HOW DOES JOHN ARNE RIISE PLAN TO TURN AROUND THE FORTUNES OF BIRKIRKARA?

Some may say Birkirkara have fallen from grace in recent years. The Stripes are four time Maltese Premier League champions with their last title coming in 2012/13.

As well as league titles, Birkirkara have a wealth of history having won the FA Trophy a total of five times and the Super Cup on seven occasions. However, the club haven’t picked up silverware since 2015 when they beat Hibernians 2-0 in the FA Trophy final.

The 2015/16 season saw the Stripes face English giants West Ham United in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.

The Hammers won the first leg 1-0 at Boleyn Ground with James Tomkins scoring a 90th minute winner. However, the second leg was a historic night for Maltese football.

14,571 fans were at the Ta’Qali to witness Birkirkara take West Ham to penalties thanks to experienced Italian Fabrizio Miccoli who scored the only goal of the game after just 15 minutes.

Unfortunately for the Maltese side, they lost 3-5 in the shoot-out but went out of the competition with huge amount of pride in their hearts.

Aaron Cresswell of West Ham United is challenged by Birkirkara’s Rowen Muscat at the Ta’Qali National Stadium on July 23, 2015.
(Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images)

Just a year after playing Slaven Bilić’s West Ham side, Birkirkara went a round further after beating Scottish side Hearts to reach the third qualifying round.

This season’s European campaign wasn’t as successful with the Stripes crashing out of the Europa League in the Preliminary round losing 3-2 on aggregate to Faroese side Klaksvíkar Ítróttarfelag.

Away from Europe, Birkirkara have not had the most enjoyable season, with the side currently seventh in the Maltese Premier League standings. They have won just one game in their previous five.

The Stripes entertain Mosta in the FA Trophy Quarter-Final this afternoon and arguably may be focusing more on winning the competition than the league at this stage in the season with the title looking well out of their reach.

Despite their disappointing league position, Birkirkara could still qualify for Europe as they are just five points behind third-place Gżira United who have drawn four of their previous five matches.

Paul Fenech of Birkirkara FC and West Ham captain Kevin Nolan exchange pennants during the UEFA Europa League match between West Ham United and FC Birkirkara at Boleyn Ground on July 16, 2015.
(Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images)

Birkirkara made the bold decision to bring in UEFA Champions League winner John Arne Riise as their Sporting Director in January 2019.

The club released an official statement at the start of the year following the arrival of Arne Riise: “Birkirkara FC is delighted to announce that it has reached an agreement with John Arne Riise to take up the newly-created Sports Director role.

“John shall work together with the Club Technical Director, Mr. Michael Valenzia and Senior Team Manager, Mr. Jeffrey Farrugia in a new set-up which shall commence with immediate effect.

“Further details of the clubs plans for the future shall be published in the next few days.”

Since his arrival at the club, the 38-year-old has led training sessions alongside Mark Buttigieg and physical trainer Marco Cesar.

Arne Riise has also had his hand in management, leading the side in a number of games.

The former Norway international commented on his role at the club saying: “Well, first of all, I’m very happy and glad that I can have this opportunity and that the club trusts me. I know what I want and what I want to do, and the club trusts me to do this job.

“I’m very excited and I will use all my experience as a player, mostly about looking at other people doing the same job to help the club to grow and the team to play better, because I want to give players confidence to play good football but it’s also going to be hard work.

“The one thing that you can have success with is hard work so it’s going to be demanding for the players and for the whole club because we’re going to change the few things and it would be good.”

Birkirkara signed a number of players during the January transfer window including Maltese international goalkeeper Andrew Hogg from league leaders Hibernians.

However, this deal saw star player Jake Grech leave the club with the midfielder going the other way and joining Hibs.

England’s Jamie Vardy has his shot blocked by Andrew Hogg of Malta during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Malta and England at Ta’Qali National Stadium on September 1, 2017.
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Arne Riise has also asked Stripes supporters to give their full support as he plans to turn the club’s recent fortunes around: “Come on supporters, we will now change certain things at the club and hopefully, you as fans, you will see the games. Thank you for your support and it will be good!

“You know my experience and the things that I have done in football can help the players get some confidence. Hopefully, they want to work hard and help me to help the club become bigger.

“We must go together as a team. It’s a few tough weeks coming because it’s how work will be beginning but hopefully at the end, we will be happy.

“I know the Club wants to change a few things, so I wanted a challenge. I’m excited and l look forward to starting this challenge. Hopefully I can help the team and the club grow, become bigger, and of course, challenge for the trophies.”

John Arne Risse (right) with Roberto Carlos during the LFC Foundation Charity Match between Liverpool Legends and Real Madrid Legends at Anfield on March 25.(Photo by LFC Foundation/Getty Images)


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