Players withdraw to join Edge's academy
Struck by the withdrawal of eight young players loyal to sacked coach Declan Edge, Waikato FC has responded by saying their decisions will hinder their playing futures - including non-selection in national age-group sides.
Waikato FC regulars Ryan Thomas, Jesse Edge and Mohamed Awad - along with squad members Harry Edge, Matt Oliver, Dan Looker, Bailey Webster and Harley Tahau - stopped training with the franchise last week under new coach Mark Cossey, without letting the club know why.
It is understood they are all preparing to shift to Wellington to join Edge at his new coaching job at the Ole Soccer Academy, which privately runs high performance programmes.
But the franchise said the players had previously indicated they were available at least up until the opening of the transfer window on January 14.
Waikato FC chairman Brendon Coker said while it made it difficult, given replacement players could not be drafted in until the transfer window, the club did have capacity to add three uncontracted players in the interim.
"We will get by, but it is sad that some good young players appear to have been manipulated by our previous coach in an effort to cause maximum disruption," Coker said.
"The reputation gained from being pawns in such action will do these players no favours when they seek to gain spots in future teams, and for some, it will cost them selection in national age-group squads. New Zealand Football have been advised of the situation."
Waikato FC have added Auckland-based striker Robbie Greenhalgh to their squad this week ahead of the away match against Otago United on Sunday.
When contacted, Thomas, one of the country's most promising young talents, told the club that he was now in a moonboot with a suspected stress fracture in his foot, while the others said they were no longer available for Waikato FC, effective immediately.
"If the players wish to go to Wellington, we respect their right to do so," Coker said.
"But the issue was always about managing the transition with dignity and transparency. When we announced the change in coach, we asked the players to indicate their intentions, and at that point they were all committed up until the transfer window."
Defender Josh Greene will also be shifting to the Ole academy, but will play for Waikato up until the transfer window. Other players who have belonged to Declan Edge's private training programme in Hamilton are staying with Waikato FC. They include the currently injured duo of Olympian Adam Thomas and Tyler Lissette, along with fellow defender Mikey Kramer.