Old Boys ready for premier play
Southland football powerhouse Old Boys believe they are capable of a mid-table finish in their first season in the Otago-based Footballsouth Premier League next year.
Over the past few months, Old Boys have been weighing up whether to field their top side in the lower South Island's top club football competition.
Last week, their entry into the league for 2013 was accepted and Old Boys spokesman Scott Mackenzie said their players were looking forward to the challenge.
The composite Spirit FC side previously played in the competition, but folded at the end of 2011, which left Southland without a presence in the league.
Old Boys have had a stranglehold over the Donald Gray Cup Southland premier competition in recent times, winning four consecutive titles. During the past four years, they have won 44 of their 54 games - scoring 142 goals, while conceding just 51.
Mackenzie said it was vital Southland had a side in the Footballsouth Premier League for players to test themselves at the next standard beyond the Donald Gray Cup.
Without a team, promising Southland footballers may leave the region in search of other opportunities or be lost to the sport.
"It's a necessity if we want to keep young players [in Southland] and give them access to higher football," Mackenzie said. "It's something we want to be able to offer, not only for our club, but for other players in Southland."
Southland Football manager Ken Cresswell was excited to see a Southland side back in the Footballsouth Premier League.
"I think it's great we're going to have Southern Premier League football back in the city again," he said. "It's good to see Old Boys' application to enter has been successful.
"It will certainly be a great opportunity for some of the players they have at the club to see if they're capable of playing at that level."
Competing against the giants of Otago football like Dunedin Technical and Caversham will be a massive step up for Old Boys, and Mackenzie said they were setting tangible targets for their first season in the league.
"We're realistic about our chances next year and where we're going to sit. It's a long-term thing. Mid-table would be lovely.
"It's a starting point to get into the league and work from there."
Old Boys will hold their first pre-season training run tonight, with the majority of this year's Donald Gray Cup-winning side registering their interest for next season.
Mackenzie said players from other teams or areas, who wanted to play for Old Boys in the Footballsouth Premier League, were welcome to attend practices and push for selection in the team.
The Old Boys side will be coached by Uruguayan, Ignacio Sande, who is regarded as one of the most astute football brains in the province.
They are likely to play all of their home games on the the state-of-the-art ILT Football Turf surface.
Old Boys will still enter a side in the Donald Gray Cup, which will predominantly be made up of younger players, and some experienced older players who do not want to travel to Dunedin every second weekend.
Mackenzie said they had discussed the financial viability of playing in the Footballsouth Premier League and were confident they would be able to secure sponsorship.
The competition is expected to get under way in late March or early April, with Old Boys planning to play several warmup games.
- The Southland Times