Thursday, 14 September 2017

WANDERING IN THE WAIKATO

 TE AWAMUTU 0 CAMBRIDGE 7
Waikato-Bay of Plenty (WaiBOP) Premiership
Saturday 9th September, 2017
Anchor Park, Te Awamutu 
Attendance : about 120

Cambridge WaiBOP Premiership Champions 2017 The JourneyFan
Te Awamutu, it's not in Wellington and neither was I. I was on my way to the 2017 Chatham Cup Final in Auckland and as that was on the Sunday I cast my net out (well asked on Twitter) what games were on around the Northern part of the North Island on Saturday. The most enticing one that came back was this fixture, originally I thought it would be easy to make some puns with song title's by Te Awamutu's famous sons, Neil & Tim Finn, but after looking into doing that I decided that to do so could be my mistake and I'd be saying I wish I never. So even though it felt like I took the weather with me, I saw red at that idea and decided not to do it (well not too much).

The other enticing thing about this game was not just seeing two clubs I'd never seen before, but if Cambridge won this game they would win the league title and I always like the chance to photograph some title winning celebrations.
 
There has been a football club in Te Awamutu since 1913, a pretty local club, the only time they have ever been outside of their region was in the 80's and 90's when they made it into the Northern League, getting as high as division three, after winning division four in 1995. Before today's game they were sitting eighth in the league after a mixed season which had seen them win nine and lose nine, more worryingly was the fact that they hadn't scored since they thrashed Rotorua United 5-0 at the end of July.


Cambridge were formed as a junior club in 1948 and added a senior section in 1950, they joined the Northern League in the early 70's and spent most of their time in the lower divisions, they did get up to the Premier division in 1996 after winning division one in 1995. They were last in the Northern League in 2011 and have been in the WaiBOP Premiership since then. Cambridge had a slow start to the season losing three of their first six games but since their last loss (2-5 to Tauranga Old Blues) back in May they had gone on a 14 game unbeaten streak and needed just one point to secure the title. It looked a formality as the  score when these two last met was 4-0 to Cambridge, but then this was a local derby (it's only 25km between the two towns).

Due to the wet weather the game was moved from The Stadium to Anchor Park, which was a paddock nestled in between a Fonterra dairy factory and people's back gardens and one that the local council seemed to have forgotten to mow the grass for some time, saying that it was surprisingly well drained considering the rain that had been falling on it.

Te Awamutu started the stronger of the teams and were playing the ball around in Cambridge's half and starting to control the game, so when Cambridge's Callum McLeod scored in the 25th minute, it was fair to say it was against the run of play. Although it was also fair to say that goal was the turning point of the game. Five minutes later Tom Wouterson pounced on a block made by the Te Awamutu keeper and then the Cambridge captain Patrick Woodlock scored a fantastic header to make the score 3-0.
 
Patrick Woodlock makes it 3-0 with a fantastic header The JourneyFan
The second half was all Cambridge, it started to become apparent why Te Awamutu had struggled to score since July, they just didn't create anything when they had the ball, and looked like a team that just wanted the season to be over. Cambridge kept pressing and along with some questionable goalkeeping extended their lead with Joshua Clarkin,  Donovan Latham (with two) and another for Tom Wouterson taking the score to 7-0, the fifth time this season that Cambridge have managed to score at least seven in a game.

So congratulations to Cambridge, WaiBOP Premiership Champions for 2017 and good luck in your Northern League playoff game against Beachlands Maretai

Cambridge players celebrate winning the Premiership The JourneyFan

FOR PHOTOS FROM THE GAME CLICK HERE












Tuesday, 12 September 2017

HAPPY FADDY DAY


If you're not Scottish you are probably wondering what on earth is Faddy Day.

Well 10 years ago today, James McFadden did this in the Parc de Princes 


The game was a Euro 2008 qualifier. Scotland had ended up in a group with Italy, France, Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania and the Faroe Islands. Now having both the 2006 world cup finalists (Italy and France) as well as a quarter finalist (Ukraine) would be daunting enough, but this is Scotland we're talking about and in the past we had lost to Lithuania and also infamously struggled to a 2-2 draw against the Faroe Islands, a country whose entire population could fit into Hampden park and there would still be empty seats! At the time we had never faced Georgia, but they were the sort of country that Scotland would trip up against.


