» Preparations step up a level

WaiBOP United heads into our third pre-season friendly this Saturday, against Waitakere United at Auckland’s Ngahue Reserve, with several more players officially added to the 2015/16 ASB Premiership squad and off the back of a successful weekend-long training camp.

Head Coach, Peter Smith, has announced that Xavier Pratt (pictured, left), Zac Speedy (pictured, second from left), Finn Cochran (pictured, third from left), and Mario Ilich (pictured, right) will be part of the WaiBOP United squad this summer. All four players are aged 20 or under, adding to the youthful look of the squad.

Pratt, a midfielder, will be the most familiar player to local fans, having played winter club football for Hamilton Wanderers and Tauranga City United in the past. He spent last summer as part of the Wellington Phoenix’s ASB Premiership squad before turning out for Wellington United during 2015. He was part of WaiBOP United’s youth team squad during our inaugural 2013/14 season.

Speedy, a goalkeeper, Cochran, a defender, and Ilich, a midfielder, were part of the Wanderers SC squad during the 2014/15 season. Speedy joins from Auckland City, after having spent the winter season with Three Kings United in the Lotto NRFL Premier League. Cochran and Ilich spent the winter with Central United, another Lotto NRFL Premier League club.

WaiBOP United Head Coach, Peter Smith, is pleased to have all four players sign on. “While they’re still pretty young, these guys are all experienced at ASB Premiership level and I expect them to be pushing our more established players for spots in the starting eleven right from the off,” said Smith. “They’re hungry and ambitious, much like me. I’ll be picking the best performing players every week and it’s up to the likes of Xavier, Zac, Finn and Mario, and the others of course, to show me that that includes them.”

Smith is pleased with the way his squad’s shaping up a couple of weeks out from the start of the season. “One of the key things I set out to do this season is to build strength and quality across the squad,” he explained. “We needed more depth and now we’ve got it. It should be tough and competitive to just make the team on match day, which in turn should improve our performances and, hopefully, results. It’s going to be pretty cut-throat this summer as the standard across the league will be higher than in recent years.”

Smith was also happy with the work his side got through at last weekend’s pre-season camp, which was held at the Millennium Institute in Auckland. “As in previous years we achieved heaps at this year’s camp,” explained Smith. “We got through a lot of things in a short space of time, both on and off field stuff. The group came together well and I was pleased with their effort and the way they responded to what was asked of them.

“I was pretty tired come Sunday night, when we were done, but it was a good sort of tired. I feel we’re much closer to being ready for the start of the season. We’ve got a couple more pre-season games then we’re into it.”

Tomorrow’s match against Waitakere United kicks off at midday.

WaiBOP United hosts Team Wellington in the opening game of our 2015/16 ASB Premiership campaign. The match, to be played at Hamilton’s Gower Park, the home ground of Melville United, is on Sunday November 15 and kicks off at 4.35pm. It will be broadcast live on Sky Sport.

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