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Gibraltar National League Championship Group Review

With only four games remaining, the Gibraltar FA called off the league making it null and void. The European spots were handed out but no league winner announced. Here is our early review of the Championship Group.

Europa FC – 1st

While not being crowned champions has clearly left a very bitter taste in the mouths of all at Europa, they should no doubt still be happy at how their season went until the point of the league being terminated. From their opening week, eye-catching 4-1 win against Lincoln, Europa went on to be virtually unstoppable in the league, bar for a dramatic 2-2 draw against St Joseph’s in September which they were lucky not to lose.

They were of course expected to challenge for the title strongly, but few would have perhaps expected them to be unbeaten – past Europa sides have had a habit of very avoidable defeats that have cost them in the league dearly, but this Europa side, even when going behind in games, never looked like losing 99% of the time.

The emergence of Dayle Coleing in goal was a major plus for Rafael Escobar’s side, while the signing of Juampe from Balona was an inspired addition to a team who have never had trouble scoring. The plan for next season will be to try and maintain those levels, with St Joseph’s and Lincoln likely to be champing at the bit hoping to bring Europa down a peg or two.


St Joseph’s – 2nd

After years of coming so close in breaking the top two’s league dominance, Saints finally reached their potential this season. Sitting in second, five points behind Europa and five points in front of Lincoln with four games remaining.

Overall their season exceeded expectations – their Europa League campaign was memorable, came within minutes of beating Europa but would draw 2-2 in the final minute and did the league double of Lincoln.

The most important bit for Procopio and his men is to keep the same momentum and consistency going into whenever football restarts in Gibraltar.


Lincoln Red Imps – 3rd

For a team who have for so many years been the all-conquering, dominant force of local football, a third-place finish for Lincoln is disappointing – in fact, it is the first season they haven’t finished in the top two since the 1999/2000 season, where they finished fourth in a six-team league.

While they continued to beat the teams below them, normally with some ease, Lincoln came unstuck against both Europa and St Joseph’s, losing all four meetings against their title rivals. This saw their title hopes drift away in February, but there were some positive signs for the club, most notably the emergence of Julian Del Rio into the first team.

Next seasons aim for Lincoln has to be to appoint the right manager, after German Crespo’s departure earlier this week, and try to keep them in charge for a longer period than their last few managers – they have the squad, especially in attack, to challenge for titles, but stability is key if Lincoln wants to climb back on top of local football once again.


Lynx FC – 4th

Lynx was another team that started the season great, a 4th place finish is their highest since the 2014-15 season. Their three Croatians Hrvoje Bukvic, Ed Kokorovic, and Marko Marcius would play a big role in round one of the Gibraltar National League. Their departure would leave a big hole in the team and the results would show it with two wins from six games.

It has been a positive season for them though, Jaydan Parody has shown potential this season and Mohamed Badr has made the Gibraltar national team.


Brunos Magpies – 5th

Round one of the National League saw Magpies achieve their top half aims, albeit it was far less comfortable than expected, and saw the departure of David Wilson as manager, a move which proved unpopular among Magpies fanbase and seemed to hurt their attendances and atmosphere for a while after. They weren’t then helped by Alfonso Cortijo joining, only to leave for a job in China two months later, but he at least ensured they finished in the top six before the split.

Magpies issue seemed to be in beating the teams above them, with only a solitary cup win vs Lynx to their name vs the top four, so 5th place is a deserved finished, and perhaps around where the club would have hoped to finish, despite significant investment in both the summer and in January. Tight battles with St Joseph’s just before the league ended showed some hope they can battle with the big boys, presuming they don’t chop and change the squad too much this summer.


Lions Gibraltar – 6th

You can’t judge Lions’ season from their results in the Championship Group, with their financial resources not as strong as the others – the team itself knew what they were getting themselves into with a sixth-placed finish.

Lions did put in cracking performances in the Group and were unlucky not to get points on a couple of occasions. Looking at it from an overall perspective, Albert Ferri and his team showed great promise and that they don’t need to play so defensively to gain results.

