Youth gets its chance at Birko

Birkenhead United enjoyed a fairytale season winning the Chatham Cup and finishing runners-up in the Lotto NRFL in 2016.

But no the challenge is to follow that dream run up with more success and coach Paul Hobson can’t wait to get started.

“Winning the Chatham Cup created an unbelievable feeling that is difficult to replicate in the Lotto NRFL.

“The league can’t come close to that emotion,” Hobson admitted.

Nevertheless, Hobson, who was a mainstay of the successful Waitakere City teams of the early 2000s, doesn’t dwell on the past and is keen to move Birkenhead United forwards.

“This season we’ve ticked off one of our objectives which was to win the U-17 tournament.

“From there our main objective is to stay up. This is a competitive league and any team can beat any other.

“We want to be competitive, bring through a lot of youngsters into our first team environment and go as far as we can in the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup,” Hobson said

Those lofty objectives may be made tougher following the departure of some key figures in last year’s glory run.

Sam Burfoot and Jack Salter have moved to clubs in Australia which places a degree of pressure to discover new talents to replace them.

United’s first up game also didn’t go according to plan as Hamilton Wanderers won 1-0 at Shepherd’s Park.

“It was disappointing to lose our opening game. Its the first time we’ve lost our season opener. We turned out a very young side but having said that so did Hamilton Wanderers.

“Sam and Jack have picked up quite good deals for themselves in Australia and we don’t quite know who we will bring in.

“But there are quite a few players to come back to us from the Stirling Sports Premiership and various injuries.

“So there is a chance for young players to get their chance, make an impression and keep their place in our set-up,” Hobson said.

Two players who could play a key role face very different hurdles to make an impact.

Wade Molony, the former Hamilton Wanderers player, is on his way back from an ACL injury while Christian Gray is another Hobson feels could make a difference to Birkenhead United’s Lotto NRFL Premier Division and ISPS Handa Chatham Cup hopes.

“Wade is coming back from injury but is an experienced player and Christian is the type of player who plays a lot older than than someone 20 years of age.

“Christian has a good pedigree, of course, and could potentially be a very good player for us,” he said.

Standing between Birkenhead United and their objectives of double success is a Lotto NRFL Premier Division many consider to be the strongest its been in years.

Hobson agrees with that view having just completed a summer campaign with Hamilton Wanderers in the Stirling Sports Premiership.

“I enjoyed my time with Hamilton Wanderers and the chance to coach and meet new players and make friendships with people and players who you otherwise may not say hello to during the course of a winter season.

“The travel was a difficult challenge and I think in future for the Waikato to be successful they need their players to come from within the region.

“But the future is bright, the area has good players and Melville United look like they are a team that can do well this season.

“With Hamilton Wanderers over the summer it was tough to create a team bond when some players could only train with the group once a week.

“But despite all that I remain very grateful for the opportunity I was given to be part of the Hamilton Wanderers campaign,” Hobson said.

One element that will always remain a constant with Birkenhead United is its focus on youth, a focus that has grown in intensity since Hobson took the reins of the club’s development programmes over five years ago.

“We’re very strong and continue to perform well at the various national tournaments. We aim to get as many players as possible into the first team.

“If the players are good enough we’ll always be willing to give youth its chance,” he said.

Birkenhead United face a tricky trip to Memorial Park on Saturday when they take on newly promoted Manurewa AFC at 3.00pm.

Manurewa AFC suffered a 4-2 defeat to Bay Olympic in their opening match last week.


Match Details
Saturday 1 April, 2017
Lotto NRFL Premier Division
Manurewa AFC v Birkenhead United
Memorial Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 3.00pm