Our trip north this Sunday sees us face what will likely be our toughest challenge of the season – a match at champions Auckland City.
As we venture into the den of the FIFA World Club Cup bronze medal winners, in the middle of Auckland Anniversary Weekend, we carry a run of good form with us but also an appreciation of the size of the challenge ahead.
Not surprisingly WaiBOP United’s head coach, Peter Smith, is upbeat. “I know it’s a cliché, but this is the type of game competitive people live for. I’m a competitor and I relish the opportunity to test myself against Ramon [Tribulietx – Auckland City’s coach] and his team,” said Smith after training on Thursday evening. “I know my players are keen to have a go as well. We’re in good form, the confidence is high and we’re playing, at times, some decent attacking football. Our task will be to be consistent in our intent and performance by doing the simple things well and pulling out a little bit of quality when the moment arises.”
Smith is also delighted to have a full compliment of players available, meaning there’s competition for places in the match day squad. “We’ve had a few injuries over the last couple of weeks but everyone’s back on deck now. That means some good players may not even make it into the squad,” explained Smith. “As a coach, that’s the sort of pressure I want. I want to see the lads fighting to get in the team then fighting to stay in once they’re there. If that’s happening then the performances will take care of themselves.”
The squad has had a youthful flavour over the last couple of weeks, with Smith pleased to see the development of some of the club’s youth team players. “Nathan [Kinney] has travelled with us the last two weeks while Alfie [Rogers] was in the squad for the first time for the Canterbury game,” said Smith. “I remember coaching Alfie as a 9 year old up in Thames and now he’s here with us. As a regionally focussed club that’s the sort of progression we want to see. Then you look at lads like Wade [Molony], Jarrod [Young] and Tom [Probert], who have been starters. It’s good for the region.”
The match kicks off at 2pm on Sunday January 25 at Kiwitea Street, Auckland.
Immediately following the match Auckland Council and New Zealand Football will hold a Civic Celebration for Auckland City in honour of their performance at the FIFA Club World Cup. The celebration and presentation includes an appearance by Auckland Mayor Len Brown and NZ Football Executive Committee President Mark Aspden.
Smith is also pleased to announce the finalisation of three further player signings this week – defenders Peter Overmire and Craig Stephens, along with goalkeeper, Shane Viitakangas “These guys will add quality and depth to the playing group,” said Smith. “They’re young, ambitious and have all already played at a decent level here, in the States and in Australia. They’ll provide more competition for places and do a good job when called upon. I’m pleased to have them with us.”