English club Sheffield United made news in the summer by "putting their shirts on Malta" as one newspaper described their one-year sponsorship deal with the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA).
The Blades have made no secret of their desire to strengthen their partnership with the Maltese islands and Justin Haber's position as one of the first-team squad goalkeepers at Sheffield United enhances the Maltese flavour at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United's association with Malta has the potential to grow not only off the field but also on it as Kevin McCabe, the club chairman, has revealed his admiration for Michael Mifsud, the country's most famous footballer who is currently on the books of Coventry City.
McCabe, his son Scott, who is a director at Sheffield United, and Mike Farnan, the club's executive director, were at the National Stadium on Wednesday to watch Malta's World Cup qualifier against Hungary (0-1).
The prospect of seeing Haber guard Malta's goal in their encounter with Hungary, where Sheffield United have also established a significant presence after their takeover of Ferencvaros, the country's most famous club, enticed the Blades officials to spend a few days here. In fact, according to reports reaching The Times, McCabe's visit to Malta captured the attention of the Hungarian media in the build-up to Wednesday's game.
A first-half goal from Sandor Torghelle gave Hungary a 1-0 win in a tight qualifier that featured few scoring chances but McCabe left the stadium with a positive impression.
"I've been wanting to come to Malta for a long time, especially after we signed the agreement with the Malta Tourism Authority," McCabe told The Times after Wednesday's match. "Looking at the dates of Malta's home qualifiers, I must admit that we were drawn to this match, also because of our connection with Ferencvaros.
"I've enjoyed my stay here and I think Malta is a fantastic place. I've been impressed with the atmosphere in the stadium today. This was a real football game, not one of the most attractive matches but it was very professional and played with great intensity.
"The stadium had a UK feel to it and the support from the Maltese fans was non-stop."
McCabe was pleased with Haber's performance. "Justin Haber was very competent, his was a professional performance although he didn't have much to do," the Sheffield United chairman remarked.
"I was also impressed by Michael Mifsud, I thought the Hungarians couldn't handle him today."
A straightforward question as to whether Sheffield United might be interested in signing Mifsud was met with an equally straightforward and honest reply from McCabe.
"I was talking with our manager Kevin Blackwell last week and Mifsud's name cropped up," McCabe said.
"I had heard a lot about Mifsud but this was the first time I watched him at first hand. He's quick, clever and fearless. Speed counts a lot in the English league. He's an interesting player."
Asked if Sheffield United had considered the possibility of loaning Haber out to Ferencvaros, who are second in Hungary's second division, or some other club with a view to giving him more first-team experience, McCabe said: "Justin has settled in nicely at Sheffield United. I will talk to Blackwell about the best way forward for Haber and Ferencvaros could be an interesting option but it's up to the manager to decide. Personally, I hope that Justin gets his chance with Sheffield United. That doesn't mean that I'd like to see Paddy Kenny get injured or something but the season is very long and you never know what might happen.
"Kevin Blackwell rates Haber very highly and the lad is very professional and has got a great character."
Sheffield United are currently fourth in the Championship with 17 points from 10 matches. Their declared objective is to gain promotion to the Premier League and McCabe is upbeat about the team's chances of regaining their top-flight status.
"I think we're well positioned in the table," he said. "We've certainly got the squad to get promoted to the Premier League, although there is a soft spot we're trying to address."
"On Sunday, we've got a big game against Sheffield Wednesday and I hope we win the derby. I'd be surprised if we're not there or thereabouts (in the promotion places) come the end of the season."
Sheffield United have also captured the headlines in the last few weeks after an independent tribunal ruled in their favour over the Carlos Tevez affair. The Blades claim Argentine striker Tevez, who is now a Manchester United player, was ineligible to play for West Ham at the end of the 2006-07 season but was instrumental in keeping the club in the Premier League while Sheffield United were relegated.
"We've won the arbitration ruling," McCabe said. "West Ham have now made an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but we contend they don't have the legal rights to do so.
"At present, we're in the process of calculating the compensation sum. There are no grey areas in this case. Sheffield United lost their Premier League status because one club breached the rules. Our relegation from the Premier League in 2007 was a major sporting injustice."
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