But this campaign was different, despite changing managers we had beaten France at home and going into the game in Paris, were at the top end of the table with six wins and two losses, and had just come off a fantastic 3-1 win over Lithuania on the Saturday before this game. But even then there went many expecting us to be able to beat the world number one ranked team, especially at in their backyard

I was living in London at the time and was a member of Loony Alba - The London Tartan Army, who had organised a trip to Paris on the Eurostar. At Waterloo International Station, we quickly discovered that the duty free had no beer, but no worries we followed Savethewhale Chris's example and attempted to blend in with the French and bought bottles of Champagne and wine instead.

SaveTheWhale Chris blending in with the French

On the day of the game the plan was to head to the Eiffel Tower, drink, march to the ground with the other 20-30 000 Scots that were in town, watch the game, drink some more and drown our sorrows. As I said that was the plan, so telling Fast Ted, SaveTheWhaleChris, and JoeCraigFanClub who were off to find the West of Scotland Tartan Army (WESTA) that I'd catch up with them soon. I headed off with Wee Malky, Singing Phil and Old Artur being led by our pal (who shall remain nameless) who likes to do cultural things on trips, in between drinking that is - which led to some famous moments such as been shown an old book by a monk in Moldova and promptly signing it as he thought it was a visitor's book, only to discover it was a book that St Francis of Asisi had written in!

The march to the ground I never went on
For this trip he had decided to visit a grave, now in Paris if someone says we're off to visit a grave, there is a reasonable chance they mean the grave of Doors singer, Jim Morrision, but no we went to some non-descript crypt that was really about as exciting as walking around a museum of filing cabinets! (we did make him buy us several beer's for that so it wasn't all bad)

Not "home" end at the Parc de Princes

We got to the ground and it was pretty amazing, Scotland had been given 4000 tickets in a the 40000 capacity Parc de Princes, but the French had sold tickets for their end online so more than half the stadium was full of Scots, the players later said it felt like it was a home game!

The game itself I don't remember much until the moment above when James McFadden looked up saw the keeper of his line and thought why not? The keeper got his hands to it but just helped it on it's way, there was a spit second, in which it seemed everyone was thinking "did that just happen" and then realising that it did and going pure mental. After that I kept looking at the scoreboard, it had a clock on it but was going down in minutes, I thought I was waiting before I looked at it but would turn to find it hadn't changed. It seemed as though the last 20 minutes went on for ever, but eventually  the ref had blown the final whistle and we had beaten the french in France! 

Meg Mags, Paddy & Cogg's after the game

It was a bit of a blur after the game, people were cheering, calling others back in Scotland, everyone was hugging each other, I remember almost having the life crushed out of me by a massive bear hug from Captain Vodka, and as we left the stadium the French fans formed a guard of honour for us!

It was and still is an amazing feeling. I remember a few years later sitting in Oslo drinking 15 quid pints after a particularly miserable 4-0 loss, when someone asked "why do we do this?" To which someone replied "because every now and then someone like James McFadden thinks why not" and just for a moment everyone smiled as they relived that moment in Paris

This song by my friend Eric the Cheesman sums it up - as he says, we'll always have Paree







 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

WHAT TO DO WITH THE KELLY CUP?

2017 Kelly Cup Final
Upper Hutt City 3 Wellington United 1
Petone Memorial
Saturday 2nd September
Attendance : 60 or so

Upper Hutt City Kelly Cup Champions 2017 TheJourneyFan

The 45th Kelly Cup final saw Upper Hutt City coach Wendi Henderson collect her 12th winners medal, she had previously won 10 as a player and one as a coach, and despite playing in an earlier round (an 8-0 win over Univeristy), it was as a coach she collected her medal this year after her Upper Hutt City team concluded a successful season, with a 3-1 win over rivals Wellington United, to add the Kelly Cup to the W-League title.