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Gibraltar National League Challenge Group review

With the Gibraltar National League halted due to COVID with the Gibraltar FA’s decision to null and void the league after a 2-month suspension – here is our early review of the Challenge Group.


Mons Calpe – 1st

In truth, Mons would have found themselves very disappointed to end up in the Challenge Group in the first place – they must have fancied themselves to finish above Lions and enter the Championship Group.

However, a much-changed and improved Mons had a good 2020, which culminated in reaching the semi-finals of the Gibtelecom Cup and all but securing the top spot in the Challenge Group before the season terminated. The challenge for Mons is to try and settle some of their off-field issues and try to build on their progress in 2020.


Europa Point – 2nd

Compared to their 2016-17 season in the top flight, Europa Point can find plenty of positives especially from January onwards. Ian Hendon and his team hard work reaped its rewards but a 5-5 draw against College 1975 before the suspension, would have left a sour taste in their mouths.

Europa Point will be keeping hold of Hendon and his players but most importantly, finding a good nucleus of HGP’s, the lack of which let them down for most of the season.


Manchester 62 – 3rd

Things were always going to be hard for Manchester, but third in the Challenge Group perhaps reflects where they were in terms of strength in the league. They would have perhaps hoped for Jeff Wood to last longer in the job but struck well in getting David Wilson, another former national manager, as his replacement.

Their commitment to local talent showed in the HGP tally, and Kian Ronan especially impressed, even as a makeshift striker – however Manchester will hope an 11-1 loss to Mons Calpe in their final game was not a sign of things to come next season, and was merely a one-off.


FC Boca Juniors – 4th

An underachieving team, if you look at their squad in the summer. Their lack of funds was their main downfall with most of their players leaving as a result. Boca announced Juan Carlos Camacho as their new head coach in November which lasted until January and following him out the door was their technical team.

Credit to them, the changes made in January were swift and were a competitive side for their level. Europa’s loanees Daniel Tudela and Elias Juel-Saleh were ones which impressed us over a short period of time.


Glacis United – 5th

Glacis suffered from a very stunted start to the season, where they had issues getting players registered in time for the opening games – meaning their Intermediate squad had to fill a lot of the gaps especially against Magpies and Lincoln. This gave them no chance of finishing in the top six, but in the Challenge Group they at least showed they were on the level of the teams around them.

One of Gibraltar’s more well-known teams, Glacis will hope they can get off to a better start next season – as second-bottom of the league will no doubt disappoint them massively.


College 1975 – 6th

After 18 games, College managed to pick up one point in a 5-5 draw against Europa Point – a game which they led 4-0 at one point. 17 straight defeats came previously, a tough lesson learned.

A worrying stat would be finishing bottom and having the least amount of minutes given to HGP’s outside of the top three.

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Chipolina: “Not the recovery we expected”

We spoke to Joseph Chipolina about his recovery from injury, a review of Lincoln’s season and more.

Just before the GNL took a break for Christmas, Joseph Chipolina suffered an injury in Lincoln’s 2-0 win over Manchester 62. We asked the 32-year old how his recovery has gone, “Not the recovery we expected as we have had a little setback. I will need some manipulation and little surgery clean up as my knee won’t bend as it should. But all in all still doing what I can and building the quads up.”

With Covid bringing a halt to football in Gibraltar, we asked Joseph what he is doing during these tough times – “I am training 2 times a day one at lunchtime and one just before dinner time roughly at 19:45. I can’t really do cardio so what I am doing are workouts which I can do with my knee as it is.”

Before Covid brought a halt to the GNL – Lincoln were third, five points behind St Joseph’s in second, ten points behind rivals Europa in first and in the Gibtelecom Cup semi-final. Joseph reviewed his side’s season, “It hasn’t been the best of seasons but these things happen in football. Too many changes within the club etc but always for the best of the club, but all in all it is what it is and another year where we learn as a club and move on for our next challenge together as one.”

Nearly six months on from Gibraltar’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, which ended in a defeat to Switzerland at the Victoria Stadium, Joseph reviewed Gibraltar’s campaign – “I think we did quite well on some games; maybe on others we could have done better but that all comes down to us players maintaining our A-game all throughout the games. Lack of concentration is what is letting us down but we have improved vastly since the arrival of Julio Ribas who is an amazing coach and person.”

