Andy Hedge, coach of the Wellington Phoenix team that will play in the ASB Premiership, is convinced that the team he is putting together will be competitive.
The season kicks off for the Phoenix on Sunday November 2 against Team Wellington at David Farrington Park and Hedge says his players can’t wait to get started.
Eight young players have been signed so far and Hedge is hopeful of adding further to the squad over the next few weeks.
Football School of Excellence products Justin Gulley (fullback), Joel Stevens (forward), Andrew Blake (forward) and Tamupiwa Dimairo (fullback) have been joined by goalkeeper Oliver Sail (Central United), Lower Hutt forward Nathaniel Hailemariam, Hamilton Wanderers striker Xavier Pratt and Stop Out forward Cherbel Khouchaba in the first intake.
Four contracted professionals will be allowed to play for the Phoenix in each game and Hedge sees that as vital for players on the fringe of the first team.
“The pros, some of whom got little game time last season, are desperate to play and that is one of the reasons I believe we will be competitive,” Hedge said.
“With the Phoenix first team playing so well some of the squad will have to wait a while for a chance, but they will get an opportunity over the next 18 weeks to get games under their belt.
“Those who aren’t in the match day squad have two choices. They can mope and sulk or get out on the pitch for us and prove Ernie wrong for leaving them out.
“That situation makes both teams stronger.
“With points at stake we need to be competitive for the integrity of the league.
“Of course we will need to play first choice players who are coming back from injury but that won’t weaken the side at all. If anything it will make us stronger and the older players can act as mentors.”
Hedge said the likes of fringe professionals Alex Rufer and Matt Ridenton will be tested as everyone will be out to beat the Wellington Phoenix.
“There will be a bit of pressure on us and that is good because otherwise the younger players won’t improve.
“I can’t wait for Sunday and what better way to kick off our season than a local derby against Team Wellington.”