For a good write up on the game check out 
and 

The Kelly Cup is one of my favourite cup competitions. I'm not really sure why. I think it's probably because I have memories of watching my mum play in it when she played for Mana and they almost caused a huge upset when they took the famous Miramar Rangers (nee New Zealand) team to a penalty shootout sometime in the early 80's.

Back then the Kelly Cup had real prestige in Wellington's Women's football, everyone entered it and while Miramar would inevitably win it (in the 20 years between 1974-93 they lost something like 12 league and cup games in total!) it was a competition that had a proper cup magic about it. 

The cup was donated to the Wellington Women's FA by Jim Nutter, who was involved with the Newlands United club, and named after the first president of the Wellington Women's FA, Pat Kelly, back in 1973. It is the oldest Women's football trophy in New Zealand and was the premier cup competition in Wellington until 1994, when the National Women's Knockout Cup (they really need a better name for it) was introduced. Obviously the National Cup took precedent over the local one and from 1995 until 2001 the Kelly Cup was only open to teams that hadn't entered the National Cup. This made sense and kept the prestige of both cups, but for whatever reason in 2002 they opened the Kelly Cup up to all teams. 
The Kelly Cup TheJourneyFan

In more recent times the Kelly Cup seems to have become that awkward school friend that you used to be great mates with but now just talk's about nothing but the old times. 

From a strange year in 2014, when several teams lost in early rounds but still got through to the next round in order to make the numbers right, to 2015 & 16 when there were only 10 & 7 entries respectively, inflexibility over fixtures from Capital Football leading to some clubs not entering at all due to clashes with national schoolgirl tournaments, huge gaps between rounds (14 weeks last season between round 1 & 2), then this year all W-League & Capital Premier teams being told they had been entered (even if they didn't want to be) and if they defaulted it would cost them $2000! It's pretty obvious something needs to be done to restore the prestige of the grand old dame of New Zealand women's football trophy's.

Now years ago when I would have finished this here having had my moan, but as my Dad always used to say - well what should they do about it? So here are a couple of ideas (in no particular order)

Option A - A Club Cup

But it is a club cup you say, what I mean is that each club enters one team. Now this can be their top team, their social team, their development team or a team made up from a mix of these, it's up to the club. All they would have to ensure is that the squad was named before the competition started and they would have to stick with those players for the Kelly Cup games.

Option B - Make it a competition for Premier Division and lower
 
Basically exempt the W-League teams as they will enter the NWKO Cup. The premier division & division 1 teams enter the Kelly Cup, Division two and three teams can opt for either the Kelly Cup or the Executive Shield
 
Option C - A new league
 
The more radical option, so unlikely to happen. This ties in with the W-League. The W-League is capital football's attempt to raise the standard of Women's football in Wellington. It's hard to say if it's worked after one season and they have given it three years. The problem I see is familiarity and boredom, The W-League teams play each other three times in the league and then will usually meet again in the cups, ending up playing each other four to five times a year. Meanwhile Premier League clubs such as Waterside Karori, University, Petone & BNU are shut out and really have been given no incentive to develop players as any they do will just get picked off by the W-League clubs.

So I would create a 12 team premier league, after the first round they would split into a top and bottom six and play two further rounds, the winner of the top six getting the Kelly Cup.

The first round you will get some mismatches, but then you do anyway (in the W-League this year there were scores of 12-0, 11-1, 10-0 & 9-0 recorded), but it gives those teams just below the W-League something to aim for and increase their standard, this season it could have been possible that Waterside Karori or University got into the top six, and while these clubs have a bit to go to catch up the the big three of Upper Hutt City, Palmerston North Marist and Wellington United, from what I saw they would have competed with Seatoun, Stop Out and Wairarapa United.

Whether anything will happen, I don't know, but it is distressing to see several clubs complaining about having to enter this competition and only doing so when they were advised of severe financial penalties if they didn't. The Kelly Cup is a historic cup with a proud history and it deserves much better than it is getting treated now.

