This year’s Lotto NRFL first division is going to be as tight as it’s ever been, says veteran coach Paul Marshall, newly-appointed Director of Football at Onehunga Mangere United.
“I genuinely believe there’ll be eight or nine clubs all pushing for the top spots in the division. I’ve never known it to be more competitive,” he told Friends of Foootball.
Marshall has taken over from Australia-bound Brian Murphy as first-team coach for the Onehunga Mangere United side that won the division 2 title last season.
His arrival at Mangere Mountain follows the end of his three-year contract at Bay Olympic where he had helped prepare assistant Liam Mulrooney to take over.
“When last season finished, I was planning to take a year off.
“But over the summer, Onehunga Mangere United got in touch and explained their coach was moving to Australia.
“I was most impressed by the club’s people at committee and management level, and I caught up with a group of about eight senior players for a coffee and I was struck by their enthusiasm.”
Since arriving, Marshall’s squad have had three wins and a draw in pre-season, playing Manukau United, Northland, East Bays and Eastern Suburbs.
He tips Manukau to go well in this year’s Northern League and says East Coast Bays will be among the pack chasing the division one title.
United’s potent attack returns for 2022
United’s title last year was achieved through free-flowing football that produced 56 goals in 19 games, with Brazilian Gilberto Souza (24) and Afghani Osmin Rastagar (24) among the division’s top scorers.
Ukrainian Maksim Manko (32), a player with National League experience, added another goalscoring element to United’s potent attack.
All three have been retained for 2022 and Marshall says if they achieve the same goal rate as last year, his side will also be among the competition leaders.
“I have to say this team is the most close-knit group I’ve ever coached,” Marshall says. “And I’ve coached some good teams over the years.”
Marshall certainly has. He has coached at Auckland City, Three Kings United, Central United and Bay Olympic. He also had a spell as assistant coach at English club Portsmouth’s academy.
He took Central to a National League title in 2001 and led Three Kings to a Chatham Cup final.
Main photo: Marshall … vast experience as a coach. Photo: Shane Wenzlick/Phototek.
Significantly, he was last in Lotto NRFL’s first division in 2019 and coached Bay Olympic to promotion and a return to the top tier, now the Northern League.
Marshall: The clubs he expects to be in the title chase
Of this year’s first division, Marshall predicts the leaders will include:
- West Coast Rangers (“they’ve done some good recruitment”).
- Manurewa (“they’ve shown they’re serious, signing All White Monty Patterson and Horace James”).
- East Coast Bays (“they were top four last year and they looked good in pre-season”).
- Albany United (“they were a good side last year and they’ll be good again”).
- Mt Albert Ponsonby (“they’re always thereabouts”).
“There’s others too that’ll be in the mix.
“Another factor is that no one wants to risk going down with the changes to the second division next year.”
(In 2023, the Lotto NRFL second division will split into a northern and southern conference.)
Marshall says he’s particularly keen for the Mountain Men to perform well in 2022 as the club will be celebrating their 100-year anniversary — the anniversary was last year but the celebrations are a year late due to COVID-related delays.
“It’ll be a tough season but I’m excited by it.
“Our squad is fit and the players are really looking forward to the season.”