For me personally, it was fantastic to read yesterday that John Buttigieg – former Malta defender – has been given the job of Manager at Sliema Wanderers for the coming season. He brings a vast experience with him which has also included a spell in charge of the Maltese national side as well as Birkirkara and the Floriana Youth Academy.
So why am I so personally delighted to see Buttigieg take charge at Sliema? Well it has to do with an experience in Malta back in 1989. As a mere 9-year-old, I spent a lot of time getting as much information and merchandise as possible on Maltese football. Being based in Sliema, the Wanderers naturally became my club of choice.
Wanderers had just won the Premier League title at the end of the 1988-89 season and the town was justifiably proud of its club. My parents eventually relented and took me to the Sliema Wanderers Supporters Club in the town one evening where I was given a team poster and various other teams by the friendly folks running the club. Upon leaving the club, we were approached by a kind gentleman who introduced himself as John Buttigieg’s father.
Having been born and raised in South West London, John’s father told us his son played for Brentford in England. Brentford happened to be our nearest league club at the time. John did indeed play some 40 games for the West London club between 1988-1991. He also had a 3 game loan spell at Swindon Town in the same period, before returning to Malta to play for Floriana and Valletta. John’s father even offered to drive my family and I out to Ta’ Qali to look at the national stadium in a wonderful act of generosity. To meet the father of a top player was almost as good as meeting John himself.
Many will remember that John was responsible for bringing many of the Australian-born players into the national fold with Malta. The likes of John Hutchinson and Manny Muscat were given their debuts under Buttigieg’s tutelage in a visionary move.
And so, for me, it feels like John has “come home”. He may have extremely strong links with Floriana but his father was a Sliema man and it’s great to see him join. Here’s hoping for a productive and successful season in 2016-17. Welcome John!