By James Ward
Valentine FC are ready to cast aside the memory of couple of disappointing seasons after a strong recruitment drive that has led to optimism they can fight for a finals place in 2020.
Valentine finished 10th in 2019 but wasted no time in identifying key targets for 2020.
The main aim was to improve their defence that leaked a competition-high 60 goals last year.
The signings of experienced goalkeeper Danny Ireland and former A-League player Adam Hughes are a huge plus for Valentine’s back line.
Along with the return of local juniors Alex Read and Harry Lane, the Phoenix now believe they have a side equipped to fight it out among the best in the league.
Coaches Darren Sills and Sam Griffin have formed an integral partnership and will look to bring the best out of their side that finished 2019 positively and almost qualified for the FFA Cup round of 32.
The Phoenix narrowly avoided the wooden spoon last year with only three wins to their name. But the ambition of the club is to rise up the league and challenge for the prestigious finals spots.
Valentine last featured in the grand final in 2009, while their 2017 finish of fifth was their best result in recent years. A season along the same lines would please all those involved with the orange and navy.
“The squad is looking decent. They’ve recruited really well and the team is at a decent level,” Hughes said.
“That’s what Darren and Sam spoke about from the start, in that it was important to start building from the back again, considering the amount of goals they conceded the year before. And we’ve worked on a few different shapes to minimise the goals against.
“We’ll be going out to win every game and from the word go we’ll be giving it everything we have and working hard to achieve the results.”
After enduring the tough years, Valentine now look ready to push up the ladder.
The signings of Ireland, Hughes, Read, Minors and Lane are a massive statement of intent and a top five finish is the requirement of the club. With the amount of players coming in, Valentine will need to find fluency and consistency quickly but expect them to improve on last year’s finish.
Coach: Darren Sills and Sam Griffin
Captain: Adam Hughes
Last Season: 10th
Ins: Adam Hughes (Charlestown Azzurri), Alex Read (Maitland), Dain Greentree, Daniel Minors, Harry Lane (Lake Macquarie), Danny Ireland (year off), Fortia Munts (United States)
Outs: Aaron Niyonkuru (Weston), Brenton Olzomer (Berkeley Vale), Brock Oakley, Kaelen Burke, Luke Willard (Wallsend), Matt Paul, Perry Budden (Warners Bay)