Floriana may be struggling in the BOV Premier League but, on the final day of the January transfer window, they secured arguably their most important signing after installing Iain Brunskill as their new coach.
Brunskill, 36, is new to Maltese football but he has already compiled an interesting CV after a long spell as youth coach with the Liverpool FC Academy and, more recently, as first-team coach with former English champions Blackburn Rovers.
Given that, until a few weeks ago, Brunskill was working for Blackburn, his decision to continue his career in Malta is likely to be perceived as a backward step but he is excited by the challenge of taking charge of a senior team for the first time in his career.
“I was first-team coach at Blackburn and also coached the reserves,” Brunskill told reporters at his unveiling yesterday.
“We had a lot of success with the young players, the likes of Junior Hoilett and Phil Jones, who went to Manchester United.
“I also spent several years with the Liverpool Academy where I coached at all levels.
“This (Floriana job) is a big challenge. I’ve worked with youth players but this is an opportunity for me to coach a senior squad.
“I also wanted to experience coaching outside England and this is a fresh challenge that encapsulates everything that I wanted to do.”
Brunskill, who visited Malta in 2004 when Liverpool Academy coaches ran a training clinic for youths, has been trying to improve his knowledge of Maltese football since receiving Floriana’s approach.
“I know that the background is British and that the Maltese are enthusiastic about football,” Brunskill said.
“I played in the same team as Tony Warner (Floriana goalkeeper) and he’s enjoying himself here.”
Steve Vaughan Jr, the Floriana FC president who played a key role in persuading Brunskill to succeed Stephen Azzopardi as coach, declared that the club’s target for the rest of the season was to finish top of the Relegation Pool.
Sitting ninth in the table with 24 points, the Greens are out of contention for a Championship Pool berth.
Although he has agreed a short-term deal with the club, Brunskill hopes to lay solid foundations that will lead Floriana to a brighter future.
“I’m here for football reasons,” Brunskill said.
“I’m going to work with the senior players as well as the youths. I want to re-establish the link between the senior team and the youth level.
“As professionals, we want to win as many games as we possibly can.
“We’ll try to finish high in the league but we will also try to put some roots down.”
Brunskill also revealed that Karl Robinson, the former Liverpool Academy coach who is making a name for himself as manager of MK Dons, encouraged him to take up the Floriana job.
“I’ve known Karl for many years,” Brunskill said. “He’s doing a wonderful job and I’m delighted for him. He was the first person I called when this opportunity came about and he was instrumental in the advice he’s given me.”
Vaughan Jr said he was “over the moon” about Brunskill’s appoin-tment as Floriana coach.
“Hopefully this represents the start of a new era for the club,” Vaughan Jr said. “From now until the end of the season, we want to finish top of the Relegation Pool and I want Brunnie (Brunskill) to make this a professional club.”
The Floriana president admitted that the administration have found the going tough this season, mostly due to the club’s financial difficulties.
“It’s been a struggle since the start of the season,” Vaughan Jr said.
“We can take some of the blame but a lot of it came from previous administrations.
“We’re firefighting every day to stop the rot.”
Amid the uncertainty plaguing Floriana, many have doubted the commitment of the club’s English backers but Vaughan Jr believes that the appointment of Brunskill shows their willingness to move forward.
“This underlines what we’re trying to do,” the Floriana president said. “This season has been like a circus but that’s the end of it.
“We move forward.”