Andy Hedge can’t wait to start work after going appointed Head Coach of the Wellington Phoenix team that will play in the ASB Premiership.
“It’s a dream job for me,” Hedge said yesterday.
“A reserve team is vital for the Phoenix future success and I am delighted to be a part of it.
“Clubs need a second team to help bring on young players, but just as important is keeping the pros fresh when they aren’t in the first team for whatever reason.
“It is hard for them to keep match ready if they are just training or playing friendlies.
“They need to be playing for points and trying hard to prove to Ernie that they should be in the first team squad.”
Hedge observed a training session that involved professionals and young players yesterday and was impressed by what he saw.
“Established pros such as Vince Lia and Michael Boxall were happy to give the young ones a wrack up when needed, but just as willing to give them encouragement.”
From the London suburb of Harrow, Hedge has been in New Zealand for 13 years after spending a year in Sydney where a chance meeting with Miramar goalkeeper James Bannatyne led him across the Tasman.
“I’d known Jim a long time and had kept in touch so it was good to meet up with him in Sydney when he was there with the Football Kingz,” Hedge said.
“I was just about to go home to England but Jim said he could get me a game with Miramar.
“It was a case of being in the right place at the right time because I played for Miramar from 2002 to 2004 and won the national league with them.
“I went on to play for Team Wellington and became assistant player-coach to Mick Waitt, but I admit it was more coach than player most of the time!”
Hedge took over from Waitt as Football Development Manager at Capital Football before joining New Zealand Football as Talent Development Manager.
He will have an on-going role at New Zealand Football as part of the increasing relationship between the Wellington Phoenix and the national body.
Hedge will be assisted by Head Coach of the Wellington Phoenix Football Academy Jess Ibrom and WPFA Academy assistant coach Valerio Raccuglia.
Players for the team will be sourced from the Phoenix’ A-League side (up to 4), the Football School of Excellence and the Wellington Phoenix Football Academy.
Merrick will oversee the programme and Phoenix assistant coach Chris Greenacre will assist Hedge in setting the team up and putting Merrick’s programme in place.
New Zealand Football Community Director Cameron Mitchell says Hedge’s move into what is a important role with the Phoenix is a positive step.
“As Talent Development Manager for New Zealand Football, Andy has played a key role in shaping the pathway for our young players moving towards that level of the game,” Mitchell said.
“His appointment will ensure we’re able to maintain a strong link with the Phoenix which will help us continue to prepare the next generation of talented players for the challenge of professional football.”
Hedge will also remain available to work with New Zealand Football in continuing to facilitate and deliver coach education courses.
The team’s first game will be against Team Wellington on Sunday November 2 at Dave Farrington Park with a 3pm kickoff.