The revival of Valletta FC Published on: 23-07-2020

The revial of Valletta FC

1958-59 saw the remarkable rise to the top of Maltese football of Valletta FC after a lapse of many years. Inspired by the vociferous support of their supporters, the Citizens swept all before them.

Valletta’s consistency gave them the championship with five points to spare over Sliema Wanderers and earned them the additional reward of the Cassar Cup. The City supporters never had it so good. Valletta had a great team in those days, possibly the best in the club’s history. Joe Cilia, Jackie Grech and John Darmanin formed a formidable half-back line.

Then, in attack they had the one and only Josie Urpani and young Mario Azzopardi. However, one must not forget other stalwarts like Dwinu Schembri, Walter Bone, Frankie and Joe Zammit, Charlie Mackay, ‘Wanese’ Borg and Irish international goalkeeper, Tommy Taylor.

Taylor’s move to Valletta was a stroke of genius. He played as an amateur for the Irish First Division club, Waterford FC.

In 1958 he came to Malta with the Irish firm which was in charge of the Harbour Development Scheme. Having obtained his release from Waterford, Taylor signed for City and made his first appearance in the Christmas Tourney as centre-forward.

He played well enough to keep his place for the first league match of the season but eventually he made way for the emerging Mario Azzopardi and reverted to his customary position of goalkeeper.

1958-59 was without doubt Valletta’s season. However, in the first round of the league they had to fight hard for every point they won.

They dropped precious points in drawn games against Floriana, Rabat and Marsa and suffered their first defet of the season against Ħamrun Spartans.

During this early part of the season, Valletta relied heavily on their formidable defence.

Joe Cilia, John Darmanin and Jackie Grech were outstanding during this crucial part of the competition. Tommy Taylor’s switch to the goalkeeper position continued to strengthen the defence and the inclusion of Mario Azzopardi as leader of the attack worked wonders.

From then on, Valletta never looked back. They went on the rampage and completed the second round with maximum points to take the Johnnie Walker Cup to the Capital after a lapse of eleven seasons.

Towards the end of the year, no less than five teams were in the running for the title.

By February however, the picture became clearer with Valletta, Ħamrun, Sliema and Floriana occupying the top four places in the table. The remaining four teams were involved up to their necks in a keen battle for survival.

By March, Floriana had dropped out of the reckoning and later on in spring the other two teams dropped out of the race leaving Valletta to coast home unimpeded.

Unprecedented scenes of rejocing were enacted in Valletta’s final match against Marsa.

With the title already won, Valletta were determined to make the occasion one to remember. I have a very rare film of this match in my collection which highlights in no small way Valletta’s celebrations on that memorbale day.

Valletta’s side of the Stadium was festooned with banners. A new club hymn composed for the occasion greeted the players as they trooped out of their dressing room.

Each player carried a bouquet of flowers which were thrown to the huge crowd which filled all four sides of the Stadium. The climax was reached when the Johnnie Walker Cup was presented to Valletta’s captain, Walter Bone.

The crowd invaded the pitch and carried the players and committee members to the waiting decorated cars for the triumphant march to Valletta where the celebrations went on until the small hours of the next morning.

The Citizens celebrations continued against Ħamrun Spartans in the Cassar Cup final. It was just like the old days as the City and Spartans supporters made merry.

Valletta enjoyed the early exchanges and had a couple of good scoring chances. Then the tide turned and the Spartans displayed a brilliant brand of football, which left the Citizens gasping.

The Citizens were lucky to trail by only one goal at half-time. The woodwork came to their rescue on several occasions but they could not prevent Agius from giving Ħamrun a deserved lead.

Ħamrun kept roaring their heads off but eight minutes from half-time Lady Luck dealt them a deadly blow.

Effie Borg was injured and he had to be carried off the field. There were no substitutes in those days and Ħamrun had to carry on with ten men.

Still the Spartans kept coming but their single goal cushion was not enough for them.

The second half had barely started when Degiorgio scored the equaliser. This goal seemed to rock Ħamrun back on their heels and they began to wilt.

Valletta came more and more into the picture. Soon their efforts began to tell until Mario Azzopardi scored the winner.

Source: times of Malta