 
Champion Coach Upper Hutt City's Wendi Henderson with her 12th Kelly Cup Winners Medal The JourneyFan













Wednesday, 23 August 2017

TWICE IN A CENTURY

Miramar Rangers 4 Wellington Olympic 3
Dave Farrington Park, Wellington
Central League
Saturday 19th August, 2017
Attendance : 250ish
 
Miramar's Eric Molloy is taken out by an Olympic tackle The JourneyFan
Two weeks ago when Western Suburbs secured the Central League title with a 6-0 win over Palmerston North Marist, it also sealed Marist's fate and doomed them to relegation, leaving us with rather meaningless games for the last two weeks of the season. Well that is except for the match up between Miramar Rangers and Wellington Olympic.

Now when I grew up in Wellington the big derby was between the National League sides Wellington Diamond United and Miramar Rangers, and that rivalry is still there, although it waned a bit at the end of the 90's when Wellington United dropped out of National League and into a lower division than Miramar. United's woes were caused by financial troubles and they even voted to merge with Wellington Olympic at one stage. Olympic, while initially keen, voted against it so the clubs stayed as they are, but it was Olympic that have taken over the mantle of being Miramar's biggest rivals.

While it can be called a fierce rivalry, it seems strange that it's so intense when you consider that in the 46 games before this meeting, Olympic have only won seven of those, the last being way back in 2010, and that was only the second time this century! However it is intense, I've been at Miramar club rooms and been told stories about how they saw off attempts to drape the Greek flag over the Miramar balcony before a game. I heard an Olympic player on the sideline earlier this season telling people how his first game back was going to be the big one against Miramar (he may have used a more colorful term to describe them). 

Joel Stevens (MR) evens up the scores The JourneyFan
Neither club has had a great season, Miramar in mid table thanks to a slow start due to several of their players being involved with Team Wellington in the Oceania Champions League. Defending champions, Olympic almost got relegated, and will site bad luck with injuries, close games (half their losses were by a single goal) and no doubt suspensions. However with suspensions they really only have themselves to blame, they may try and point the finger at officials but when as a club (ie at all levels) they have received 14 red cards before this game when this seasons average in Wellington is two per club, they really do need to look at their internal discipline as it has cost them not only financially but also in the league, such as today's game where they were missing Luis Corrales and Mario Barcia due to them both having been sent off the week before.
 
Olympic fans celebrating a goal The JourneyFan

The Olympic fans had got in early and while there was no attempt to take over the balcony, they instead took over the stand with several Greek flags, painted faces, buckets and bells they were making a great atmosphere. They were rewarded after just four minutes when Manny Achol stabbed the ball in to the Miramar net. 

Miramar leveled it up through Joel Stevens in the 22nd minute, only for Gianni Bouzoukis to restore Olympic's lead five minutes later. Then just after the half hour mark, Olympic's Blake Weston made a tackle on Mikhali Bredevedlt that rather upset him, and he got up and remonstrated with Weston, this happened right in front of the Olympic crowd who were more than happy to offer their point of view. Bredevedlt's response was to make an offensive gesture towards them and under the new laws introduced this year, it left referee, John Rowbury, with no option but to send him off.

It was a frantic first half and despite Miramar having more of the possession and territory, Olympic had made the most of their foray's into the Miramar half and were 2-1 up and with the opposition down to 10 men you thought that maybe, just maybe this could be Olympic's day.

Gianni Bouzoukis makes it 2-1 to Olympic The JourneyFan
The second half saw both teams slow down a bit (not much though) and I'm not sure if a young Olympic team were confused that in a game where one team had only 10 men it wasn't them, but they were unable to do anything with the extra man advantage. Not long into the half Joel Stevens got his second of the day, then with about 20 to go Olympic restored their lead.

Andy Bevin was having an outstanding game for Miramar and linking up well with Tom Jackson and Irishman Eric Molloy. It was the Team Wellington marksman, Jackson who evened up the scores before Eric Molloy scored from close range in the 85th minute to make it 4-3. Then in the last minute, Olympic's Gonzalo Amado, was sent for premature ablutions after collecting his second yellow card for pushing a Miramar player.