Lastly, we asked Joseph about any goals he has set for himself – “At this moment in time my goals are to try and play football again. My injury was a very harsh one, I had my ACL torn into bits, had my ICL torn 60%, had Both Interior and Exterior Meniscus torn, and my patellar dislocated, aggravating the patellar tendon. So my goal is to get as fit as I can and try to make it back on the field and keep doing what I most enjoy and love.”

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Europa express their surprise at voiding of National League

Europa FC this evening have released a statement, expressing what they call their surprise at the GFA’s decision to null and void the Gibraltar National League yesterday.

Photo (C) C Correa Photography

With Europa’s title hopes dashed by yesterday’s announcement, the club today put together a statement, in which they have stated that, of the 54 UEFA Nations to have a domestic league (Liechtenstein has no league system), that Gibraltar is one of only three nations to have gone down the null and void option (the others being Luxembourg and the Netherlands). The club have noted that some nations have “terminated competition, but have used other criteria to declare a champion.”

The club, who were five points clear at the top of the league with four games to go, and unbeaten at the point of the league being null and voided, also go on to mention that “it would be concerning to see Gibraltar in the small minority of those who thought it was best to declare competition both null and void, and without a champion.” Europa make reference to the situation in Belgium, where after originally looking to null and void the league, the situation appears to be that their FA are now looking to end the season but declare a champion (most likely Club Brugge).

Europa also choose in the statement to make reference to some of their on-field achievements this season, including scoring 85 goals in 17 games, as well as having the better head-to-head record over St Joseph’s and Lincoln. It is also almost a year to the day since a team beat Rafa Escobar’s side in a competitive match at the Victoria Stadium, when Lincoln won 2-0 to lift the 2018/19 league title on the 11th May 2019. The club have described this year as having “meant to be a vintage year for us (the club)“, and that “to have this denied with four matches to go by what we believe might be a premature decision is a bitter pill to swallow“.

Finally, the club also mentions that their closest title challengers, St Joseph’s, have been denied the chance to potentially overtake Europa and win the title themselves – Saints were due to play Europa in the week the season was terminated, and a win for Raul Procopio’s side would have given them a real chance of a first league title since 1996, and only their second league title in 108 years of existence. Europa go on to say that this decision “only leaves us to look forward to the weeks ahead and examine the denouement of this situation as concerns other UEFA nations.

The full Europa FC statement can be found here.

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GFA confirm the ending of the 2019/20 domestic season

The Gibraltar FA have this evening confirmed that the 2019/20 domestic season has been terminated, with immediate effect.

Photo (C) William Gracia

This decision has been made by the GFA after the Gibraltar Government confirmed to them that the domestic season would not be able to be completed by the 20th July, which is UEFA’s deadline for competitions to be concluded.

In a statement, the Gibraltar FA confirm that Europa will enter into next season’s Champions League, being first in the league at the time of the season ending, while St Joseph’s will enter the Europa League. As the Gibtelecom Cup can’t be completed, the Europa League spot from that tournament will be given to the third placed side, Lincoln, who were in the semi-finals alongside Europa, St Joseph’s and Mons Calpe. All decisions regarding European spots are pending compliance with the UEFA Club Licensing Process, which all three teams are expected to pass.

No confirmation yet has been announced about the conclusion of this season’s league, which will include whether Europa, currently five points clear of second place St Joseph’s with what was four games to play, will be crowned champions (like in France with Paris Saint-Germain), or no team will claim the title (like in Netherlands). The GFA statement says “In order to finalise the Gibraltar National League, the Gibraltar FA Board of Directors will convene early next week together with the Gibraltar FA President and Members of the Governance & Strategy Board to reach a decision.”

The full GFA statement can be found here.

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Torrilla: “I look forward to repaying them in the future”

We spoke to 22-year old midfielder Graeme Torrilla about his injury, new club Lincoln Red Imps and more.

