O’keefe ready to lead the re­build of Wests

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

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.

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