Western Suburbs Central League Champions 2017 The JourneyFan
Lotto Men's Central League
Endeavour Park, Porirua 
Sunday 30th July, 2017
Attendance :  about 350 

"You can't win anything with kids", was an infamous quote uttered by ex Scottish international, Alan Hansen, in his role as a TV pundit on BBC's match of the day in 1995 after watching Manchester United, with six players under the age of 20 lose 3-1 to Aston Villa in the League Cup. Those kids included the likes of Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville & David Beckham, who went on to form the core of the Manchester United team that won 20 major trophy's over the next 15 years! 

A similar quote, while un-attributable, has been heard reasonably often around Wellington football fields over the last few years and that is "Declan (Edge) is great at developing kids, but he can't win anything with them". In his five seasons as coach at Western Suburbs they have finished 3rd, 2nd, 3rd & 4th, so you can see why people were saying this. The teams he has put out have consisted of players from the Ole Academy and have always been young. The average age of this team is 18 and they have proved the doubters wrong.

It's not just that they won the Central League with two games to spare and did it comprehensively thrashing a hapless Palmerston North Marist team 6-0. It's the manner in which they have done it this season. Playing some outstanding football, with a very quick possession based game, where they keep the ball moving. When they don't have the ball and are on defence, they have so many players getting behind the ball that it effectively smothers the  opposition attacks.
Wests players with the Central League trophy The JourneyFan

They have lost only once, a narrow 2-1 result way back on April 14th, away to their closest rivals for the title, Paul Ifill's Wairarapa United. When they played the return match, it was a match that whoever won would likely go on and win the title, Western Suburbs took no prisoners that day and demolished Wairarapa United 5-1.

They were up against bottom placed Palmerston North Marist, who don't really seem to fancy playing Wests. Of their 24 meetings Marist have won only five and conceded a huge 72 goals (before this game). It was another miserable day for them, topped of by the bad news that they were relegated after Lower Hutt City beat Wairarapa United 3-2.
Suburbs they played their usual fast paced game and had the Palmerston North Marist defence running around like a box of spilled jaffa's in their vain attempts to get close to the ball. It took them just 15 minutes to be 2-0 up with goals to Owen Parker-Price and the superb Elijah Just. It stayed that way until half time and it is probably a mark of Wests high standards that they have set this season that despite having probably around 90% of the possession that Stuff football journalist, Liam Hyslop, tweeted at half time complaining that they were nowhere near their best!

It took five minutes of the second half for Xavier Green to score this stunning goal

If Wests had sat back with the ball in the first half they relentlessly attacked the goal in the second  and it wasn't long before Callum McCowatt with two goals and Owen Parker-Price with a second made it 6-0 and the congratulatory tweets started coming in. I didn't have the means to get possession stats but would have guessed that they had somewhere in the region of 80-90%, I did count the shots though and they had 30 shots to PN Marist's 3!

One of the reservations raised by many was would Wests be able to keep it up until the end of the season, especially as they will lose some players to the US college system, but when you can bring the likes of Ihaia Delany and NZU20 international Noah Billingsley off the bench, they don't really have much issue with that at all.

Xavier Green and Callum McCowatt
Declan Edge and the Ole coaching team are producing some very talented and exciting kids who will have long futures in the game, which is great for Wests and NZ football in general. This has been a true team performance this year, they haven't just won the Central League but dominated it, which given they are younger and less experienced than most other teams is extremely impressive. While players like Elijah Just, Callum McCowatt and Xavier Green have probably got noticed a bit more thanks to their goals, players such as  Kyle Adams, Dalton Wilkins & captain Harry Edge have been just as outstanding in their roles. I don't envy Declan Edge having to make the choice for player of the year.

Names you will be hearing a lot about in the future of NZ Football

So it's big congratulations to Western Suburbs, but their season isn't over yet. Besides two Central League games to go they have a quarter final match in the Chatham Cup on Saturday against Bay Olympic of Auckland (Kick off 2pm at Endeavour Park), so they could be on for the double. So get along and see some of the most exciting talent in New Zealand.