New captain Daniell Allen, left, will spearhead the Wairarapa United defence. PHOTO/FILE
A youthful Wairarapa United will face a vastly-experienced Wellington Olympic in their opening match of the Central Football League at Memorial Park today.
Wairarapa United will field a team consisting mainly of young players from the Paul Ifill Football Academy combined with several players who have wide experience at national league level and even higher.
Player-coach Cory Chettleburgh will be the key component of the midfield and his combative style of play will be vital in the battle for control of the centre third.
He is in his fifth season with United and returns after playing for Hawke’s Bay United in the New Zealand Football Premiership.
Chettleburgh will probably be joined in the midfield by Cameron Lindsay, another Hawke’s Bay United national league player, who has been one of Wairarapa United’s more consistent performers in recent seasons.
A former Wellington Phoenix signing, Lindsay is also capable of playing in defence if needed.
Jonty Roubos and Noah Boyce, both 16, debuted for United last year, becoming the youngest players to wear the strip.
Despite their youth, they held their own and weren’t hesitant to get involved in one-on-one confrontations.
Rathkeale’s Josh Rudland and Stanley Archibald, and Wairarapa College’s Sam Murray also made their debuts in 2018, and have the technical skills to play consistently well at this level.
Rudland and Kuranui’s Connor Turton, who gained valuable experience from a tour to Chile with a team from the Greater Wellington region in November, are other youngsters expected to make their debuts.
Spearheading the defence will be hard-nosed captain Daniel Allan, who was the 2018 coach’s and players’ Player of the Year.
Rathkeale’s Matt King will get his chance to impress in goal.
The Capital Under-16 goalkeeper replaces the injured Scott Morris.
Enough has already been written about Paul Ifill’s ability to turn a game.
The sheer presence of the 39-year-old will alone be enough to lift the young players around him.
Whereas United will rely heavily on youth, Wellington Olympic have gone on a spending spree.
Coach Shaun Easthope has managed to recruit players such as 2016-17 New Zealand Football Premiership Golden Boot winner Tom Jackson, lively midfielder George Barbarouses [brother of Melbourne Victory’s Kosta Barbarouses], 33-year-old midfielder Chas Lawrence, former Perth Glory and Solomon island international Henry Fa’arodo, Futsal international Luc Saker and former Phoenix goalkeeper Keegan Smith.
Other key players for Olympic will be Argentinians Gonzalo Amado and Leo Villa in midfield, and stalwart Jimmy Haidakis, who has struggled with injuries in recent years, but is always a threat in front of goal.
Chettleburgh is aware of the challenge ahead of his young team.
“Olympic have spent a lot of money getting a squad together, and that adds to some good quality players in the league.
“But we’re more focused on what we can do. If we control what we can control, and if we stick to that philosophy and our style of play, we will hopefully get the results.”
Olympic won both fixtures between the teams last season, 2-1 and 4-2.
The game kicks off at Memorial Park at 5pm today.