New Wairarapa United coach Kale Herbert. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Wai-United confirm new coach

FOOTBALL

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

New Wairarapa United Central League coach Kale Herbert has already started planning for the 2022 season, with the priority of retaining as many players as possible from the 2021 campaign.

Herbert, the son of former All Whites defender Wellington Phoenix and national coach Ricki Herbert, was last week confirmed in the role on a two-year deal.

At 29, Herbert is young for a head coach, but he brings ample experience, having taken up coaching after moving to Taupo from Wellington.

“I was originally going to play, and then the first team coach left just before preseason started.”

With an opportunity beckoning, Herbert sought advice on being a player-coach or just focusing on coaching.

“The feedback I got was that being a player-coach is quite difficult because you have to perform as a player first and foremost and look after the team from a coaching perspective as well.

“So I decided to hang up the boots, and I think I was about 24 at the time.”

Herbert has also worked for the Ricki Herbert Football Academy for the past 11 years and has coached at Hamilton Wanderers.

“I came to the club as an assistant in the National League and was the head coach of the Northern Premier League team for the past four years and head coach of the National League team for 1½ seasons.

“Last season, we reached the National League semifinals where we played Team Wellington, and it was the first time the club had achieved that, so it was a big step.”

Moving back to the Wellington region has been in the plans for Herbert and fiancee Jess since she was offered a very good job opportunity, so he approached Wairarapa United about the vacant coaching role.

The couple will move after getting married in early January.

However, Herbert has already started planning. His first mission is to retain as many players as possible from this year’s Central League squad.

“They finished fifth and seemed to be very competitive in the majority of games that they played. So, retain what they’ve got and look to bring in some faces that are familiar to me and can make us push and try and make the top four.

“There are a few boys down there who I coached previously; one played for me in the National League for Hamilton Wanderers and moved down to Wellington, so I’ll be reaching out to him.”

Herbert said that it was important to be realistic and not try and shoot too high when it’s potentially not possible, with big hitters in the Central League, such as Miramar Rangers and Wellington Olympic, who will play in the final of the NZ Football National League South Central series, which was introduced after the covid-19 restrictions prevented Northern League teams playing in the national championship.

“It’s going to be difficult to break into the top two. That depends on what the squad is going to look like, and hopefully, we can continue some of the form that they were in last year.

“Before setting goals, I will see what we’ve got in terms of a player pool – who we’ve retained and who we’ve brought in.”

Herbert was excited by the prospect of working with the promising young players, many of whom are training with the Paul Ifill Football Academy.

“You really saw that this year with the number of younger players stepping up and playing regularly and playing well.

“Paul has done a fantastic job in the region. Those younger players who have come through, he’s had a huge influence in their football development.

“I look forward to working with them, progress their football and keeping them in Wairarapa, and hopefully we can see some success.”

Earlier conversations with Ifill, who leaves United for the head coach’s job at Christchurch United in January, helped convince Herbert to pursue the coach’s position.

“I’ve spoken to Paul a couple of times, just to get his ideas around how the club operates and what he’s been doing in that space.

“He couldn’t speak highly enough of the club and the people involved. Talking to him and hearing from him what the club is like, I was more than happy to move things forward with the club.”

Herbert will travel to Masterton tomorrow to meet club officials and start putting plans in place.

“I’ve had quite a few phone calls, but I’m looking forward to putting the faces to the names and getting stuck in.”



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