30th June is a marked day in many football calendars around the world as it sees the end of one season and the start of another with many contracts traditionally finishing on this date. As such it is fitting that we post our 2016/17 season review today as the football world begins to turn its attention to the 2017/18 season.
United moved fast and quick in the heady days of the summer of 2016 to secure several marquee signings. GFA regular Jamie Bosio joined from Lincoln FC after completing his studies and he was joined by the Hernandez brothers from Man 62. Jason Pusey, Paul Podesta, Ashley Rodriguez, Aymen Mouehli, Erin Barnett Dani Wink and Jesse Victory all signed for the club in a bid to challenge for a place higher up in the league.
A mixed preseason saw an inconsistent run of results as Manolo gelled in so many new faces into the squad. So many new players in key positions meant that there was an unfamiliarity and lack of chemistry that takes time to foster. Yet as is his want, the manager drilled the squad hard in preseason to have them ready for a late September kick off against Manchester 62.
Robert Montvio promised to carry on where he had left off the previous year by netting a brace that earned United a point when perhaps they should have got three. After one game the league took its first hiatus for International Football and Jeff Wood called up a number of United players and its also provided an opportunity for new players to gel with their new team mates. Games against recently crowned European Champions Portugal and the first FIFA World Cup Qualifiers for Gibraltar followed.
The league continued mid October with United facing tough opposition in champions Lincoln, 3rd placed St Joseph’s and in Mons Calpe the surprise package of the season. 3 defeats left us 7th hovering above Europa Point, Lions and Lynx FC. Our first win of the season came against the latter with yet another Montovio goal. United had showed great maturity in their play and the results against Lincoln in particular showed the progress made.
United were dealt a major injury blow early in the season when defensive stalwart, Brad Power, succumbed to a major injury that was to leave him out of the game for a long time. Jason Pusey stepped into the breach and became the defensive rock Manolo built his defence. Erin Barnett was his constant companion flanked by Pishu and Perez. A dour 0-0 draw against Lions FC augured what was to come however.
The Red and Whites next tasted ‘victory’ in a forfeited match in early December but broke off for the Christmas with a tremendous morale booster of a 3-1 win over Man 62 in which Paul Podesta scored a spectacular long range effort to seal the win. The Red and Whites however entered a very negative spiral of results that threatened to unhinge the whole season.
In a run of 12 matches from January to April, United garnered two points and went 6 games without scoring as the dependable John Wayne (aka Robert Montovio) found that his powder had gone somewhat dry. A 93rd minute loss to basement club Europa Point saw United at their lowest ebb as the spectre of relegation loomed large. January had also seen club stalwarts Jared Buhagiar and Carl Thomas leave the club, they had a combined appearance total of 125 and would now don the claret and blue of Glacis United. EL Andalussi and Marquez were transferred to Mons Calpe while evergreen Robba resigned for the club alongside Paul Grech.
Gibraltar United also showed that it was committed to its civic duties when it supported a charity initiative by Stuart Felice and joined him for his Dip a Day on a cold, wet but fun March afternoon at Camp Bay.
April 2017 however brought the most momentous news in the Club’s recent history. News broke that former Real Madrid and Spain international Michel Salgado, alongside Dubai based banker Pablo Dana, had bought the club. There was an immediate stir of excitement, not only among United supporters, as Michel Salgado landed on the Rock on the 4th April 2017 to announce not only his purchase of the club but also a partnership with Turicum Private Bank as the club’s main sponsor. Michel met all the teams in the Youth Division as well as the Senior squad. Morale was on the up and the effect was immediately felt on the field.
United had rediscovered their form. A battling point against St Joseph’s was followed by two more draws and a much needed victory against Glacis United that pulled United away from the relegation places and into safety. Both Hernandez brothers scored against Glacis United with Pishu showing a composure beyond his years to seal the win very late on. Despite a catastrophic result against Europa FC, United saw the season out in 7th place, an improvement on last season and with solid foundations being laid for a more promising 2017/18 season as the Salgado era began.
The club finished the season with a massive recruitment drive and held youth trials at the stadium for over 130 young players and held a charity Gala night in which £5,000 was raised for the Calpe House trust. Club legend Adolfo Ramriez was named the Club’s Life Honorary President. Oh yes and just the small matter of a World Cup and Champions League Winner, Brazil legend called Roberto Carlos being the club’s guest of honour!
Vi et Animo, Ad Victoriam!