Nine months on from his operation which has kept him out of football for just over one year, we asked Graeme how his rehabilitation is going – “Rehabilitation is going well but took a while to get going as in the previous club, I was never given the full support or facilities required to recover from such a big injury.”

Recovering from injuries is never easy and with Covid-19 bringing a halt to everything worldwide – we asked him how he is keeping active during these tough times, “I was reaching the final stages of my rehab just before quarantine began. Mainly pitch work, which is something I’m unable to do now. I’m mainly sticking to exercises at home & going for a jog or bicycle ride to remain as active as possible.”

Graeme joined Lincoln Red Imps from Mons Calpe this January, a big move for a promising talent – the 22-year old told us how the club is playing a big part in his comeback, “Lincoln has not only offered me the facilities needed but also their full support in allowing me to take the time I need to get back on the pitch when fully recovered. I look forward to repaying them in the future.”

Lastly, we asked Graeme what his goals are when he returns to full fitness – “For starters, I want to get back to the level I was at before my injury which will take time having been out for so long. Then from there just aim as high as possible to perform at my best at club level & hopefully at international level if given the chance.”

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Power: “The club as a whole has progressed significantly in the past year and a half”

Football Gibraltar caught up with Lynx defender Brad Power to discuss his sides season so far, keeping up fitness during lockdown, and more.

Photo © Black and Burst

Power joined Lynx from St Joseph’s back in January 2019 – how has his time at the club been? “Looking back at my first full year in Lynx I would say it has been a very positive one. I signed in January 2019, and being midseason was a difficult move, but one that certainly paid off for me. I got regular football and managed to get my place back in the national team. We got off to a great start as soon as I signed, and we managed to finish the league strongly last season and carry that momentum into the league this year.

I feel valued at this club and the confidence the manager and my team-mates have in me has allowed me to perform well and consistently. The club as a whole has progressed significantly in the past year and a half and I hope that we can keep as many players of this group as possible, with a few more additions I believe that we can close the gap on the teams above us.”

Lynx currently find themselves 4th in the Gibraltar National League – a very good achievement when you consider the relative size and budget of the club compared to those around it – does the defender feel his side have ‘overachieved’ this season? “At the start of the season nobody expected us to go on the run that we did in the first round. We only lost to the big 2 and managed to take points off St josephs. We know where we stand as a team and how financially we can’t compete with the teams above us. Our budget for the year is probably not even half of that of the teams above and even some of the teams below us.

In terms of our budget you could say we have overachieved, but we are considered the ‘best of the rest’ in the league standings and with a few more additions we can hopefully push to challenge the top 3 again next season.”

For all players, keeping their fitness during lockdown is a massive challenge – how has the 27-year-old adapted to this situation? “Keeping fit during this difficult time has been challenging in terms of types of training. I have turned the spare room in my house into a mini gym and have been making do as much as I can. The sooner this is all over and we are back out on the pitch the better. Staying motivated is key during this time but both my club and national team manager have been keeping in contact with me to ensure I am staying as fit as possible.”

Finally, we asked the centre back what his goals were for 2020: “Looking forward to the rest of 2020 – in terms of football I am hoping for everything to resume so that we can finish off the season on a high. Hopefully UEFA can sort out the busy schedules that lie ahead for all nations but also ensure that international fixtures can be played, getting back on the pitch for Lynx and Gibraltar are the main aims for the rest of this year.”

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Mouelhi: St Joseph’s showed this season we are competing for and fighting until the end for both the league and the cup

FG caught up with St Joseph’s defender Aymen Mouelhi about life at Saints this season, his sides chances in the league and cup this season, and more

Photo © Vanessa Correa

Mouelhi joined St Joseph’s in the summer after Gib United went out of business, so how has his time so far at his new club been? “As from the first training session I felt at home. The players and technical staff helped me to integrate very well into the group – the only problem was that I broke my wrist and that made my debut with the team a bit delayed as I recovered. Apart from that everything was good”

The defender has also found himself regularly in a defensive midfield position for both club and country this season, helping to shield the backline – has this versatility helped his career? “I try to give my all and help the team. It doesn’t matter which position I play and I think as a player you need to be used to playing in serval positions, so you can have more chances to get more minutes, so it was a good advantage for me.”

