Troubled Premier League club Birkirkara will be looking to get back on track with the appointment of former Malta international defender John Buttigieg as coach.

The ailing champions are practically out of contention to retain the title they won so convincingly last year. A poor start to the Championship Pool campaign saw them slipping to sixth place, a staggering 14 points behind leaders Marsaxlokk.

Last week, Stephen Azzopardi relinquished his post after five years as coach of Birkirkara. He was replaced by flamboyant Dutchman Jan Artz who led the side to a 6-1 drubbing by Marsaxlokk on Saturday. That was Artz's first and last showing on the Stripes bench as yesterday the club said his services will not be retained.

Birkirkara FC chairman Victor Zammit told The Times Buttigieg was engaged on a long-term basis with the contract he signed yesterday coming to a close at the end of the 2008-2009 season.

"Buttigieg was the only candidate for the job," Zammit said. "He was our prime target ever since we started our search for Stephen Azzopardi's replacement.

"This will be the first time for Buttigieg to coach a Premier League club but we're confident he's the right man for the job. He was a true leader on the pitch during his days as a player.

"Buttigieg wants to start working immediately and informed us he will handle the job all by himself. Jan Artz will no longer form part of our technical staff."

Buttigieg, 43, played for the best clubs in Malta after starting with Sliema Wanderers. He moved to Brentford in the English league in 1988 and had a stint with Swindon Town before returning to Malta where he joined Floriana. He finished his career with Valletta in 2002.

Buttigieg was MFA Player of the Year in 1988 and donned the national team jersey 97 times.

Birkirkara's next match is on Saturday against Sliema. The Stripes' main target at this stage is European football next season. That objective could be reached via the FA Trophy.

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