Southern Utd youths clear pathway to national league

A tough trip away will kick off the summer season for the region's top young footballers.

Southern United heads to Auckland tomorrow to play Eastern Suburbs in its national youth league opener.

The league acts as a stepping stone to the national premiership.

Each side in the premiership has a youth team comprising players aged from 15 and 19.

For Southern, this year's squad is a young one, notably including four 15-year-olds.

Its aim is to fill the development void between the Southern United academy, which finishes at 16, and the men's team.

New head coach Terry Boylan, who is also the assistant coach of the senior side, said education was a key focus.

Things such as preparation, eating and sleeping were all important to learn, alongside the on-field intensity requirements of playing national league football.

The side had been training before the men's team and several youth players had opportunities to train with the senior squad.

That was a reward for training well and it gave the young players a taste of what was required at the higher level.

The goal was to have those players progress to the men's team.

"It gives them that opportunity and that pathway; there is a clear pathway there," Boylan said.

"It's great for the young players and it's great for the men as well.

"The buzz around the camp is great, because we're all training in the same environment.

"The young guys see there's no egos. It's about hard work and it's about reward."

The side has a tough task tomorrow and is carrying several injuries heading into its season-opener.

Despite that, it managed a respectable 3-1 result against the Southern men's team in a pre-season match in Wanaka last weekend.

It is the first year the side has been coached by Boylan, who is joined by assistants Cam McPhail and Harley Rodeka.

He is enjoying the role and his experience of being assistant coach of the senior team means he knew where the players needed to get to.

"It's great. It's different but it's rewarding too.

"They're all young lads and they've all got aspirations.

"Being a local lad myself, I played for Otago United, and Harley and Cam have played for Southern, it's nice to see a pathway for coaches there too.

"We're all keen as mustard, we're all happy and its just having a good team environment."

Tomorrow's game kicks off at 2pm.

Southern United Youth squad

Stewart Catto, Thomas Poole, Tim O’Farrell, Rory Findlay, Aaron Allan, Jed Collins, George Bates, Jak Stephenson, Shay Thom, Alex Cox, Joe Carvell, Kayde Hollebon, Sam Cosgrove, Victor Pekkari, Rhys Quarrell, Matt Milton, Charlie Gruppelaar, Cam Anderson, Adam Hewson, Johnny Woodall, Oliver Colloty, Will Turner, Luke McKay. 

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