Name: Ziya Yildiz.
Date Of Birth: 21-09-1960.
Former Club: Rabat Ajax.
Floriana's build-up to the new season had been anything but plain-sailing. News of defections of several prominent members of the first team, the likes of Congo playmaker Rufin Oba, George Mallia, Justin Haber and Brazilian striker Edoardo Do Nascimento, highlighted the plight of a club which, despite its great tradition, was unable to hold on to its best players who were lured away by the promise of honours and better pay.
Financial restrictions impeded the Greens from making significant forays into the transfer market to replace the departed players, prompting the club to declare that they would rely on their up-and-coming players this season.
Amidst all this scepticism, the only thing that perhaps helped to keep their spirits high was the confirmation of coach Ziya Yildiz. Assuming control of the first team two months into the previous season, the former Rabat mentor was faced with the onus of helping the team avoid relegation after a lacklustre start. That mission was accomplished as the Greens managed to secure a top-six berth in a showdown with Marsa which was decided on penalties.
Yildiz's contract was extended for another season but this time the 42-year-old Bosnian, who hung up his boots only two seasons ago when he was with Rabat, was definitely facing a sterner challenge what with the departures of so many players.
Three defeats in the first three outings did not help to lift the cynicism surrounding the club's chances of making an impact. Then came the game against Birkirkara and, with the odds weighing heavily against them, Floriana pulled off a surprise 2-1 win with the kind of fluid, confident football that Yildiz craves for.
"During the week, the players and I reviewed the team's performances in the first three games. On the Saturday before the Birkirkara match, we watched a video tape of our game against Sliema. That gave us the opportunity to thoroughly evaluate our strengths and weaknesses during that particular match and it was very much evident that our use of possession was very poor.
"If you don't use your possession efficiently, you are always bound to struggle especially against strong teams. We were playing catch-up and that left the players exhausted.
"I also stressed the importance of self-confidence... why should the players be afraid to play football? We worked hard on these aspects in our training and it paid off against Birkirkara," Yildiz said.
A 2-1 victory over title favourites Birkirkara was the perfect tonic to revive Floriana's flagging spirits but their coach urged caution. "We have a very young squad. True, we have many promising players but that does not necessarily mean that they are ready to hold their own in the Premier League. Young players need time to develop. Young players win games but experience wins titles, top football experts will tell you. We have to be patient," Yildiz added.
"We must keep our feet on the ground. One good performance does not mean that we have turned the corner. We have to perform well week in week out."
The contribution of striker Jean Pierre Mifsud Triganza, who was named player of the match in his first start for the club this season, was also one of the most positive signs emanating from Sunday's performance. Inevitably, people asked why Yildiz had not called on the youngster's services before, given the dearth of strikers in his squad.
" Mifsud Triganza missed pre-season training," the Floriana coach said. "He turned up for his first training session before our first game against Hamrun. So at the beginning, it was just a question of working on his fitness and he's getting there. At the moment, he can play 70 minutes but he will soon be able to last 90 minutes," Yildiz added.
Over the last few years, Yildiz has been pursuing UEFA coaching courses to enhance his know-how. He has just completed the UEFA A Licence coaching course and is now preparing to go for the Professional Licence, the ultimate coaching qualification in European football.
"I am an ambitious person and I take my football very seriously. This attitude towards the game stems from my several years as a professional footballer. I have plans to coach abroad in future, probably in Turkey where I spent so many years playing football for clubs like Galatasaray, Izmir etc.
"I have done a lot of travelling to do coaching courses lately but in life, you have to make sacrifices to achieve something. I think I know a few things about the game having been involved in it for the last 30 years but life is a learning process. Football today is not only about skills, control and tactics, it also covers other areas such as medicine, psychology, physiology and so on," Yildiz said.
Although Yildiz has set higher targets for the future, he was only too willing to stress his commitment to Floriana. "At present, I am happy at Floriana and I am fully focused on helping the team improve. I must also say that the members of the committee have been very co-operative," Yildiz added.
It seems a bit odd that a person with such a wealth of football experience and knowledge has yet to win a Premier League title. "My son always tells me of his wish that I win a Premier League title and it's my ambition to win something here before I contemplate moving abroad.
"But in my coaching career in Malta, I have been in charge of teams where I had to lay the foundations for the future. In my seven years with Rabat, our objective always was to maintain our Premier League status. At Floriana, we are also in the process of rebuilding the squad," Yildiz said.
Speaking to Yildiz I could not help but admire his love for football and his determination to do well whatever the resources at his disposal. Although the man is mad about his football, he also admits his frustration at what he terms as unfounded criticism.
"A coach is always under pressure to deliver and I don't mind that, but in this country, everyone is a coach. I mean as long as the results are good, there are no problems but then you lose one game and everyone wants to tell how you should play. Football fans understand football, I have no doubt about that, but ultimately it's the coach who is closest to the players and he knows what's best for the team.
"People would speculate that that player did not play because he performed badly or because he has fallen out of favour with the coach, but they would not know that the same player had been sick for five days.
"I never turn against my players and I will never omit someone from the squad because I don't like him. Fair play is my maxim not only in football but in life in general," Yildiz concluded.
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