Friday, 24th January 2014

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FOOTBALL: Bula calls for new dynamics in football

 National Team Manager Allen Bula has shared genuine ‘concern over the instability’ of his national squad leading up to an all-important international fixture at the Victoria Stadium in March.

In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle, Mr Bula announced he will pick his squad for the matches against Faroe Islands and Estonia on 12 February but remains frustrated in which the direction the national team are heading due to the lack of preparation time and resources to view players in foreign leagues eligible for selection.

“I made a promise to Gibraltar to lead them into Europe,” he said.

“I haven’t taken the national job for money; if that was the case I would have stayed at MFK Košice where I was earning more.”

“Football in Gibraltar matters to me and we need to develop our players differently to the bigger nations, that is why we are keen to work towards a five year plan.”

“We can’t look at today we have to look at tomorrow and build a philosophy within the national squads across all areas,” Bula said.

“I need the freedom to supervise all the national teams and if we want to develop football in Gibraltar we all need to work together and not head off in different directions”

While the GFA National team try to steer the ship ahead of the EURO 2016 qualifiers this could bring cause for concern over the vulnerability of the national team in the foreseeable future.

Not only has Mr Bula found himself restricted to train with his senior squad three days prior to an international match, but also he feels his opportunities are minimised to scout for future players eligible for selection who play away from the Rock.

As for the training schedule, this may be the case for many top-flight nations within UEFA’s football family, but Malta which is of similar stature to that of the Gibraltar Football Association trains twice a week to consistently prepare themselves for tougher opposition.

Prior to the 2013/2014 Premier division in its maiden campaign with European football at stake, clubs within the division came to a majority agreement that all players selected by the nation team will only be released by the clubs three days before any international fixture.

“As team manager I am only allowed to have my players three days before the international fixture leaving me with limited time to work with the players on tactics and to try and get them mentally prepared,” he said.

“This makes my job much more difficult.”

However, Bula remains calm and confident as he heads towards the international fixtures on home soil.

“As manager of Gibraltar I will always be responsible for the result and I believe our players can keep up this level of performance.”

With a pool of seven eligible players to select playing outside Gibraltar, six in England and now Liam Walker in Israel, opportunities to travel and scout potential additions to the squad would prove beneficial. However he feels these opportunities have been stripped to a bare minimal.

The Chronicle understands that the GFA is now sitting on a kitty of 4 million Euros brought to the association through TV rights given by UEFA.

“When the seniors play, millions watch, this is the flagship of football in Gibraltar,” said Mr Bula.

In other footballing associations such as The FA the revenue goes to the structure and guidance of senior football across the spectrum from senior to Under-19’s.

When asked whether he has had the opportunity to watch potential players abroad Mr Bula replied.

“No, this is part of my job but unfortunately I’ve not been able to see any players. This leaves my tool bag half empty and we need all the tools to achieve stability in Gibraltar’s national team,” he emphasised.

“If players started to leave Gibraltar could I not watch them play? I am concerned of the instability leading up to these matches and the future.”

“At present there are too many problems in football domestically and this is having an effect on the national team”

Only five weeks before Gibraltar play their first international friendly on home soil, since admission into UEFA in May last year, and more importantly a month before the Euro 2016 qualifying draw is held in Nice 23 February, the senior squad remains hopeful for the overall preparation.

With the qualifying groups for Euro 2016 fast approaching Gibraltar will soon find themselves in the thick of international football and ones hopes all these teething issues will be ironed out.

Pre Faroe Islands and Estonia with Danny

With the friendly match against the Faroe Island outside the international window and the domestic season still being competed for, Mr Bula will have to speak to the necessary clubs in order to get the release for Scott Wiseman (Preston North End), Liam Walker (Bnei Yehuda) and Adam Priestley (Farsley AFC).

However, circumstances for the friendly against Estonia on 5 March are different giving Bula a much sweeter pill – and a full squad from which to pick from for the first of the double fixture against Estonia.

Despite Danny Higginbotham announcing his retirement from professional football on 8 January, Mr Bula told the Chronicle, “Danny has retired from professional football but he is still eligible to represent Gibraltar in these two friendlies coming up.”

“After the matches I will sit down with Danny and discuss his future with the national team,” he added.

Other players on the radar for the national team are William Britt from Southampton, Jack Gosling of Exeter City, Reece Styche of conference team Forest Green Rovers and David Artell from Wrexham FC a defender with over 400 matches at professional level.



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