Christchurch United giving next generation golden opportunities

RISING STARS The Christchurch United Academy Under 13 team who won both the Mainland Football Premier League and the Christchurch International Cup. Photo: Christchurch United

Christchurch United FC Academy has had an unprecedented run of success with their under-13, under-14 and under-15 teams all claiming Mainland Football championships in premier divisions.

The success of the academy’s teams has been an affirmation of the player development work. The professional coaches at Christchurch United have made this a priority over the past six seasons at the state-of-the-art Christchurch Football Centre in Yaldhurst.

Academy director Colin Williamson said the investment in quality coaching is really starting to pay off. This investment was initially made through the Christchurch Football Academy and then the Christchurch United Football Club after the two merged in 2016.

“Our club president Slava Meyn started the academy programme back in 2014 to develop the best possible players for New Zealand Football. And their individual and team success at the local level is a sign that we are on the right track,” said Williamson.

The Dutch coach arrived at the start of the current season after a long career as an academy coach with professional clubs like PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands. He has further improved the structures and planning of development programmes for Christchurch United’s players and coaches.

Williamson works closely with Christchurch United first team coach Fernando Lambert, and both coaches also look after one of the academy teams.

Williamson said the basis of each team’s success has been the technical and tactical development of players.

The under-13 and under-10 teams recently won the Christchurch International Cup and the success has not gone unnoticed.

“We are being approached for several tournaments in New Zealand and abroad, so it will be good for our teams to challenge themselves against other clubs as well,” Williamson said.

The under-13 side will play in a high-calibre Auckland tournament next month.

Two older Christchurch United
players have already been exposed to overseas experience, with 17-year-old Riley Caswell and Hamish Cooper spending time with Australian club Sydney FC.

Caswell received glowing reviews after his week with the club’s first team, while Cooper is currently training with the Sydney FC Academy.

Williamson is pleased Christchurch United can offer players opportunities that may not have been available a few years ago.

“And then it is up to the players to take those opportunities. Our academy can prepare the players the best we can, but it will be fascinating to see how many of these youngsters will be able to push on and represent Canterbury and New Zealand in the future.”