On Saturday the Wellington Phoenix youngsters, playing under the Wellington United banner, beat Karori 2-1 to lift the Capital Premier League title.
Liverpool’s Alan Hansen once famously said “You win nothing with kids”.
Within months Manchester United proved him wrong by winning the EPL, and on Saturday the Wellington Phoenix youngsters, playing under the Wellington United banner, did the same by beating Karori 2-1 to lift the Capital Premier League title.
The team, which has an average age of 17, will now play Team Taranaki home and away with the winner being promoted to the Central League.
Wellington United needed to beat Karori, who went into the game with a one point advantage, and they survived a late onslaught from their opponents to take the points and league.
Cherbel Khouchaba scored both United’s goals for a 2-0 lead but when Karori scored five minutes from time the game was on a knife’s edge.
With the wind behind them Karori threw everything at the youngsters but the defence held firm.
Coach Andy Hedge said he was proud of the way his players coped with the pressure.
“It was a dramatic finish and I was so proud of the way they stuck to their task,” Hedge said.
“They had done so well during the season and to fall at the final hurdle would have been tough for them.
“I didn’t expect to win the league in our first season but from the way we played in the early rounds I knew we would be competitive.
“The kids faced some tough games and they were tested from both the physical and technical/tactical aspect.”
Hedge said the only way for young players to get better was to test themselves against senior players with points at stake.
“Promising 16 and 17-year-olds don’t get enough competition in school or club competitions and need to play against older players,” he said.
“They need to learn how to perform under pressure and you don’t get anything with more pressure than a championship deciding game.
“There were periods in the first half where we were put under a lot of pressure and in the last 10 minutes Karori threw everything at us.
“I don’t normally get emotionally involved on the bench and try to stay objective but it was tough at the end.
“I asked them to stay brave and live on the ball and they did,
“The result was important not only for the club but for the youngsters themselves.”
The only downer for Hedge was that Logan Rogerson received a red card in the closing minutes and will miss at least the first leg of the playoff against Team Taranaki.