With the new season just days away, Football Gibraltar reporter Adam Roberts caught up with Hound Dogs manager Chris Gomez, to gather his thoughts ahead of the upcoming season.
“Pre-season has gone well. We started really early and have been training intensively to build up our fitness levels; getting the group together early has also helped us integrate the new signings into the squad.” Gomez said, when asked how the teams preparations had gone ahead of the upcoming season. “We try not to focus too much on the results in pre-season, it’s more about the performances and being able to experiment; the performances have been promising and the players have gained invaluable match fitness.”
Last season Hound Dogs finished 11th in the league, a position that disappointed Gomez: “We were disappointed to have finished 11th as we felt the squad was good enough to have achieved a mid-table finish; our form at the back end of the season showed our true potential.”
Hound Dogs have a younger squad than some of their competing teams, and while that may give them the edge in some areas, problems do arise when some of the young players inevitably choose to move abroad to further their academic studies. “Six or seven key players from the previous season had left us during the summer to begin their studies in the UK; this was a big loss for us and of course meant that we needed to integrate a lot of new faces into the squad.” notes Gomez, who also attributed the low finish to factors such as “ bad luck in games, key decisions going against us and conceded late goals – these along with the transition of new players resulted in a bad run up until December.”
The transfer window is big for any team in Gibraltar, especially with player turnover traditionally high amongst teams domestically. Hound Dogs chose to do their business earlier in the summer, both by securing players already at the club, and taking on new recruits to bolster the ranks. Gomez highlighted one area of particular need, when saying “A centre back was high on our wish list as we lacked defensive cover last season and it showed, particularly when we had injuries and suspensions.”
No team can keep hold of every player they want to though, and Hound Dogs had a few losses of their own, for a variety of reasons. “Sanchez and Mauro left before the end of last season. Olivero was invited back for pre-season; he chose to pursue other options. Holgado was offered a contract but turned it down as he wanted to focus on futsal as he has been involved with the Gibraltar Under 21 Futsal squad.”
Turning our attention finally to the season ahead, Gomez was hopeful, albeit realistic about his sides chances. “ Promotion is not something we are thinking about, but we feel that our squad is certainly strong enough to compete further up the table than we did last season. We hope to develop and nurture the youngsters we have signed and introduce them to competitive men’s football gradually.”
The topic of youth development, especially with regards local players, is always a hot topic in local football; many feel the advent of UEFA football has had both a positive and negative effect on the development of local players. For Gomez, the temptation of UEFA football would not, in his opinion, change the direction his team goes in. “We hear people complaining that there are no local players available and quite frankly it’s surprising how many teams have flooded their squad with foreigners; we believe in blooding young locals and will continue to do this – we won’t change our philosophy or forget about what we stand for just to pursue silverware.”
Hound Dogs are clearly a club committed to local talent, and Gomez affirms this when stating: “There are plenty of young talented Gibraltarian players out there if you want to give them the opportunity and invest time in them.”
Hound Dogs are on the lookout for energetic and positive coaches who want to develop youngsters for the Senior team – any interested parties are encouraged to contact the club at the following address – email@example.com
Everyone at Football Gibraltar thanks Chris for taking his time to be interviewed, and wishes him and the club the best of luck for the upcoming season. Hound Dogs play Europa Pegasus on the 21st September, and kick off is at 18:15.