Waikato FC has a two year plan to be able to foot it with the likes of Auckland City in the ASB Premiership and on Saturday at Fred Jones Park in Hamilton they’ll get an early benchmark of what that will require.
At the helm during this new campaign is Willy Gerdsen a highly qualified German born coach who made a mark nationally by winning the Chatham Cup with North Shore club East Coast Bays.
“Auckland are obviously one of the two powerhouses in the ASB Premiership,” said Gerdsen, “We are huge underdogs for this one and we are realistic.
“We have an extremely young team, a new set up on and off the field including a entirely new coaching team, so it’s a tough start.”
Gerdsen hinted at off-field issues playing a disruptive distraction in previous seasons but said the club are determined to put that behind them.
“We have a two year plan and the team, the staff and the board are all heading in the same direction.”
The 2010/11 season will also see the club return to Hamilton after two seasons playing at Ngaruawahia’s Centennial Park, with Gerdsen singing the praises of their new home.
Waikato fans will be interested to see how Gerdsen can get his blend of players to blend and step up to the rigours of the Premiership.
Only Nathan Strom and David Samson have played more than 20 national league games while up to seven players could make their Premiership debuts on Saturday.
The crop of youngsters is an exciting one though with Nick Branch and Jason Hicks already tasting national league action with Auckland and Waitakere respectively.
Of the new recruits, former Auckland City striker Milos Nikolic will have the most to prove. Constantly down the pecking order behind Grant Young, Keryn Jordan and then Daniel Koprivcic in recent seasons, the former age-group new Zealand representative should see more playing time at his new club.
Local fans will also be treated to the ASB Premiership debut of All White David Mulligan, who endured a frustrating time on the fringes of Wellington Phoenix. The midfielder has undoubted quality and will be given a playmaking role by Auckland City coaches Aaron McFarland and Ramon Tribulietx who also welcome former golden boot winner Luis Corrales to their ranks.
Mulligan has obvious technical ability and he is keen to make his mark and show to the New Zealand public that he has got a lot to offer. I think he will do very well and his future will probably lie outside these shores.”
“Luis was with Auckland last season but was recovering from injury and once he is back to full fitness, and he close, he will torment defences like he used to do against Auckland City.”
Auckland have lost a wealth of experience with Young, Jordan, Paul Urlovic, Chad Coombes, Jason Hayne, Ivan Vicelich Ki-Hyung Lee, Matt Williams and Greg Uhlmann all departing Kiwitea Street.
“The club have taken charge of recruiting and we’re confident the players coming through can fill the shoes of those leaving, in some case more than adequately,” McFarland said.
Up to seven players in the matchday squad named by new Waikato FC coach Willy Gerdson could make their national league debut on Saturday with only six players able to boast more appearance figures in double digits
David Mulligan will get his first taste of Premiership action and much will be expected of the former Barnsley and Scunthorpe player in the absence of fellow World Cup all White Ivan Vicelich. James Pritchett takes over the armband, while Luis Corrales is set for his Auckland debut.
Of the current Waikato FC squad, only Nathan Strom and David Samson have played more than 20 ASB Premiership games.
Auckland are unbeaten against Waikato in their last 10 encounters (9 W, 1D)
ASb Premiership - Week One
Saturday 16 October, 2010
1-John Fletcher (GK)
1-Jacob Spoonley (GK)
7-James Pritchett (C)
12-Patrick George (RGK)
16-Tewi Te Pou
18-Alexei Davies Campbell
22-Alex Carr (GK)
Three to be omitted