Experienced Stu Kelly bolsters Ferrymead Bays for Mainland Premier League
Veteran midfielder Stu Kelly insists there's "nothing sinister" behind his switch from Cashmere Technical to Ferrymead Bays, arguing he needed a fresh challenge.
The former Canterbury United player and well travelled Scotsman joins a Bays side, who have recruited well over the off-season.
Danny Halligan-coached Bays have added Nikolai Molijn [Universities], Jacob Allen [Coastal], Sebastian Schacht [FC Twenty] and Sho Mathieson from Tech.
Four-time defending Mainland Premier League champions Tech have former assistant Deane Hutchinson in charge, who faces the unenviable task of replacing successful coach John Brown.
Kelly, 35, was part of a dominant Tech era, including back-to-back Chatham Cup national knockout titles in 2013 and 2014. He wanted a new challenge and has linked with Halligan, who along with Brown, helped bring him to New Zealand in 2004.
"With Tech, it had kind of run its course. There was nothing sinister behind it. At my age, I need to do something different to keep me going and keep the motivation up," Kelly said.
"Moving to Bays, there was no money involved. I purely wanted a change."
It will be Kelly's fourth Canterbury club after previous stints at Christchurch United and Burnside.
Bays were the last side other than Tech to win the MPL title in 2012. They finished the season on a positive note last year, winning the English Cup knockout final.
Having retained the bulk of the side, which finished fourth last season, plus their new additions, Kelly was quietly confident about their potential.
He was excited to play under Halligan, a coach he has worked with in the past and admires.
"He's been an experienced player and he's an experienced coach. He tells it like it is, Danny, and I needed that environment again.
"It's the mentality adjustment [Bays] need. Winning breeds confidence and success."
Tech will field a relatively youthful side to start the season with burly English striker Liam Oxley, who netted nine times last season, moving to Canada.
Former Tech and Canterbury midfielder Cory Mitchell will link up with his old club, having been a standout for national league strugglers Hamilton Wanderers this summer.
Key Canterbury United players, Aaron Clapham, Tom Schwarz, Danny Knight, Gary Ogilvie and injured veteran Dan Terris are expected to filter back for Tech once they've had a break after the national league.
Nelson Suburbs, who finished 10 points back in last season's title race, have been hurt by the departures of goalkeeper Coey Turipa, defender Daniel Allan and midfielder Alex Ridsdale
Suburbs have filled the void somewhat by luring Northern Ireland age group internationals Corey Wilson (goalkeeper) and Kristian Gibson (defender) to New Zealand.
Ben Wright and former All Whites forward Campbell Banks will share the striking duties in an experienced but prolific combination. Tasman United trio Ryan Stewart, Sam Ayers and Matt Tod-Smith will add an injection of quality once their national league commitments finish.
Ekow Quainoo-coached Coastal Spirit will be determined to improve on last season. They matched it with Tech on the ladder for most of the season, but went off the boil at the end, finishing third.
Coastal have snapped up English striker Jordan Ball, while Guillermo Schuhmacher has joined from relegated Halswell.
Promoted Nomads United have assembled a competitive squad, including goalkeeper Tom Batty, former Canterbury midfielder Andy Pitman, Daniel Burns, Dominic McGarr and Luke Petrie, who is injured to start the season.
Canterbury's English striker Stephen Hoyle, Nomads' development officer, will bolster the Casebrook-based club. Hoyle will head home for a pre-planned two month holiday in early April, but return to play for Nomads later in the winter.
FC Twenty11, who finished fifth last season after being promoted, have retained two of their leading scorers, Mario Hofmann and Callum Smith.
The losses of impressive teenager Schacht and goalkeeper Sam Swadi are a blow. Coach Glenn Lapslie hopes Coastal addition Shane de Freitas and young guns, New Zealand under-17 defender Matthew Jones, Jacob Richards and Seth Clark can make an impact.
Reserve coach from last season, Jesse Rawlings, has taken over at Universities, who will be without key players Molijn, Hamish Foy and goalkeeper Lew Gordon, who has transferred to ambitious second tier club, Christchurch United.
Western, who staved off relegation by three points last season, will be coached by Simon Bell. They have gained Brennan Pitts from Coastal, while striker Alex Pak, who is injured, has returned from OE.
Western will be desperate to find the back of the net more often in 2017, having scored just 13 goals in 21 games last season.
AT A GLANCE:
MPL opening round:
Nomads United v Ferrymead Bays, (Fri) at English Park
Cashmere Technical v Nelson Suburbs, Sat 12noon at English Park
Coastal Spirit v Universities, Sat 2.45pm at English Park
FC Twenty v Western, Sat 2.45pm at Avonhead Park