Golden Boot winner Derek Tieku returns to Wanderers in time for season opener

Northern League’s Golden Boot winner Derek Tieku has re-joined Hamilton Wanderers after playing only 24 minutes of competitive football for Wellington Olympic.

The 28-year-old striker transferred to Olympic ahead of this month’s two-legged OFC Champions League national play-off against Auckland City.

But after making one appearance, off Olympic’s subs’ bench 66 minutes into the first leg, the former Crystal Palace U-21 player has committed to Waikato side Wanderers ahead of the new Northern League season that starts on Saturday with a trip to face newly-promoted West Coast Rangers at Fred Taylor Park.

Olympic lost the play-off series to Auckland City, 6-4 on aggregate.

Main photo: Derek Tieku playing for Wanderers against Western Springs.Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

READ MORE: Northern League Golden Boot winner leaves Hamilton to join Wellington Olympic >>>>

READ MORE: Fixtures revealed for new Northern League season >>>>

Tieku has been named as Wanderers’ captain — a role he had last season — in the club’s announcement for this year’s squad.

Hinds: ‘A unique, special talent’

Head coach Joe Hinds says Tieku is a “unique, special talent who inspires not only the young players at the club but the community too.”

Of the player who has scored 67 goals in 123 games for Wanderers, Hinds says: “We look forward to seeing him close down the record as the club’s highest-ever goal scorer.”

Vice-captain and goalkeeper Matt Oliver has also re-signed for Wanderers, with 178 appearances for the club.

Hinds: “He’s so important to the way we like to play, he’s enjoying his football and he’s leader on and off the pitch.”

Sergio Sendra makes return to squad

Wanderers have also confirmed the emotional return to their first-team squad of Spaniard Sergio Sendra.

In the 2022 pre-season, Sendra (27) was diagnosed with cancer.

After chemotherapy treatment in Spain, he has returned for the new season.

READ MORE: Wanderers’ player set to make comeback after recovery from cancer >>>>

Meanwhile, Wanderers have confirmed the re-signings of four players who have made more than 400 first team appearances between them.

Wideman Mark Jones, with 165 appearances, returns with Xavier Pratt (157 games), Jordan Lamb (59 games) and Brock Messenger (33 games).

Pratt and Messenger, and teammate Aaron Bayliss, spent their off-season on a project to raise awareness of mental health issues, and to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation.

The trio spent Labour Weekend making 38 treks to the summit of Mt Manganui in 24 hours — the equivalent of climbing Mt Everest.

Their efforts raised $13,500 for the charity.

READ MORE: Hamilton Wanderers players on track to take charity effort to new peaks >>>>

More football stories