Young Wests take out Central League crown
Popping the champagne cork proved the toughest task for the Western Suburbs players on Sunday.
The club claimed their first Central League title since 2009 courtesy of their 6-0 thumping of Palmerston North Marist at Endeavour Park, winning the league with two games to go.
It was a win in keeping with their dominance of the league this season where they have won 13, drawn two and lost one, but things proved a little tougher postmatch for captain Harry Edge after being presented a bottle of bubbly to celebrate their win.
He gave it a couple of shakes without much success, before reserve goalkeeper Isaac Tetteh took control of the situation to ensure a proper uncorking. Earlier, Wests chairman Dean Eagar had quipped about it being potentially the cheapest shout in Central League title-winning history.
That indicated two things about this squad: they are young - Tetteh, at 22, would be considered an elder statesman of the team - and they haven’t lifted too many trophies in recent times.
It was the first title of coach Declan Edge’s five-year reign, with more importance put on developing players than results, but he said a big motivation this year was to silence their critics.
‘‘Being pissed off with a few people saying we couldn’t win,’’ he said of the change this season.
‘‘Other people saying things like ‘maybe Declan is good at developing players, but he doesn’t know how to coach a team to win’.
‘‘So I must thank all the haters, the ones who have said we can’t do something. It’s just been people pissing me off saying I couldn’t win the league for a few years really. It was about going and doing that now, doing a few things a bit different, be a bit more diligent at the back.
‘‘Also, those boys at the back are 20, 21, they’re starting to find some maturity.’’
Edge said part of it was also himself getting better as a coach.
Sunday’s game was over very early on. Any worries about getting past last-placed Marist were put to bed with two goals in the first 15 minutes. That was the halftime score as Wests laboured through the rest of the first 45, but Xavier Green’s top-class strike into the top-right corner from the left-edge of the box early in the second half sparked them again as they ran away with the result.
While few would’ve expected overly wild celebrations from the young Wests team, Edge said they would be straight into training for next Saturday’s Chatham Cup quarterfinal, at home to Bay Olympic.