Saints are still in the battle for the league and the Gibtelecom Rock Cup this season, so does the 33-year-old feel his side can end the season with silverware? “St Joseph’s showed this season we are competing for and fighting until the end for both the league and the cup, which didn’t happen in the last few years. We are taking every game as a final so hopefully, we finish this season with a trophy as everything depends on us.”

Finally, what are Mouelhi’s goals for 2020? “On the personal, I’m aiming to win a trophy with St Joseph’s, and carry on representing and defending Gibraltar In the upcoming international matches. I wish peace and health for the whole world and everything goes back better than before.”

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Lincoln Red Imps – Where are they now?

We take a look at that famous Lincoln Red Imps team from the 2013/14 season which dominated local football for so many years, qualified the Imps for the first year of Champions League football and find out where they are now.


Goalkeepers

  • Jordan Perez – Jordan would leave Lincoln at the end of that season, joining Lions before making a move to St Joseph’s. After taking a break from football, Perez joined Second Division side FC Olympique in 2017 for a season. The keeper played seven times for Boca this season before hanging up his boots – he also represented Gibraltar in beach volleyball at the 2019 Island Games.
  • Dayle Coleing – Dayle would remain at Lincoln as the number 2 for a couple more years, before spells at Manchester 62 and Gib Phoenix locally, and Thackley and Liversedge while in England. In 2018, Coleing went on to join Europa and has since established himself as their number one keeper, as well as making four appearances for the Gibraltar national side since his debut vs Denmark in September 2018.
  • Mark Moxham – Moxham has made his name known more among futsal followers, where he has represented Gibraltar on numerous occasions in recent seasons. The 36-year-old currently plays for Europa FC Futsal, who are second in the league and is their first-choice keeper.

Defenders

  • Neal Medina – Neal made the bench for Lincoln’s debut in the Champions League and would stay on at the club for a further 3 years before leaving for Gibraltar United – injuries would continue to plague his career with limited appearances since leaving. The 32-year old is now playing Futsal for Lynx FC.
  • Ryan Casciaro – In the Summer of 2018, Ryan would call time on his playing days at Lincoln after nearly three decades of playing for the club. The 35-year old would go on to join St Joseph’s but injuries have seen the experienced defender only make 4 appearances this season, compared to his 21 from the campaign before.
  • Garry Turner-Bone – Garry would stay on for a further two years before departing for FC Olympique. After leaving in 2016, Garry would return to Gibraltar football in 2018 to Magpies, then joined Manchester 62 for a brief spell before returning to Magpies to take on a coaching role and play for the club’s reserve side.
  • Jean Carlos Garcia – After playing his youth career in Spain with Zabal and Linense, JC would make the transition to Gibraltar at 21 years old to join Lincoln. The defender would make the right-back position his for 5 years before being loaned out to Gib Phoenix in January 2019 then make a permanent move to Magpies in August 2019.
  • Tarik Chrayeh – After making the bench for Lincoln’s first-ever Champions League game and then make an appearance off the bench in 2015, Tarik would go on to join their B team in Red Imps a couple of years later. Moves to Lions, St Joseph’s and Leo would sum up his next few years. The defender currently plays for Europa Point and St Joseph’s in Futsal.
  • Roy Chipolina – One of the few last men still remaining in the current Lincoln squad. After passing of the torch from then captain Daniel Duarte, Roy still remains captain to this day and has led his side to numerous Cup glories. At 37, Roy is still a huge asset for club and country but injuries are proving to be a nuisance.
  • Mark Ballester – At 18 years old, Mark would gain valuable experience from the team which he would put into his displays for Gibraltar at Under 19 level. The now 25-year old is currently without a team.
  • Sean Lopez – After joining from Lynx in 2013. A Strong-running left-back had a great debut season but picked up a serious knee injury in the last league game of the 2014 season and hasn’t played senior football since.
  • Alain Pons – Alain joined Lincoln from Taraguilla at 17 years old. Alain would play in the second leg of Lincoln’s UCL defeat to HB Torshavn before leaving the club for his university studies. The 24-year old secured a move to St Joseph’s last summer, in a bid to earn himself a starting spot in Julio Ribas’ national team.
  • Lee Graham – After playing a pivotal role for Lincoln in the 2013/14 season, Lee would follow Garry to FC Olympique in 2015 before joining Britannia after their promotion. After the club folded, Lee returned to Olympique for two more seasons before switching football for Futsal where he currently plays for the Expendables in the second division.

