Nicholas Vella (footballer)

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Nicholas Vella

Nicholas “Nicky” Vella (born 27 August 1989) is a footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Pietà Hotspurs. At the age of 28 Nicholas made his 100th appearance in the Malta Premier League on Friday 17 August 2018 against Hibernians FC at the Victor Tedesco Stadium (1-2). In the Premier Division he defended the goal of Tarxien Rainbows for three seasons, but he is mostly known as reserve goalkeeper of Valletta, for whom he played a total of seven seasons during two periods, playing 54 games including four European Cup encounters.

Nicky Vella started his career with San Gwann FC nursery and although he never made any first team appearances for the club, he represented Malta at all youth levels while playing for his parent club between the years 2005 and 2008. He joined Valletta FC at the beginning of the 2008/09 season. During this spell with Valletta, it was hard for Vella to get into the starting eleven as Malta national team goalkeeper Andrew Hogg was the club's first choice. None the less Vella made 9 appearances, and in these matches, he conceded just 2 goals, maintaining an impressive 7 clean sheets.

The lack of match appearances with Valletta made Vella decide to join Tarxien Rainbows in June 2011, a good choice as he broke into the first team during his first season, taking over from David Cassar half way through the season. During the 2012/13 season he had to compete with Cassar again, but during season 2013/14, with Tony Curmi as his understudy, he rarely missed a game for the Rainbows. He appeared for the Rainbows in 62 matches, playing over 5,500 minutes and keeping 16 clean sheets.

Vella did so well that Valletta re-signed him in 2014. During the 2014/15 season he appeared in 25 Malta Premier League games conceding only in 11 appearances. This means that together with the Whites resistant defence, he kept 14 clean sheets. However, during season 2015/16 he lost his automatic place between the sticks to Henry Bonello, who had joined Valletta from champions Hibernians FC that summer.

In June 2018 he signed a one year loan contract for promoted side Pietà Hotspurs, a clear choice for making more minutes in the Premier Division and trying to help the Blues to retain their Premiership status in the 2018/19 season.

Besides the 100 appearances in the Malta Premier League, Vella also appeared in six FA Trophy matches. In 2008 he won the Super Cup with Valletta against Birkirkara (2-0) and he was also Valletta's number one goalie during their successful 2009/10 National League Anniversary Cup win, playing all five matches in this competition, including the final against Floriana FC (2-1), conceding only two goals in the process.

International Appearances

Nicky’s official international debut arrived with the U17s against Scotland on 14 January 2006, a match at the Ta' Qali training grounds which the visitors managed to win 1-5. Six days later he also played a part in an official U17 friendly against Wales (0-2).

In 2007, still at U19 level, he played in some friendly matches against teams like Switzerland, Georgia, Norway and the Czech Republic, while in Italy he was Malta's first choice in the UEFA U19 European Championship matches with some creditable performances against Croatia (0-3) and hosts Italy (0-2). While with Valletta, he also appeared twice in the Maltese U21 side, in 2008 against Liechtenstein (1-0 win) and in 2010 against Wales (1-1).

During Vella’s second spell with Valletta he made his debut in the Champions League Qualification against Qarabag from Azerbaijan. He was also the goalkeeper for the Citizens in their Europa League qualifiers against Welsh side Newtown AFC in 2015. Valletta lost 4-2 on aggregate. In Valletta’s home game at the Hibernians Stadium, Vella saved a late penalty when the score was 1-1.