Wellington Phoenix U-20 Head Coach Andy Hedge is expecting a highly competitive encounter for his side’s Stirling Sports Premiership opener against Eastern Suburbs on Saturday.
Hedge revealed that the Phoenix are raring to go and believes that facing strong opponents is just what his squad needs going into a new campaign.
“We’re really excited obviously for the start of the new season, even more so to welcome back the Eastern Suburbs team,” Hedge said.
“I think it has been 30 years since they have been at the national league level so they will pumped and ready to go.
“They are going to be a strong unit this year and it will be a good test, not only for our youngsters, but also some of our older players who are more established to test themselves.”
The Nix U-20 boss is pleased with how the squad shapes up heading into the 2016/2017 season, with a mix of familiar faces and new talent set to feature on the pitch.
“The key for us this season is to try and get some continuity,” he said.
“It is really about progressing our youngsters to see if they can foot it at this level.
“There are a couple of 15 year-olds we have been looking at over the summer, including Willem Ebbinge who has done well for us in a few pre-season games and young Sam Sutton who has come down from Auckland, so we are really keen to keep an eye on him.
“There’s the usual suspects including Joe Bell, Sarpreet Singh, Jack-Henry Sinclair and Liam Wood that have all been in the top levels for a number of years now, but even though they have been around for a long time they are still young kids.”
The Head Coach admitted that he was expecting a degree of uncertainty around Saturday’s opponents, who are newcomers to the Stirling Sports Premiership.
“They are obviously a new club coming in and the crux of their squad has been playing over winter, but they have signed some players from other clubs as well,” Hedge said.
“They are going to be very strong and a lot of their players have international experience which not a lot of the other teams have.”
For the Phoenix's one of the season's main goals is to continue the club's strong player development.
“It’s more around the long-term development for these players so trying to push them into the professional ranks,” Hedge said.
“Logan (Rogerson) obviously got his first start for the club (first team) in recent weeks so he is really looking to use that as a foundation to push forward.
“The idea is to try and push as many kids as we can up, but then it’s also about giving the lads who aren’t in Ernie’s (Merrick) squad for the weekend a decent run-out and competitive game so that that they can stay on top of their game as well.”
Admission to David Farrington Park for the match will be free for Wellington Phoenix season ticket holders, with $10 admission for non-member adults. We thank the staff from Team Wellington and Miramar who will be running the gate on matchday.
Saturday, 22 October 2016
Wellington Phoenix U20 v Eastern Suburbs AFC
David Farrington Park, Miramar
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Wellington Phoenix U20 squad: 5. Ryan LOWRY, 6. Dylan FOX, 20. Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 24. Logan ROGERSON, 26. Jack-Henry SINCLAIR, 27. Joe BELL, 28. Max MATA, 41. Willem EBBINGE, 34. Benjamin MATA, 42. Luke TONGUE, 36. Oliver WHYTE, 37. Liberato CACACE, 38. Ruairi CAHILL-FLEURY, 39. Nicholas LANE, 32. Jake WILLIAMS, 30. Oliver SAIL (GK)