The game ended 4-3 to Miramar and Olympic's hoodoo continues, but I think even the most biased Olympic fan would begrudgingly acknowledge that Miramar, who came from behind three times and played with only 10 men from the 30th minute, deserved their win.

It was a hugely entertaining game, with a great atmosphere, mainly from the Olympic fan's, although a shout out must go to Miramar stalwart, Old Don, who's lone voice shouting "Come on Mirrramarrrr" could be heard throughout the game. I'm already looking forward to next season's contests.

Miramar players show what the derby win means to them The JourneyFan

FOR PHOTOS FROM THE GAME CLICK HERE








Monday, 14 August 2017

A GAME BY THE SEA

Seatoun 6 Stop Out 0
Capital Football W-League
Seatoun Park, Wellington
Saturday 12 August, 2017
Att : 18

Seatoun AFC sporting their new strips The JourneyFan

With all the league winners and relegation in Wellington all but decided, it made picking a game to watch a bit more difficult than usual, but when I was looking at the fixtures, this one jumped out at me. Mainly because despite having seen Seatoun play several times, I had yet to visit them at their home ground (well except for the 1st half of the NWKO Cup game against Palmerston North Marist and I didn't write anything about that one). Also in the last round Stop Out had recorded a surprise 2-1 victory over Seatoun, so maybe they could do it again or Seatoun would be out for revenge, either way it would hopefully give the match a bit of an edge.

Seatoun were founded way back in 1909. Always a prominent Wellington club, their high point came in the 1950's when they won the Chatham Cup twice (57 & 58 - their 7-1 victory over Christchurch City in the 1958 final is the joint record highest score in a final) and five of their eight Venus Shield's. These days the men's first team play in Capital 2 and it's the women that have enjoyed success more recently. They set up a women's team in 1975 and have been ever present in Wellington Women's competition since then, They have won Wellington Division 1 twice (2002,03), the Central League four times (2006,07,08 & 15) and the Kelly Cup 11 times.

Stop Out are just 10 years younger than Seatoun being founded in 1919. They set up a women's team in 1979 and starting out in Division 6 rose through the leagues and despite winning the Premier Division in 1993, they opted not to enter the newly formed Central League and 1995 saw their last season with a women's team, that is until 2011 when the club re-entered the Premier Division, winning it in 2011 & 13 and gaining promotion to the Central League in 2015. 


With the Central League being discontinued at the end of last season, both teams find themselves in the six team W-League. While there are only six teams in the league there are effectively three sub divisions within it 1- the top three of Upper Hutt City, Wellington United and Palmerston North Marist, 2- Seatoun, 3- the wooden spoon battle between Stop Out and Wairarapa United. There has been very little movement on the league table, in fact apart from Wellington United and Palmerston North Marist jostling for second place the league positions have been pretty much the same since the forth week of the competition!

Seatoun have been unable to recapture the form that won them the Central League in 2015. They scored 54 goals in that season, in the two seasons since then (including this game) they have managed just 46 goals. It's hard to work out what's happened as the two top scorers from the championship winning season, Annie Olssen (18) and Grace Surridge (13) are still in the team, in fact the starting line up had seven players that were involved in that team. They did recruit 16 goal striker, Jade Morrissey, from Capital Premier team Petone in the off season but she hasn't been able to find the goal as much as she did in the lower division.

Stop Out have had a couple of huge thumping's this season, 17-0 & 12-0 at the hands of Wellington United, they managed a win and a draw against Wairarapa United, but most surprisingly they beat Seatoun 2-1, the first time they had beaten them since getting back into Women's football.