Midfielders

  • Daniel Duarte – The captain of this all-conquering side, Duarte would represent Lincoln until 2015, when he moved to Manchester 62, before retiring the following summer. Duarte, who became captain of the national team at the age of 26, picked up 116 caps before Gibraltar joined UEFA, and 5 caps in the UEFA era for the national side – he would have earned many more UEFA caps had UEFA membership arrived earlier than 2013, that is for certain.
  • Liam Clarke – Before leaving Lincoln in 2015 and joining Manchester 62 – Liam will be known for his last-gasp winner in the 2014 Gibraltarian Rock Cup final victory over College Europa. Clarke would later go on to also play for Boca until 2018, and like some of his teammates now focuses on futsal, where he is currently at South United. The 32-year old recently made his MMA debut also.
  • Mark Casciaro – Casciaro remained at Lincoln until January 2015, where he moved on to join Gibraltar United, and late Manchester 62, before retiring from football in 2017. Casciaro has also made his name in hockey for the Gibraltar national side, showing his multi-sporting talents. Apart from hockey, Mark currently plays Futsal for South United.
  • Pitu Anes – Pitu remained with Lincoln until the summer of 2015, where he left for Gibraltar United – after spells there, notably including a cracking goal vs Angels. After the purchase of Gib Utd by Pablo Dana & Michel Salgado, Pitu would leave the club at the end of the season and join Second Division side Leo FC for a brief spell before retiring from football in 2018.
  • Aaron Payas – Payas left Lincoln in 2014 to join Manchester 62, who he played for three seasons until taking a career break in 2017. He returned in 2018 and had spells at Europa last season, and Brunos Magpies this season, but is currently without a club.
  • Joseph Chipolina – One of the few still at the club now, Joseph was used in the midfield in this title-winning side but is now seen at left-back or centre-back for club and country. Chipolina’s importance for Lincoln and Gib is still massive, and his biggest moment came in October 2018 when he scored the winning goal against both Armenia and Liechtenstein in consecutive Nations League matches.
  • Sean Duarte – A ball-playing, technical player capable of breaking down defences in limited spaces and the final third. Many injuries meant his chances of first team football were limited. Sean currently plays Futsal for Spartans FC.
  • Robert Guiling – In 2014, Guiling would make the move from Lincoln to Lynx – he would be a key part of the side that ended Lincoln’s 88-game unbeaten run as he scored in the 1-0 victory for Lynx. The midfielder remained at Lynx until 2018 and hasn’t played, since suffering a serious knee injury in November 2017. Robert now plays for Eagles HC (hockey).
  • Brian Perez – Perez remained at Lincoln until 2015, and like some of his teammates then had a spell at Manchester 62, until 2017. The midfielder returned to football at the start of the season, joining Brunos Magpies, and despite the two-year absence, shows the qualities that made him so highly rated for many years in local football circles.
  • Duane Robba – Robba was at the later years of his career in this team, and became something of a journeyman, dotting around the league for various clubs, including a couple of appearances for Gib United in 2017. At 44, Robba is now retired from football, but he has represented the national team on numerous occasions in futsal.

