By David Cross
WELLINGTON - Canterbury United are at risk of being caught cold when they open their 2010/11 Premiership campaign at David Farrington Park on Sunday, in a match that will already be Team Wellington’s third against a playoff contender.
While Stu Jacobs’ men from the capital have already seen a late defeat at Waitakere and a hard fought draw against Auckland City, Keith Braithwaite's players have been training hard and are ready to try and go that one step further than last season with a national league title in sight.
Canterbury have retained faith in the majority of last season’s squad but the real interest may well be in the younger additions to a side that was already full of local talent. Schoolboy Gagame Feni, young keeper Coey Turipa and Tane Gent are among the hottest young talent in New Zealand and will be looking to make a name for themselves at senior level.
Helping them find their feet will be the experience of former All Whites Glen Collins and Gareth Rowe, and All Whites FIFA World Cup squad member Aaron Clapham. Clapham last season was a poster boy for all that was good in the ASB Premiership as the local lad returned from US college and a winter in Australia to be one of the standouts in the domestic competition. His displays caught the eye of All Whites coach Ricki Herbert and earned him his place on the plane to South Africa.
Braithwaite says his players are looking forward to the challenge of the new season and renewing their rivalry with the team from the capital. "It's never an easy game in Wellington, and they're a side we need to prove ourselves against if we want to be in the finals again this season"
"It's a fact that we've never won there in the history of the ASB Premiership so maybe it's time we changed that statistic,” said Braithwaite.
"We lost to Wellington twice last season, and we haven't forgotten that, but we've got the utmost respect for the Wellington players and staff. We know it will be a hard game but we're looking forward to the challenge"
"We're looking to start as we finished last season. All the boys are raring to go and the youngsters we've added are putting real pressure on the experienced players to keep their spots."
Coach Jacobs meanwhile is looking at a single point from two games, but taking on both Auckland sides early on is a pretty tough start.
"Our performances have been very encouraging. Against Waitakere we were very unlucky not to have got something out of the game and our performance was very good. Against Auckland last week we were probably lucky to get a point, however what it showed was a real resolve from Phil Imray right through to Ryan Cain who came on in the last 15mins.We would have lost that last year.”
Jacobs hopes to see experienced pair Jamie O'Connor and Wiremu Patrick back in the frame. "I would expect both players to be close. They are both fantastic individuals and were both very inclusive in our result last weekend"
However, he was impressed with some of the youngsters asked to make the step up.
"Tyler Lissette has come down from Hamilton on the recommendation of Declan Edge. He has dedicated his life to becoming a professional footballer, and that dedication needs to be rewarded. He will grow from that performance."
Jacobs is well aware that Canterbury isn't a step down from the opening weeks either. "No not at all. Canterbury showed last year that they are a franchise on the rise. We need to play well again to cause them problems and I’m sure we will."
In any sport Wellington versus Canterbury match is hard fought and both sides will be looking to get a crucial three points and perhaps a mental edge early in the season.
Team Wellington captain Karl WHALEN will make his 92nd ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected.
Tom SCHWARZ, Gagame FENI, Ryan TIPPETT and Corey TURIPA are in line for their ASB Premiership debut. Glen COLLINS will make his 80th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. Dan TERRIS will make his 89th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. Ryan FAICHNIE will make his 50th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected.
Team Wellington remains unbeaten in home matches with Canterbury United with an impressive record of six wins and two draws from eight matches in the capital. Team Wellington edged Canterbury United 2-1 in last season’s clash thanks to goals by Chris BALE and Michael FIFII.
Canterbury United has never won an away match with Team Wellington in eight previous attempts. Canterbury lost both encounters with Team Wellington last season – a 1-4 defeat in Christchurch was followed by a 1-2 defeat in the capital.
ASb Premiership - Week Three
Sunday 7 November, 2010
1-Phil IMRAY (GK)
1-Tom BATTY (GK)
3- Nick WORTELBOER
4- Gareth ROWE
5- Tom SCHWARZ
6- Mikey HALIKIAS
6- Glen COLLINS
7- Aaron CLAPHAM
9- Romain CORNAND
9- Russell KAMO
10- Michael FIFII
11- Ryan FAICHNIE
11- Andrew ABBA
12- Gagame FENI
12- Emiliano TADO
14- Joe MURRAY
13- Karl WHALEN
15- Danny ATTWELL
14- Hicham KAMRI
17- Ryan TIPPETT
17- Matthew WILLIAMS
22- Corey TURIPA (GK)
21- Pomare TE ANAU
23- Andrew BARTON
23- Ryan CAIN
25- Andy PITMAN
24- Tyler LISSETTE
25- Scott BASALAJ (GK)