Edward Aquilina has relinquished his post as Sliema Wanderers coach.

The Sliema Wanderers committee convened yesterday evening to discuss the team's stuttering start to the 2006-2007 Premier League but in the morning, Aquilina all but called time on his reign as Sliema coach by expressing his desire to retire from the game with immediate effect.

In a letter sent to the members of the club committee, Aquilina, one of the most successful coaches in the history of Maltese football, pinpointed the team's results of late as the prime motivator for his decision to bring forward his retirement date by seven months.

Hugh Caruana, Aquilina's assistant, also asked Sliema to be relieved of his duties with immediate effect.

"Following the team's recent results and current league standing, I would be most obliged if you would consider anticipating my retirement with immediate effect and not as planned at the end of the season," Aquilina, who also enjoyed a trophy-laden spell as Valletta coach in the nineties, wrote in his letter.

John Bugeja, the Sliema Wanderers secretary, confirmed to The Times that the club committee accepted the request made by Aquilina and Caruana to stand down from their posts.

Aquilina was in his fifth season in charge of Sliema after taking over the team in 2002. In his first three years, he steered the Wanderers to three successive Premier League titles and several other local honours.

Last season, Sliema looked well on course to win their fourth championship under Aquilina after gaining maximum points from their opening eight games but their performances slumped thereafter and they could only finish second to Birkirkara.

This season, Sliema have made their worst start to a league campaign under Aquilina. They are languishing in sixth place with 11 points from eight games. Back-to-back defeats to Valletta (0-1) and Marsaxlokk (1-3) turned on the heat on Aquilina and his players to get their act together.

Sliema resume their league campaign on November 25 when they meet high-fliers Msida St Joseph in their last match of the first round.

Ray 'Zazu' Farrugia, the former Malta U-21 coach who was head of Marsaxlokk's technical staff for eight months last season, is widely considered as Sliema's preferred candidate to succeed Aquilina.

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