O’keefe ready to lead the rebuild of Wests
Lloyd ’O Keefe cuts a relaxed figure as he prepares to embark on his first season in charge of Western Suburbs’ Central League side.
He says with injuries, players in the national league and overseas, and recruitment still occurring, it’s difficult to gauge what their mixed bag of pre-season results means.
‘‘We’re using a lot of the reserve team guys for games, but that’s not a bad thing, giving them the experience. It’s going well and we’ll be fine for the start of this season.’’
He says expectations should not be too high, as Wests seek to re-establish themselves as a ‘‘ community- based club’’. The recent seasons of Ole Soccer Academy dominating the top grade are over and more ‘‘local lads’’ will be making an impact.
That’s not to say there won’t be a few Ole faces in O’keefe’s side from last season and stars like Mike Wilson, Fraser Colson, Trent Watson, the Chettleburgh brothers, along with two English imports, are likely to add some juice to the line-up. But the schism from Ole is complete.
‘‘We’re going through a big change here at the club. The disconnection from Ole will leave holes to fill in the first team, but we have a strong base and are recruiting well. We have to be realistic and say a mid-table finish could be about right for us, it might take a few years to get that stability and really challenge again for the title. But I know we will and the [Wests] board expect nothing less.’’
O’keefe was assistant to two experienced hands in 2010 and 2011 – Dutchman John Kila and Shane Rufer, respectively – and is proud to now take the helm. The club doesn’t have the money that some clubs do, but Wests has the spirit to be a force again, he insists.
‘‘ I’m the first part- time coach Wests has had for a long time, but I’m ready for the challenge. I’ve been at this club for a long time, as a junior coach and coming up through the grades, and it is a juggling act [with family and work] but you have to learn to be flexible.
‘‘There is a good atmosphere here, good people with the right habits and work ethic to help us build up again.’’
The reserve side’s relegation from Capital Premier into Capital 1 last season was a blow, but O’keefe says there are some ‘‘unbelievable kids coming through’’.
He expects the usual suspects of Miramar, Wairarapa and Napier to be the Central League frontrunners, while Olympic, Lower Hutt and the strong-recruiting Maycenvale will also be tough.
O’keefe says the player to watch out for this season is Martyn Coleman, a striker with experience playing in England, who will join the side from Penrith in Australia’s Northern League.
New gaffer: Western Suburbs’ first team will be under the stewardship of Lloyd O’keefe this year. A busy pre-season is under way, and game one of the new Central League season is on April 14.