Jade Morrissey not tapping it in The JourneyFan
From the off, Seatoun laid siege to the Stop Out goal and had several near chances. Stop Out were defending well, it looked as if their game plan was to soak up the attacks and hit Seatoun on the counter attack. It nearly worked when they hit the crossbar with their first attack in the 20th minute, but two minutes later, Seatoun's Grace Surridge had the ball in the back of the net. On the half hour a long shot caught Stop Out keeper, Bex Williams, off her line, she managed to get back and slap it away from the goal line but only to the feet of Jade Morrissey who had a simple tap in. Two minutes later it was 3-0 when there was a foul at the edge of the area, Stop Out were busy organising their defensive wall when the ref pointed out the foul happened inside the area and it was a penalty. Seatoun captain Annie Olssen made no mistake from the spot.

Seatoun almost extended their lead four minutes into the second half, but Williams in the Stop Out goal made a great save and the rebound was fired into the underside of the crossbar and bounced away from the goal. Stop Out were starting top look better but you did get the feeling that Seatoun had eased off a bit as they were comfortably ahead. They made it four when Kelsi Rutune fired in a shot which hit the crossbar and fell to the feet of Morrissey for another simple tap in.

Seatoun completed the scoring with two more goals in the last five minutes, the first when Tessa McPherson broke through the line, although there was a suspicion of offside, it wasn't flagged and she slotted the ball past a static Williams. Then in the last minute substitute Danika Chhour lobbed the ball in from about 20 meters out, Williams who would normally have plucked a shot like that out of the air, failed to do so thanks to the blazing sun that was in her eyes and it was 6-0.

Danika Chhour makes it 6-0 The JourneyFan

There is one round left in the W-League, but all that is left to decide is who out of Wellington United or Palmerston North Marist will finish runner up to champions Upper Hutt City. After one season it's hard to say if the W-League is making a difference, there is still a massive gap within the division and having no promotion-relegation playoff doesn't really give clubs such as Waterside Karori, University & BNU much incentive to develop women's football, while clubs like Wairarapa United, Stop Out and Seatoun have the safety net of no relegation, how does that encourage them to step up their standard to compete with the top three?


FOR PHOTOS FROM THE GAME CLICK HERE


Friday, 11 August 2017

CHATHAM CUP QUARTER FINALS


WESTERN SUBURBS 1 BAY OLYMPIC 2
Endavour Park, Porirua
Saturday 5th August 2017 Att : 500
CENTRAL UNITED 2 WAIRARAPA UNITED 0
Kiwitea Street, Auckland
Sunday 6th August 2017 Att : 350

It was a Chatham Cup weekend again and we were at the quarter final stage which meant it was an open round (IE the draw wasn't regionalised as it was up until now). The regionalism of the Chatham Cup is nothing new, in fact for the first 27 years of the competition it was decided by the best team from each region playing each other and then the winners of the North Island and South Island meeting in the final. It's a shame they don't do the open round from the round of 16 as with four Northern League teams in the quarter finals it seems weighted towards them, but then as 63 of this years 128 teams came from the Northern region what can you do?

At least this year there was a game in Wellington and Saturday saw me out at Endeavour Park for newly crowned Central League Champions, Western Suburbs, to take on Bay Olympic of Auckland. This was the first ever meeting of these two clubs, Bay Olympic being founded in 1998 by the merger of Green Bay-Titirangi and Blockhouse Bay. 

Blockhouse Bay's Colin Shaw
Western Suburbs had met one of Bay Olympic's founding clubs, Blockhouse Bay, when they were in the National League (1970-71) and also in the Chatham Cup Final of 1970. Wests were leading 2-0 with only seven minutes to go, but were unable to stop NZ player of the year, Colin Shaw, getting two late goals to force extra time and ultimately a replay (the first ever in Chatham Cup history). In the replay, Wests twice came from behind and looked as if they had done enough to force extra time before that man again, Colin Shaw, popped up with a last minute goal to break Western Suburbs hearts and give Blockhouse Bay the cup.

Trying to predict who would win this game was difficult, Wests have been playing brilliant football all season, just won the Central League title, had only lost one game (and that was by a single goal) and even drew 0-0 with the A-League Wellington Phoenix. All I knew about Bay Olympic was that they were currently 6th in the Northern League and they had a few hard games in the cup to get to this stage. When I checked out their team list and saw they had the likes of Chad Coombes and Julyann Collett from Waitakere United and Auckland City's Mario Bilen, I realised it wasn't going to be the comfortable win for Western Suburbs that I thought it would be.

