Ahead of the national team’s upcoming international double-header against Liechtenstein and Latvia, we caught up with national manager Jeff Wood as he gave us his thoughts on player selection, the upcoming games and the importance of support for team.
The first topic was the exclusion of certain players from the 31-man squad, including Louie Barnfather, Shea Breakspear and Ashley Rodriguez in particular. “Ashley, Shea and Louie have all had excellent seasons and there are also several others who were only just short for the final selection. All of these will be very much in consideration in the future”
With the friendlies allowing Wood the freedom in terms of his squad size, he eventually settled on 31 to cover these two games plus the Gibraltar XI friendly vs San Roque CD. This meant some players still missed out, but Wood explained that “ there were no specific reasons other than I needed to keep to a sensible number for the squad and we can’t pick everyone. The players that have been omitted on this occasion must force their way into the squad by continuing with their fine form”
A number of players who have been plying their trade in the UK while at university; it is indeed hard to always keep up to date on their progress at that level. However, Wood is happy at what he has on these players that he’s selected. “We have had reports on all the Uk based players regarding games, training, performance levels we have also assisted in helping them find clubs to combine with their commitment to their studies.”
These friendlies are Gibraltar’s first non-competitive internationals since the 4-0 defeat against Croatia last year; the chance for an international manager to try out new ideas in a game with less pressure is a rare, but very welcome luxury. “You’re exactly right, the friendlies will give us an opportunity to look at different approaches to how we play and by using the right combination of experience and youth look to build for the future.”
“I know that the experienced players have welcomed the challenge from the players previously bought into the squad as that gives them the motivation to continue at their very high standards.”
Finally, Gibraltarian fans have patiently waited for top-level international football to return to the Rock, travelling in numbers too all 10 of Gibraltar’s games, be it the ‘home’ games in Faro or the away games across Europe. This is something Wood clearly appreciates, “The fans have been fantastic in their support of the National team , travelling to Faro for our “home” games and even appearing in Georgia and Poland. We are looking to put in 2 performances against quality opposition that will ensure they have every reason to be optimistic for the future.”
“I can assure everyone that they players and staff will work extremely hard to make them games to remember.”