Lopes tipped for top as Bohs drive into future with confidence
VOLKSWAGEN have added a fifth League of Ireland club to their sponsorship portfolio ahead of the new season after announcing a partnership with Bohemians, and their Irish chief executive Simon Elliott has not ruled out expanding that number in 2014.
The Englishman received a phone call from FAI chief John Delaney on Wednesday night to thank him for the VW Group's investment in the domestic game.
"He just wished us well and hopes our sponsorship of the Airtricity League is a successful one," said Elliott, who has laughed off suggestions that he has eyes on the corridors of power in Abbotstown himself – a tale that arose from a quip about a dream job in a recent business interview.
Elliott, a former director of Scunthorpe United, is a firm believer in supporting Irish football, and his arrival onto the scene has proved a welcome boost for clubs.
He is close to Sligo Rovers boss Ian Baraclough, and the VW Group are providing support to the league champions in addition to Shamrock Rovers, Bray Wanderers, Shelbourne and now Bohemians.
They are pursuing a strategy of working with local dealers in the respective areas, with the Bohemians shirt set to carry the name of Castleknock-based Karmann Volkswagen.
"We've got five clubs now," said Elliott. "We're talking to a couple of other people but we've secured only five for the moment this season. We'll see how we go.
"What we want is to find dealers who are really enthused and want to add value locally to make the sponsorship beneficial. This is the start of our involvement in football."
Bohemians manager Aaron Callaghan was also in positive form yesterday as he looked ahead to the 2013-14 season.
He thinks that the Gypsies are capable of winning a cup competition this year after a stable pre-season in contrast with a frantic period 12 months ago when he had to throw together a squad at short notice.
Callaghan feels that the young players he has retained will have benefited from last year's experience and has tipped central defender Roberto Lopes (left) to follow in the footsteps of his former Belvedere team-mate Kevin Feely, who earned a move to Charlton over the winter.
"Roberto is a fantastic athlete and also a good player," said Callaghan. "We have some fantastic young kids at the club, no doubt about that. Last year would have been a baptism of fire for some of them, but I think we have gotten a lot fitter.
"We're definitely looking to win something this year. I think it's going to be the same two or three – Sligo Rovers, Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic – at the top but I believe a lot of the other teams are going to be similar this year. There is no reason why we should fear anyone."
Bohemians will kick off their new league campaign next Friday against UCD at Dalymount Park (kick-off 7.45).