After a top-six finish in 2014, and narrowly missing out on the play-offs last year, Giravanz Kitakyushu start 2016 with sights set high. They have one of the most respected coaches in the league, have retained the core of their squad from last year and will see a hero of theirs return to the award winning Honjo playing surface. A brand new, football specific stadium is coming in 2017, but will they be playing J1 football in it? We asked @giravanzwombat for his views on the upcoming season.

So, another good season last year despite not reaching the play-offs. Are you excited for the new season?

Absolutely! There’s plenty to be excited about. I think if you love the game you can enjoy watching at any level. And there’s plenty of excitement and drama in J2! We’ve signed some interesting players too, so I can’t wait to see them in action in the season proper.

 Your team looks like it could be very potent this year with Kazuki Hara, Rui Komatsu and the return of Tomoki Ikemoto.

Yes. At the time of writing it seems Hara has an injury that will keep him out of the team for a little while. Pre-season, Hashiratani has gone with Komatsu and Ikemoto up front. Komatsu looks good again for this season. Ikemoto is class and much loved at the club. It will be interesting to see how he and Komatsu go together. The Hara – Komatsu combination was so impressive last season.

Sho Hanai (one of our signings from V-Varen Nagasaki) has looked good in preseason in midfield. One to watch in 2016, I think.

 Koichi Hashiratani has done a brilliant job at Honjo. What kind of football do his Giravanz teams play?

He’s done alright, hasn’t he! I’m not the best person to ask about the technical side of things, but on paper Hashiratani plays a 4-4-2 formation. Giravanz are not an aggressive team. They keep the ball well and wait for the right opportunity to attack. A member of Giravanz staff once told me the less shots on goal we have, the more likely we’ll win! Having said that, the goals certainly came last season!

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 You live & work in the area. Do you sense excitement in the city for the upcoming season?

Compared to previous seasons there is more excitement. The turnout for preseason events has been very good. Giravanz has been getting more press coverage in the local media this year too, largely thanks to the signing of Kashima Antlers legend and Kitakyushu local, Masashi Motoyama.

Home game attendance last season was disappointing. I’d like to see a lot more people attending games this year. Many people around Kitakyushu still think of Giravanz as a weak team. I want them to see that we are a team on the way up, improving and getting stronger each season.

 What do you think are realistic ambitions for Kitakyushu this year?

I think top six is well within grasp.

I don’t think @giravanzwombat is alone in thinking that Kitakyushu could get into the top six. They will be one of the more interesting stories of the year. Give him a follow on Twitter and enjoy the insight & reports throughout the season. 

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