Jose Figueira’s first season in charge of Team Wellington has been captivating.
The season did not start too flash. Coming off a short pre-season, Team Wellington struggled to find their rhythm early on. The first game was a disappointing 0-4 loss to Auckland City followed by a narrow loss to the Phoenix reserves.
The turning point came against Hawkes Bay United. In this game, Team Wellington started to develop a deadly counter-attack in a 4-2 victory. As the season progressed; the likes of Andy Bevin, Joel Stevens and Tom Jackson came into their own.
Team Wellington now sit pretty on top of the table and hold a seven-match unbeaten record. Figueira is delighted with his team’s performances particularly on attack.
“I think one of the main areas (I am happy with) is our attack. I think we are quite an exciting team to watch. Obviously the game on the weekend showed how entertaining we can be, although it’s not good for the heartrate!”
Figueira is certainly not wrong. At times, his team have been breathtaking on attack.
Who could forget the comeback against Hamilton Wanderers at Newtown Park, where his team recovered from being 0-2 down to win 5-2?
Equally memorable was Joel Steven’s moment of brilliance, where he beat multiple defenders and sent a 30-yard bullet to the top-corner of the net in the same game.
Despite their excellent performances, as always there are areas to work on.
“I think we can work on maintaining concentration in order to control the ball and the tempo of the game a little bit more” Figueira said.
“As a team, I don’t think we are quite their mentally yet with regards to our ability to dictate a game for 90 minutes”
Figueira is not taking the team’s position on the ladder for granted. The Stirling Sports Premiership has been extremely competitive and this is something he is acutely aware of.
“It’s nice to go into the break sitting on top of the tree. At the same time, we know by looking at the table how close the league is. I don’t think any coach would be very wise trying to predict the final standings this early in the piece”
Figueira believes it is important his players disconnect from football over the Christmas break. The club are planning a mid-season get together for players and their partners.
This leads to the obvious question: “Who is the ‘life of the party’ at Team Wellington?”
“I don’t think many of us would admit it, but we have probably missed Ben Harris’s energy and banter around the place! (since leaving to the U.K for his brother’s wedding)
“Young Niko Kirwan also seems to be either creating or being at the centre of jokes. He is definitely a bit of a character”
Figueira also believes the injection of players from Argentina and Chile have added an extra dimension to his team off the field.
“There is quite a cool little group of South Americans in our team. They’re blending in really well with everybody and bringing a unique way of life with the way they eat, their music and culture”
Figueira shared his unofficial views on his team’s best performances so far this season:
Best individual moment: Joel Steven’s 31st minute “rocket” strike against Hamilton Wanderers, Round 4, Newtown Park.
Best individual performance: Tom Jackson- as joint leading goal-scorer following his recovery from serious concussion.
Most improved player: Taylor Schrijvers.
Best team performance: 2-1 away victory against Tasman United in Round 8.