It was a great day weather wise at Endeavour and to add to the Wests fans and Ole Academy players watching were quite a few Bay Olympic fans that had made their way down from Auckland. One of the loudest was Andy Hancock, who created a great atmosphere by himself, although his daughter, Scarlett, didn't think so!

Bay Olympic fan Andy Hancock singing much to the embarrassment of his daughter Scarlett

Western Suburbs started well and did what they usually do, they dominate possession, keep the ball and frustrate the opposition, it usually works and they will have 1 or 2 goals by half time and then they let loose in the second half (they had scored 26 goals in 4 cup games). It was mostly working for them but Bay Olympic, with Mario Bilen at the heart of their defence, were keeping them out. 

There was an incident after about half an hour when a Wests defender passed the ball straight to a Bay Olympic player who was in front of an open goal, he must have been as surprised as the crowd were, as he took his time to line up his shot and by the time he did keeper Andrew Withers had recovered to make a simple save. It was about then I thought it would take something special to beat this Wests team and that's when Niklas Ordenewitz did something special hitting an astonishing volley in from an acute angle to give Bay Olympic a 1-0 lead which they took into half time.

Owen Parker-Price scores from the penalty spot The JourneyFan

Wests got one back in the second half when Owen Parker-Price converted from the penalty spot, but a goalkeeping error from Withers, led to Julyann Collett getting what proved to be the winner. It was one of those games that could have gone either way, but Hidson's goal was special and deserved to be on the winning side. Wests will be downhearted but as coach Declan Edge said after the game, they'll take the experience, put it in the bank and come back better next year.

After this we hightailed it to Turangi, before an early start on Sunday morning to get to the Auckland suburb of Sandringham to see Central United take on Wairarapa United at Kiwitea Street.

Central United were founded in 1962 by Croatian immigrants and after a shaky start when after a couple of incidents the Auckland FA wanted to ban them, they then progressed through the Northern League's and then surprised everyone (except themselves) by being invited into the 1996 summer league ahead of six time National League winners, Mt Wellington. They proved worthy replacements winning the Chatham Cup five times and the National League twice before forming the National League franchise Auckland City (who have won the Oceania Champions League seven times in a row).

Central United's Bucket Man #YellowYellow The JourneyFan
Wairarapa United were formed in 1996, won the Chatham Cup in 2011, and at the beginning of this season coach and sponsor Phil Kenizey decided he wanted to win the Chatham Cup again. He did this by recruiting most of a National League team, giving this game a very much Auckland City v Tasman United feel.

The game was not that much different from Saturday's one, with Central taking on the Wests role of retaining possession, knocking it round a lot but not having many shots on goal. Wairarapa were trying to play the football that they were capable of, but the loss of Swede Ermal Hadjari a couple of weeks before had obviously affected them and while they could have stolen the game near the end, when Central captain Dean Lausev scored with seven minutes to go it was all over. Emilano Tade made it 2-0 with a goal in the last minute.

From hearing about the other quarter finals (Birkenhead United 0 Onehunga Sports 3 & Nelson Suburbs 0 Cashmere Technical 3) I definitely picked the best two to go to even if it meant traveling a distance 11 times more than Birkenhead United have traveled for their eight away games in the last two seasons!

The Semi Finals see Central United take on Bay Olympic on Saturday 25th August and Christchurch's Cashmere Technical host Onehunga Sports.


FOR PHOTOS FROM THE WESTERN SUBURBS V BAY OLYMPIC GAME CLICK HERE












Wednesday, 2 August 2017

YOU CAN'T WIN ANYTHING WITH KIDS

Western Suburbs Central League Champions 2017 The JourneyFan
 WESTERN SUBURBS 6 PALMERSTON NORTH MARIST 0
Lotto Men's Central League
Endeavour Park, Porirua 
Sunday 30th July, 2017
Attendance :  about 350 

"You can't win anything with kids", was an infamous quote uttered by ex Scottish international, Alan Hansen, in his role as a TV pundit on BBC's match of the day in 1995 after watching Manchester United, with six players under the age of 20 lose 3-1 to Aston Villa in the League Cup. Those kids included the likes of Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville & David Beckham, who went on to form the core of the Manchester United team that won 20 major trophy's over the next 15 years! 

