DANNY Verdun has thrown down the gauntlet to opposition clubs in State 2 South-East declaring that Peninsula Strikers will win the championship next season.
Recently appointed as head coach of the Centenary Park club Verdun addressed an audience of mainly current and prospective players last Thursday evening at Strikers’ home ground.
Over 70 people attended and listened intently as Verdun told them what he expected from his players.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are or your output as a footballer this is all about the attitude you bring to this club,” Verdun said.
“If the attitude and hunger is not there, if the desire is not there along with the discipline to do the job that this club deserves – these are the most important things I want to get through to you tonight and this is what the club expects from you.”
Verdun touched on his own migrant experience after coming to Australia from his native Uruguay to emphasise the importance of persistence in the face of adversity and the link between hard work and success.
He then outlined his aims for next season.
“This club is going to win this league next year,” he said.
“I’ve had people come up to me at the end of a season and pat me on the back for finishing third and I’m telling you I can’t stand that.
“We’re here to win.”
There is no doubt that Verdun and assistant Neil Standish who also spoke at the meeting will bring a core group of players with them from previous club Knox City and if they can retain the bulk of Strikers’ 2018 squad then Verdun’s target is realistic.
Strikers’ Players’ Player of the Year Alex Van Heerwarden and forward John Prescott have been linked with Langwarrin.
Prescott was at Thursday’s meeting while Van Heerwarden was on holiday.
Strikers recently made major changes off the field with Trevor Johnston stepping down as president and being replaced by Marty Sutherland, a 40-year-old who hails from Inverness in Scotland.
Sutherland played with famous Highland League club Forres Mechanics and has been with Strikers for seven years.
Johnston led the club for two years wiping out its debt and eventually forging a good relationship with Strikers’ junior wing and Sutherland plans to build on Johnston’s achievements.
“I wanted to carry on the good work that Trevor has done and to continue his legacy,” Sutherland said.
“That’s really important especially with the juniors coming in.”
Evidence of the now positive relationship between Strikers’ senior and junior clubs is the presence of seven members from the juniors on Sutherland’s 15-strong committee including junior president Adrian Scalpi.
“It’s really important to continue to work with the juniors and we want our reserve team to be an under-23 side,” Sutherland added.
He also wants to end the coaching instability that has plagued the club in recent times.
Verdun is Strikers’ eighth senior coach in just over 12 months following in the footsteps of Craig Lewis, Billy Buchanan, Willie Raines, Andy O’Dell, Jamie Paterson, Lenny Greenan and Jamie Skelly.
The club also has had to cope with a large player turnover.
“I think we used 47 players last season and we don’t want to go through that again,” Sutherland said.
Verdun’s first session as head coach will be on Tuesday 11 December at Centenary Park.
There will be a break over Christmas and New Year before pre-season resumes on Tuesday 8 January four days before the first of a series of pre-season games all at home.
In NPL2 Langwarrin continues to build an imposing senior squad for 2019 with news that Springvale White Eagles’ top scorer for the past three seasons, Damir Stoilovic, has agreed to join the Lawton Park outfit.
The 21-year-old has scored 35 goals in three seasons and in 2016 was named NPL2 Young Player of the Year.
“Damir has been of interest for some time and I watched him on numerous occasions towards the end of the season,” Langwarrin head coach Scott Miller said.
“He’ll provide the squad with further quality and depth and more importantly a real balance in our attacking midfield options.”
Stoilovic and other recent signings David Stirton, Luis Covarrubias and Jordan Templin are evidence of a new-look senior squad with much improved strikepower as Langwarrin targets a top six finish in NPL2 which would maintain its second-tier status when the elite competition is restructured for the 2020 season.
And you can expect more new signings to arrive at Lawton Park.
Meanwhile Langwarrin under-16s head coach Doug Hodgson has recently returned from a business trip to the UK and has arranged a series of tour matches for his squad in England next year.
Hodgson is a former Sheffield United defender and was the first Australian to move into management at a professional club in England during his stint as The Blades reserves manager.
He has arranged games against Wolves, Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United and is hoping to add a match against Watford to the itinerary.
In NPLW news Southern United announced last week that physiotherapist Anna Trnka would again work with the players after assisting them with running retraining and sports injury management throughout the 2018 season.
Trnka has been part of the Back in Motion Patterson Lakes team since February 2017 after moving to Melbourne from country Victoria.
She competed as an elite cross-country skier for nine years before retiring in 2015 having represented Australia at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy (2013) and in Falun, Sweden (2015).
Trnka’s focus is on active rehabilitation and exercise therapy to help players eliminate pain, prevent injury and enhance performance and her special physiotherapy interests include running assessments, injury prevention screening and Pilates.
In State 3 South-East news Frankston Pines announced the re-signing of Lewis Potter and Luke Murray last week.
Potter, 29, has been with Leicester City’s academy squad and has played with Langwarrin and Strikers.
He can play at the back or in midfield.
“I’m delighted we have retained Lewis for 2019,” senior coach Kevin “Squizzy” Taylor said.
“He will be important for us both as a player and as a role model for the younger players we have brought in.
“He’s an experienced footballer with good technique who likes to keep the ball on the deck.”
Murray, 23, is a former Peninsula Strikers and Seaford United player who has played at the back, in midfield and up front at Monterey Reserve.
He had spells with South Melbourne and Dandenong Thunder as a junior player.
“Luke is a dynamic, technically skilled player who can play in a number of positions and he’ll prove his worth during the season,” Taylor said.
Murray is convinced that Pines can bounce straight back after the disappointment of being relegated from State 2 South-East last season.
“There’s no way I could leave after we went down and I want to win the league with Pines next year,” Murray said.
“I think having ‘Squizzy’ in charge and with the new players he’s bringing in it might be just what the club needed.”
Pines also confirmed last week that former president Gary Hodgson and wife Pip, who had served as club treasurer, had been granted life membership.
“Both Gary and Pip have worked tirelessly over many years to ensure the club not only survived but were instrumental in gaining approval for the new $3.8 million new clubrooms that will be built at Monterey Reserve,” president Steve Spencer said.
“This is a very small way that the club can repay Gary and Pip for everything they have done and achieved over the years.”
However one of the downsides of the Hodgsons stepping down from the committee is the increasing likelihood that their son, CJ, has played his last game for Pines.
The 25-year-old has played in most outfield positions at Monterey Reserve and has even played in goal but he is due to meet with Doveton officials this week.
In an off-season story published in these pages late last year Hodgson said he’d be at Pines as long as his parents were involved which gives newly promoted State 1 South-East outfit Doveton a second-to-none chance to get its man.