PREVIEW: Stats reveal the Northern League clubs making most use of U-20s

posted in: News, Northern League

By Jack Sharp

Football’s national body has released game stats that provide insight into the share of minutes being played in the Northern League by players U-20.

NZ Football’s data showed the teams “leading the way in giving playing time to U-20 talents” so far this season are:

Auckland United — 46%
Melville United — 44%
Tauranga City — 40%
Hamilton Wanderers — 33%

While those clubs can pride themselves on giving youth their chance, two things stand out:

  • Three of them are the only non-Auckland clubs in the competition.
  • Those three fill places in the bottom five on the table.

The Waikato clubs, Melville United and Hamilton Wanderers, lose key players every year, either to overseas or to main centres.

It’s become customary for the clubs to replace them with their next batch of youngsters coming through their academy programmes (which, by the way, they do well).

For several years, Tauranga City have built their senior teams around young players developed in their youth system.

The stats suggest that with the exception of Auckland United, other clubs from New Zealand’s biggest city rely on players over 20, and in terms of performance, they appear to be better off.

Tauranga City (light blue strip) … their squad includes a number of promising teenagers. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Game of the week

Click here to read the match programme.

Look to the foot of the table and you’ll see why Saturday’s match between East Coast Bays and Hamilton Wanderers has become a proverbial ‘six-pointer’, despite the fact the season is only four rounds old.

Bays and Wanderers are without wins, and whichever side loses this match will be stuck at the foot of the ladder.

Having won promotion to the Northern League last season, Bays might have expected a better start.

Instead, they’ve struggled to find goals, scoring only twice so far.

Wanderers have been outplayed in their last two games, facing stiff opposition in Auckland United and defending champions Auckland City.

Against City last weekend, a four-goal blitz in a 12-minute first-half spell had them reeling, and they lost 2-5 at home to the Aucklanders.

Bays might have nicked a point last weekend but for a dreadful finish to the game.

Scoreless with 10 minutes to go against Western Springs, Bays went down to 10 men when Moses Akimana was given a red card.

Springs hit them with a double sucker punch as wily Emiliano Tade scored twice in stoppage time, the second from the penalty spot, to take them into second place on the table.

Bays will be without the suspended Akimana against Wanderers.

Player to watch

Eber Ramirez. Photo credit: Manurewa AFC.

Argentinian winger Eber Ramirez (24) is the latest South American to make a big impression for Manurewa.

He arrived in time for the 2024 season, having previously played Sol de Mayo and CA Independiente, clubs in the third-tier of Argentine football, played in regional zones.

Ramirez struck a hat-trick for Rewa in their 7-1 drubbing of Melville United last weekend, giving him four goals from his first four competitive games in New Zealand.

He should find it tougher at Madills Farm when Rewa play Eastern Suburbs on Saturday, but over the past year, the South Aucklanders have shown a liking for attack-minded play.

When it comes off, Rewa can be most effective.

Bold prediction

Bay Olympic’s game against Birkenhead United shapes as an even affair with both sides having three wins from their opening rounds.

Birkenhead slipped up in their season opener, losing 3-2 to Western Springs, but since then have produced the form expected after the strengthening of their squad over summer.

I’ll tip them to get the better of this fixture, but only just. How about 2-1 to Birkenhead?

Last week I predicted Manurewa would beat Melville United by a two-goal margin. They won 7-1.


Games to be played on Friday April 12, 2024

West Coast Rangers v Auckland City
Fred Taylor Park, Whenuapai, 7.30pm

Games to be played on Saturday April 13, 2024

Northern League

Bay Olympic v Birkenhead United
Olympic Park, New Lynn, 3pm

Western Springs v Tauranga City
Seddon Fields, Westmere, 3pm

East Coast Bays v Hamilton Wanderers
Bay City Park, Browns Bay, 3pm

Eastern Suburbs v Manurewa
Madills Farm, St Heliers, 3pm

Melville United v Auckland United
Gower Park, Hamilton, 5pm

Jake Mechell. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Golden Boot

8 — Jake Mechell (Eastern Suburbs)
6 — Emiliano Tade (Western Springs), Jonty Bidois (Tauranga City)
4 — Eber Ramirez (Manurewa), Liam Gillion (Auckland City)
3 — Corban Piper (Birkenhead United), Jerson Lagos Giraldo (Manurewa), Joshua Tollervey (Auckland United)

Jack Sharp

Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football. He is standing in this week for our usual Northern League writer Jonno Ross.

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