The new season is just days away, after the international break which saw Gibraltar debut in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the focus now turns to domestic action with the 2016/17 season getting underway. Sunday evening sees the traditional season curtain raiser in the Pepe Reyes Cup as Lincoln Red Imps and Europa FC resume their rivalry. The game has the added spice of Liam Walker, Gibraltar’s first goal scorer in World Cup qualifying history, making his debut for the green and black army after his summer move from the reigning champions. Lincoln will want to continue their winning run in the Pepe Reyes Cup which sees their winning sequence go back all the way to the 2013/14 season. They previously suffered defeat in this cup back on the 8th December 2012 as the Imps lost 2-0 at the hands of St Joseph’s.
The league campaign then kicks off on the 21st of September with new boys Europa Point taking on Glacis United. Last season’s 2nd Division champions are lead into their first ever top flight campaign by George Jermy, the former Xerez player sees the cosmopolitan side lock horns against the clarets who have seen key players from last season’s campaign Juan Pablo Pereira and Sacha Funes move to the other Premier Division new boys Mons Calpe. Europa Point will present a fresh new side with many of those who guided the club to promotion having moved on.
The following night sees everyone’s favourite local side Gibraltar United take on Manchester 62, who have recently changed their manager with a week to go before the start of the new season. The red devils had appointed Juan Carlos Camacho as head coach during the summer, as they looked towards a new approach after a last year’s campaign which promised so much at the start but delivered so little at the end. Former Betis and Espanyol player Gabino Rodriguez was appointed a couple of days ago, amidst rumours of a new investor at the club wanting to bring in his own manager and technical team. Many of the club’s locals have departed with an influx of Spanish players brought in by former manager Cmacho. Manchester 62 have however signed Andrew Lopez and Mark Casciaro as both will be looking to feature against their former club in game one. Gibraltar United have made some shrewd signings over the summer, attracting more local players to their side including internationals Jamie Bosio, Anthony Hernandez and Erin Barnett. However the signing of Lions Gibraltar’s Aymen Mouelhi has lifted eyebrows. The club’s only local policy has been questioned by certain sections of the Gibraltar footballing community, but with the Tunisian having been in Gibraltar for a number of years and having a local wife, seemed enough to justify the powers that be at Gibraltar United to add him to their ranks. It is no question the big centre back will add solidity to their back line. Last season’s manager of the year Manolo Sanchez Nunez will no doubt be looking for a solid start with Lincoln to come in their next fixture.
Mons Calpe, then take on St Joseph’s in the first Friday night action of the new season. The Calpeans who have overhauled their side who won promotion from the 2nd Division last season have made whole sale changes to their team with new investment coming in. New manager William Amaral de Andrade has a wealth of talent at his disposal, with new signings such as former Barnsley midfielder Hugo Colace and former Sheffield Wednesday attacker Michele Di Piedi are noticeable acquisitions. With the club linking with US outfit Storm FC and Barcelona’s prestigious Fundacion Marcet, the club has literally transformed themselves into an ambitious side chasing European qualification. In addition to the plethora of foreign players joining the club, locals such as Tyson Ruiz and Ethan Jolley have been added. With the new local player rule added for the coming campaign, atleast some of these players will be guaranteed minutes on the pitch. The Saints however have continued their policy of looking for talented Spanish players for their team. The return of Francisco Marquez from Mons Calpe will be a welcome addition to the team.Locally based Spanish players Manuel Cantizano, Jose Luis Romero and Carlos Sanchez join the club, the former duo joining from Lions Gibraltar and the latter from Lynx. Local striker John Paul Duarte rejoins the club from Manchester 62. The forward having seen his season with the Red Devils hit with injuries will look to hit the ground running back with the south district club as he looks to return to the international scene. Highly rated defender Luke Buxton has also joined from Real Balonpedica Linense.
The first round of the league season will be completed on Saturday with Europa taking on Lions Gibraltar and Lincoln taking on Lynx. The tangerines were another club who saw their preparations for the new season unsettled by the departure of their new manager Dave Wilson. The former Gibraltar national team interim head coach and assistant overhauled the squad which featured many foreign players for a more local approach, with players like Gibraltar Internationals Justin Rovengo and Jeremy Lopez joining from Manchester 62. The demise of both FC Britannia and Red Imps saw Lions plunder their top talents with goalkeeper Loiue Barnfather, defender Shea Breakspear and midfielder Sam Gilroy joining from the Britons, with Jayce Consigliero and Graeme Torrilla joining from Red Imps. Lions have also added former International and Glacis legend Al Greene to their side. However, with the departure of Wilson and the collapse of last season’s title sponsor Enterprise Insurance, Lions Gibraltar’s future looks unsteady with reports emerging that many players are unhappy with the club’s current situation. Only time will tell whether these rumours are founded. Europa will be looking to push on from last season’s title challenge with fizzled out towards the back end of their season. Their progression in the Europa League qualifiers earlier in the summer has given a new hope to the side who will be looking to go one better this season with Walker amognst their ranks.
Lynx take on champions Lincoln in the final round 1 game. Memories will be cast back to the start of the 2014/15 season where Lynx defeated Lincoln in the opening game of the campaign. A repeat performance will be targeted by Albert Parody’s side who last season failed to live up to expectations. With Lincoln having lost Walker to their main rivals, will Julio Cesar Ribas be able to land the club’s 16th league title in 17 seasons? A highly anticipated start to the season awaits.
Other dates to look out for at the start of the season are Glacis v Manchester 62 (29th September); Europa v Lincoln (22nd October) and Europa Point v Mons Calpe (6th November)