Joe Attard, one of the best football coaches in the history of Maltese football, passed away yesterday, aged 77.
Attard was born in Floriana on March 2, 1934, but he was brought up in Vittoriosa. He started his education at the local primary school and later on at De La Salle College. It was at the College, that he was first introduced to the game. However, he first made his mark in athletics as a sprinter with both the College and Atalanta SC.
Between 1960 and 1962 he played football for Atalanta SC in the Amateur League. It seemed at the time that he had a good future in football but, in 1963, he won a two-year scholarship for the Bolton Teachers Training College and he had to abandon his football activities in Malta.
At Bolton, he played for the college team and turned out on Saturdays for Bolton Wyresdale FC in the Lancashire Amateur Football League.
In 1965 he graduated and came back to Malta to continue his career as a physics teacher.
Attard was always interested in coaching. In 1958 he attended his first coaching course under ex-Charlton footballer Gordon Jago.
In 1964 he attended another course organised by the English FA. His tutors were Harold Hassal, an ex-England international, and Alan Ball senior. After completing the course successfully, he obtained the England FA certificate and took up coaching on a part-time basis.
His first assignment was with Żejtun Corinthians in the Third Division. Then he took over at Marsa in the Second Division before he was appointed Malta’s national coach in 1968-69.
During his stint as Malta coach he led the team in an international friendly against Austria on April 27, 1969. The Maltese lost the match 3-1.
In 1970-71, he was encouraged by Fr Hilary Tagliaferro to take control of Hibernians FC. It was his first assignment with the Paolites and during that season, Hibs won the FA Trophy and the Sons of Malta Cup.
Between 1971 and 1973 he coached Żurrieq, leading them to the Third Division title.
The following year, Fr Hilary persuaded Attard to help him coach his youngsters at the Educational Sports Centre.
In season 1978-79 he was back in league football with Msida St Joseph. The following term he took over at Hibernians from George Busuttil and led the team to an FA Trophy victory in 1979-80 and the league championship in 1980-81.
This was the best period in Attard’s coaching career. In 1984-85 he took Birkirkara to the Premier Division before settling down to lecturing and coaching at nursery level.
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