Otago United has completed another difficult season,
winning just two of its 14 games in the ASB Premiership.
Long-serving Otago Daily Times football writer
Rab Smith offers his thoughts on the campaign and the
Otago United continued its downward slip this season. In the
past three years, it has dropped from fifth in 2010-11, to
sixth in 2011-12 and seventh in 2012-13.
Within that decline there have been moments of optimism but,
apart from some individual performances in some games, it's
been hard to enjoy a season that earned only two wins, and
did not produce a single win at home for Dunedin spectators
There were significant player losses - Harley Rodeka and
Tristan Prattley headed north - and the leg fracture that
finished striker Aaron Burgess' season did not help. Those
major happenings were closely followed by a string of
injuries to many squad members.
Even Otago's emerging star, Joel Stevens, matched the ups and
downs of his team. He made the Junior All Whites team for the
Oceania championship in Fiji, yet was absent towards the end
due to a shoulder injury that might have cost him his
If history is repeated, Stevens also will follow the
well-worn path northwards, to better his football career. The
drain just worsens Otago's depth of players and, unless
something positive is done to recruit some experience, it is
likely Otago's downward spiral will continue.
Craig Ferguson is a good example of an experienced, tough and
skilful player who can improve the emerging youngsters around
him. He was recruited by Southland, along with Barry
Gardiner, and both Scots have performed well.
Gardiner is now a staff coach in Invercargill, which has
former All White Ken Cresswell coaching, and some years ago
imported John Herdman, who went on to become New Zealand
director of football before moving to Canada, where he is the
national women's coach. Otago has been less proactive. Only
Caversham, locally, has attracted some top players to give
balance to that club's youngsters, and has enjoyed success in
The Otago United team is full of promise, but a theme has
emerged of conceding early goals - sometimes in bunches.
Then, when there is no alternative, Otago plays its best
football, chasing the game, and sometimes playing in exciting
fashion, only to eventually concede more goals as the team
Regan Coldicott's six goals this season made him a threat,
which the opposition soon recognised and nullified. During
the past three years, Otago has scored an average of 15
goals, barely more than one per game in the 14-round ASB
Premiership. The team conceded 40 goals this season, an
average of nearly three per game.
So Otago has two choices. It can sit on its hands, and hope
for the odd good player to turn up - probably a scarfie
heading south - or it can launch a serious recruiting
campaign towards the UK, or Australia, or even in Auckland,
where there are more players than teams available.
We may have to run hard to stand still in the South, but now
it's time to generate a sprint, or else.