Attackers

  • Kyle Casciaro – The youngest Casciaro brother would remain at Lincoln until 2018, leaving on loan to Olympique. A permanent move to St Joseph’s would follow in 2019, before returning to Imps in January 2020.
  • Alan Parker – Alan would leave the Imps for Gibraltar United in 2015, then joined various clubs and is currently at Lions. With appearances for Gibraltar’s U19 & 21 – the 23-year old is a regular figure for Gibraltar’s Futsal senior team and a huge asset for both South United and the national team.
  • Michael Yome – After joining Lincoln from Zabal in 2011, Mikey would remain at the club until 2014 before leaving for university. Juggling his uni life with his club, meant a move to Manchester 62 came about in 2016. A few months later, Mikey would spend one more year away before joining Europa in 2017 where he still plays to this day.
  • John Paul Duarte – JP would play nearly a decade at the Imps, finishing top goalscorer that year with Lee missing out through injury. Moves to Manchester 62 and St Joseph’s followed before settling for Brunos Magpies.
  • George Cabrera – After playing most of his youth days in Spain, Cabrera would join Lincoln in 2012 from Algeciras. Goals came easy for 24-year old (at the time) and still remains at the club but a serious injury in 2017 has made getting back to full-fitness difficult.
  • Lee Casciaro – A Lincoln legend – what else can you really say about Lee? Unplayable for the majority of his career, still playing regularly for club and country at the age of 38. Will they ever make another one like him?
  • Graham Alvez – A lifelong Lincoln player – Graham played previously in squads which had the likes of current club president Dylan Viagas. Graham had it all as a player and hung up his boots in 2014. He would go on to coach the likes of Jaylan Hankins, Ethan Britto, and Tjay De Barr.

Photo by GibSport

Goalkeeper Jordan Perez had this to say about playing in that Lincoln team – “Playing in that team it felt like home to be honest especially after most of us were playing together for over 10 years of triumphant league wins. Unfortunately, once the money came in it all changed drastically. Many players who had given endless years of commitment to the club were just treated poorly and simply left or were pushed aside. It was a shame because we were like a family and I believe that team would have defeated any other upcoming team with players from abroad for several more years.”

Captain Daniel Duarte spoke about how it felt captaining the team, “I was extremely proud and honoured to wear the captains’ armband, not only on that day, but in every single game I played. It was more than a football team it was truly a family on and off the pitch.”

Head coach Mick McElwee gave an insight into managing that Lincoln squad, “That year (2014) was tricky. We had a load of long term injuries where players missed half or all of the season; including a number of new signings which we needed to get settled and playing as soon as possible. Then we had a shortened season which did not help us as we started the league poorly with 2 draws. Early on we struggled with our form. Individuals playing well but not clicking as a team. So that created some nervous team performances.”

He added, “We adopted a 4-3-3 with Liam (Clarke), Daniel (Duarte) and Joseph (Chipolina) usually playing a tight midfield 3 and JP (Duarte), George (Cabrera) and Kyle (Casciaro) playing as a very wide front 3.Once we got that formation sorted we started to really play some good stuff – managing the team was so simple. Literally filling in the team sheet and letting them play. Stephen Head and I had to work hard to keep the players who were not in the first XI motivated enough to come into the team and make a difference.”

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Casciaro: “Coming back home is always an easy decision to make”

FG caught up with Lincoln Red Imps attacker Kyle Casciaro about his return to Lincoln, his performances so far and more.

Photo © Neil Wilson/Lincoln Red Imps

Casciaro returned to Lincoln in the January transfer window after spending the first half of the season at St Joseph’s – how easy was it for him to return? “Home will always be home. Even if you try new challenges, coming back home (Lincoln) is always an easy decision to make.”

The 32-year-old has played in each of Lincoln’s last five games, scoring three times in the process – how well does Casciaro feel he has done since coming back? “I have been training hard since I came back to Lincoln. Full month of training without playing to get back fit. When I got my chance, I believe I have done very good for the team.”

Lincoln are in the semi-finals of the Gibtelecom Rock Cup, where they will face Casciaro’s old team St Joseph’s – does the attacker feel his side can win the cup? “We do have what it takes to win the cup. Now we are training and playing better as a team. We have had many changes during these months or year which doesn’t help but i feel now we have improved, and winning results show this.”

Finally, we asked Casciaro, who has 24 caps and one goal for Gib in the UEFA era, what his goals were in 2020: “I would like to be playing every game and help Lincoln as much as I can to win trophies. Gibraltar National squad, who knows in the near future if I carry on playing well”