Into the unknown for TW
A familiar, but surprising, face will greet Team Wellington before their first match of the Oceania Football Confederation Champions League.
It had been expected the face would be that of former Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott on the Puaikura FC bench tomorrow at Stade Yoshida in Kone, New Caledonia.
But he has parted ways with the Cook Islands club, replaced by former All Whites coach Kevin Fallon.
Calcott’s Kiwi import players, who helped the team qualify for this stage of the competition, will also not be participating. They will replaced by Fallon’s Manukau City players Paul Day, Hone Fowler, Jeremias Perez and Andre Estay, as well as Southern United goalkeeper Liam Little.
Team Wellington coach Jose Figueira said with all the uncertainty their focus would be on the things they could control.
‘‘I think regardless of who is in charge that first game, we’re playing someone we’ve never played before, none of the players have been to New Caledonia before either, so it’s important that we hit the ground running and certainly won’t be taking that first game lightly that’s for sure.’’
Figueira felt the other two sides in the pool, Fiji’s Ba and New Caledonia’s Hienghene Sport, could be more difficult opponents.
‘‘Ba are obviously well known and although they finished runner-up in Fiji they’re always up there and the local team, Hienghene Sport, their coach was on my A-Licence course so he’s a good guy, a good coach, switched-on, and I think they’ve got three or four in the national team who ran the All Whites pretty close.
‘‘All three games have the potential to be a banana skin, but I think Hienghene will pose us the most questions along with Ba.’’
Team Wellington arrive in hot domestic form, with a 7-2 win over Waitakere United followed by a 3-1 triumph away to Southern United.
There were lessons to be learned from the latter win, where they went up 3-0 early on, but did not kick on with the game, Figueira said.
‘‘Against Southern we fell into the trap of playing how they were playing, it got quite physical and direct and we suffered for it for a little period of the game.
‘‘Going over to face teams you don’t know about, we’ve got to go over there and stamp our mark on how we want to play and control the game.’’
There will be six games in a week on the Stade Yoshida pitch but Figueira said all reports indicated it was in good condition.
‘‘If it’s not, we’ll have to adapt our game a little bit, but I think we’ve got enough quality and technicians in the side to cope.’’
Former All Whites coach Kevin Fallon will take charge of Puaikura at the OFC Champions League.