembled by his predecessor and with little time to bring his own reinforcements to the club.

His first major decisions saw the departure of Brazilian defender Renato Camilo, who was released, while midfielder Edmund Agius joined Sliema Wanderers.

On the other hand, Zammit managed to bring in the tried-and-trusted Nikola Vukanac and Mislav Andelkovic while he also signed Belgian left-back Andriy Mulemo.

The Stripes were also boosted by the news that midfielder Ryan Scicluna has put pen to paper on a three-year contract.

Despite the changes, Zammit still managed to lead Birkirkara­ to their first win of the season, a 2-0 success over Mosta, that in his words has restored much-needed tranquility in his players.

“My return to Birkirkara was not shorn of challenges but I’m happy to be back,” Zammit told the Times of Malta.

“When the Birkirkara president offered me the chance to take the job here it was not hard for me to accept. They have a very ambitious project that fulfills my ambition and added to that the club supporters have a lot of belief in me and that was very important for me.

“Obviously, it was not easy to come in and work with a group of players who for the previous eight weeks had worked on a different football philosophy. But I only have words of praise for the players who are showing great commitment during training and the early signs look very promising.

“We’re still very much a work in progress but surely our win over Mosta has injected much-needed tranquility at the club.”

The arrival of Frank Zarb as Birkirkara president has inevitably marked a change in the club’s objective for the season as the new man in charge is determined to see the Stripes challenge for the league title this season.

Zammit, however, refused to set such lofty expectations and said that the club’s main goal should be to at least challenge for a top four position.

“I do understand our president’s stance on mounting a serious title challenge as I do agree that Birkirkara should always be battling it out for the main honours,” Zammit said.

“But one has to understand that the team has gone through many changes and the players need time to start playing to their maximum potential.

“Our primary goal this season should be that to challenge for a top four position and try and take the club back to European football next season. Once we reach this goal we can then sit down and start aiming for much higher targets.”

Zammit said that although that he was happy with all 23 players in his squad he did not rule out the possibility of returning to the market come next January to try and bring in the necessary reinforcements that can help the team make a leap in quality in the second part of the season.

“The next four months will be a testing period for all the players to show that they can adapt to my playing philosophy,” the Birkirkara coach said.

“At present we have 10 foreign players who are of a good quality but still have to prove that they fit in well in our tactical game plan. It’s an open secret that come next December I will have some decisions to make and if I feel that I need to make some changes in the squad I will not think twice.

“But at the moment, the most important thing is that we continue to work hard and try and find some much-needed consistency in our performances that will enables us to enter the group of teams fighting for the top positions.”

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