In a repeat of the 2008 NZFC Grand Final, Waitakere United hosts Team Wellington this Sunday at Douglas Field in the first round of football action for the year 2009.
Waitakere United are closer to full strength with the return of U20 internationals Tim Myers and Ian Hogg to the squad, plus former All White Jonathan Perry from injury. Add to that the welcome addition of regular keeper Richard Gillespie from a hip injury and Coach Chris Milicich has good depth and talent to choose from.
Team Wellington will be no easy beats however and while they languish near the foot of the NZFC table, they are just one win away from a play off position such is the close nature of the competition this year.
Wellington Coach Stu Jacobs will no doubt have his charges fired up to stay in touch with the top of the table, rather than fall further towards the bottom.
Waitakere United Head Coach Chris Milicich is wary of any sort of complacency against Wellington.
“If I had to choose a team to play fresh up after the break, it would probably be Wellington. But not because they are ‘easy beats’ - quite the opposite in fact, it is because they are a very good side. This will help motivate us to not only win but to play well in trying. Stu Jacobs will have been back with the side for some weeks now after his international commitments and I have no doubt you will see them make a charge for the play offs.
“We have a few more available this week with the return of Ian Hogg and Tim Myers from international duty plus the return to fitness of Jonathan Perry, albeit he remains a week to week prospect with the knee injury.
“A new year presents new opportunities; we must take each that comes our way and start with a strong showing at home on Sunday.”
The match will be part two in a double header of football entertainment with NZ U17 men playing Chile U18 in the second of two matches played this weekend – the first is at Allen Hill Stadium on Friday night.
New Zealand and Chile have met nine times at various levels over the past three years, and while Chile holds the upper hand with six wins from those matches, wins in 2008 for the Oly-Whites in Wellington and the Young Football Ferns at the U-20 Women's World Cup are recent highlights.
New Zealand Football CEO Michael Glading said the growing relationship between the two countries had obvious benefits.
"We forged a formal alliance in 2007, as hosts of the 2008 FIFA U-17 and U-20 Women's World Cups and an opportunity like this series is a further example of the on-field spin-off for New Zealand," Glading said.
The matches begin the Young All Whites' quest to qualify for October's FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria by winning the Fiji-hosted Oceania U-17 Championship in April - something that takes on even greater importance given the Junior All Whites failure at U-20 level.
Fans are invited to attend both matches with gates opening at midday.
Waitkaere United Squad (one to be omitted):
1 Richard Gillespie (GK)
2 Jonathan Perry
3 Aaron Scott
4 Tim Myers
8 Paul Seaman
9 Benjamin Totori
11 Neil Sykes
12 Roy Krishna
13 Daniel Koprivcic
14 Jeff Campbell
15 Christopher Bale
16 Neil Emblen
17 Jake Butler
18 Ian Hogg
20 Jason Rowley
21 Kayne Vincent
22 Danny Robinson (GK)
Sunday 11th January 2009
Waitakere United v Team Wellington
NZ U17 v Chile U18
Gates Open at midday