A similar quote, while un-attributable, has been heard reasonably often around Wellington football fields over the last few years and that is "Declan (Edge) is great at developing kids, but he can't win anything with them". In his five seasons as coach at Western Suburbs they have finished 3rd, 2nd, 3rd & 4th, so you can see why people were saying this. The teams he has put out have consisted of players from the Ole Academy and have always been young. The average age of this team is 18 and they have proved the doubters wrong.

It's not just that they won the Central League with two games to spare and did it comprehensively thrashing a hapless Palmerston North Marist team 6-0. It's the manner in which they have done it this season. Playing some outstanding football, with a very quick possession based game, where they keep the ball moving. When they don't have the ball and are on defence, they have so many players getting behind the ball that it effectively smothers the  opposition attacks.
 
Wests players with the Central League trophy The JourneyFan

They have lost only once, a narrow 2-1 result way back on April 14th, away to their closest rivals for the title, Paul Ifill's Wairarapa United. When they played the return match, it was a match that whoever won would likely go on and win the title, Western Suburbs took no prisoners that day and demolished Wairarapa United 5-1.

They were up against bottom placed Palmerston North Marist, who don't really seem to fancy playing Wests. Of their 24 meetings Marist have won only five and conceded a huge 72 goals (before this game). It was another miserable day for them, topped of by the bad news that they were relegated after Lower Hutt City beat Wairarapa United 3-2.
 
Suburbs they played their usual fast paced game and had the Palmerston North Marist defence running around like a box of spilled jaffa's in their vain attempts to get close to the ball. It took them just 15 minutes to be 2-0 up with goals to Owen Parker-Price and the superb Elijah Just. It stayed that way until half time and it is probably a mark of Wests high standards that they have set this season that despite having probably around 90% of the possession that Stuff football journalist, Liam Hyslop, tweeted at half time complaining that they were nowhere near their best!

It took five minutes of the second half for Xavier Green to score this stunning goal


If Wests had sat back with the ball in the first half they relentlessly attacked the goal in the second  and it wasn't long before Callum McCowatt with two goals and Owen Parker-Price with a second made it 6-0 and the congratulatory tweets started coming in. I didn't have the means to get possession stats but would have guessed that they had somewhere in the region of 80-90%, I did count the shots though and they had 30 shots to PN Marist's 3!

One of the reservations raised by many was would Wests be able to keep it up until the end of the season, especially as they will lose some players to the US college system, but when you can bring the likes of Ihaia Delany and NZU20 international Noah Billingsley off the bench, they don't really have much issue with that at all.

Xavier Green and Callum McCowatt
Declan Edge and the Ole coaching team are producing some very talented and exciting kids who will have long futures in the game, which is great for Wests and NZ football in general. This has been a true team performance this year, they haven't just won the Central League but dominated it, which given they are younger and less experienced than most other teams is extremely impressive. While players like Elijah Just, Callum McCowatt and Xavier Green have probably got noticed a bit more thanks to their goals, players such as  Kyle Adams, Dalton Wilkins & captain Harry Edge have been just as outstanding in their roles. I don't envy Declan Edge having to make the choice for player of the year.

Names you will be hearing a lot about in the future of NZ Football


So it's big congratulations to Western Suburbs, but their season isn't over yet. Besides two Central League games to go they have a quarter final match in the Chatham Cup on Saturday against Bay Olympic of Auckland (Kick off 2pm at Endeavour Park), so they could be on for the double. So get along and see some of the most exciting talent in New Zealand.

FOR PHOTOS FROM THE GAME CLICK HERE 

FOR PHOTOS FROM THE CELEBRATIONS CLICK HERE