Chipolina: “I am living my dream”

FG caught up with Lincoln & Gibraltar captain Roy Chipolina to talk about Imps’ triumphant season, Mick McElwee’s role in the team and more.

Roy reflected on Lincoln clinching their 25th title with a 3-0 win over Lions last Sunday, “A huge relief. After such a tough season to finish as champions makes me very proud to be a part of a family who gave everything to achieve our goal.

Lincoln finished a point above Europa and three in front of St Joseph’s – Roy gave us his view on his sides triumphant season, “This season has been unique. Due to the Covid pandemic, we had a long stop to the season during winter not to mention all the issues off the field with training allocations. Until Christmas, we knew we hadn’t been good enough and that so much more work needed to be put in. Credit to the players and staff, we all pulled together going through a hard 6 weeks of individual training which included some zoom sessions. All this to make sure when we returned to full training we wouldn’t need to work on our fitness too much. The lads came back fully focused and ready for what was going to be a hectic 3 months with 2 games a week, something which has never been experienced here in Gibraltar. For me having such a competitive squad is what pulled us over the line. Everyone wants to play and when you have a squad of players where it’s a matter of opinion who is our strongest 11 you would think players who were not getting the minutes that they wanted, would turn up and not train as hard or come with a negative vibe. It was the opposite. All the players stuck together with a great work ethic, knowing how important it was to keep a high intensity so that when your opportunity came you were ready to play your part or just kept those who were playing at their sharpest. Every single player in the squad did just that. It’s an honour to be a part of this family.”

Europa and St Joseph’s have been getting stronger year by year and teams like Mons Calpe and Lynx have thrown in some surprises this season and the defensive resilience of Lions has proved to be a problem for the big teams – we asked Roy about the importance of having a competitive league compared to previous ones, “This season has been a great advert for Gibraltar football. The league going down to the last game. 3 teams being able to be crowned champions and for one moment everyone reading the rule book, as all 3 teams could have finished the season on the same points. Throw in teams like Mons Lynx and Lions who made life hard to say the least for the top 3 and I think you have arguably the most competitive league we have had since becoming UEFA members. All the teams should be congratulated for that and from a neutral perspective let’s hope next season brings more of the same even though I’m not sure our owner will agree.

Mick McElwee secured his 11th title as Lincoln manager – we asked Roy about the impact Mick has had on the team, “Just over a year ago I posted a tweet regarding Mick and if you read through it I can only add that he has shown that he still has everything I state only now he has done it in a different era with a completely different group of players which only shows me he is unique. He is someone I look up to and a role model, not just for me but for many.

Roy’s tweet stated. “Mick McElwee was so much more to us and Lincoln than he humbly states. Yes, we had a group of very talented players but also very strong in character and personality. Dealing with us was very complicated, to say the least. He had a powerful impact on many of us, both on and as importantly off the pitch. He truly cared about us and knew how to get the best out of every player. His complete dedication and tireless effort rubbed onto the team. His standards and work ethic in training was always high and although we won most of the time, he demanded more, always setting new targets and goals. Stephen Head always assisting with the above played a very important but unsung role and was a key part of the jigsaw. Over the years what we built, money can’t buy. We were more than a team, we built a family and Mick was the father. That was the reason we were so successful.