Old Boys may play in premier league

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2012

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Old Boys are contemplating an ambitious move to play in the Footballsouth Premier League next season.

The Waverley Park-based club have been a force in Southland's Donald Gray Cup premier competition over the past four years, losing just three of their 53 games. They have scored 139 goals in that time, and conceded only 59.

If Old Boys pick up a draw or win in their final league game against Waihopai on Saturday, they would clinch a fourth consecutive Donald Gray Cup title, and become one of the most successful sides in the competition's history. The only other sides to win four or more successive titles, since the cup was first contested in 1950, are Thistle 1960-1966 and 1969-73, and Brigadiers, 1950-1954.

Old Boys assistant coach Scott Mackenzie, who was coach of the team from 2008-2010, said the club were proud of what the premier side had achieved over the past four years.

Their last Donald Gray Cup title, before the golden era, was all the way back in 1988. During the last five years, they had adopted much more of a professional approach to training and fitness, and strengthened their playing squad.

Old Boys are interested in joining the Otago-based Footballsouth Premier League next season, if they can retain their silverware again this weekend.

The club already has a southern premier league committee in place, and have been talking with potential sponsors to secure funding.

Mackenzie has been one of the key people involved with the proposal and believed it would offer significant benefits for not only the club, but football in Southland.

The province does not have a presence in the Footballsouth Premier League this year, after Spirit FC disbanded at the end of last year's competition.

"Southland Football needs it desperately. If we don't have a combined team doing it, someone's got to do it," Mackenzie said.

"The longer it gets left, the worse football will become at that top level in our city. Our junior players won't get that exposure they need."

Mackenzie said it was imperative, Southland had a team in the Premier League, otherwise talented players would leave the region in search of better football opportunities elsewhere.

"We'll lose a lot of players with high ability, because they won't have anything to go to beyond Donald Gray."

Some sceptics might argue Old Boys are not strong enough to play weekly in the Footballsouth Premier League.

During the past two years, Old Boys have been thrashed by Dunedin Technical and Rosyln-Wakari in the Chatham Cup, but Mackenzie believed they could hold their own if they bolstered their squad.

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Old Boys were hoping to use the contacts of Uruguayan coach Ignacio Sande and other club members to strengthen their team. Sande has coached in both Uruguay and Spain, and is regarded as one of the sharpest football brains in Southland.

Players from rival Donald Gray Cup sides could also be keen to link up with Old Boys to play a higher standard of football.

Mackenzie said they would look to implement a five-year strategic plan, where many of the club's promising junior players would be able to step up and play in the Premier League over the coming years.

An Old Boys side would contest the Donald Gray Cup. It would be a feeder team to the top side.

The team are hoping to play their home games at the ILT Football Turf, if they enter the Premier League next season.

The Southland Times canvassed the opinions of Dunedin-based Premier League coaches Mike Fridge [Dunedin Technical], Colin Thom [Roslyn-Wakari] and Malcolm Fleming [Green Island] yesterday.

They were all supportive of Old Boys joining the league in 2013 and admitted Southland needed to have a side in the competition.

"I'd love to have it back to a 10-team competition. I don't mind going to Invercargill for a game" Fridge said.

"It would be great for the competition. It would cut out the bye."

Thom raved about the ILT Turf surface and said "the boys love a good trip away".

Fleming had no issues with an "out-of-town" team playing in the premier league, but said the competition probably needed to drop down to eight sides, rather than increase to 10.

- The Southland Times

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