Words: ACFC Media
Monday 12 October 2020
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC coach Jose Figueira can't wait to hit the ground running as the draw for the ISPS Handa Men's Premiership was announced by New Zealand Football today.
Figueira, who guided the club to a Premiership and Charity Cup double in a Covid-19 affected campaign last March, returned to training last week with the Navy Blues squad.
"There's always an exciting feeling around a new season starting and the opening match to the season. For us its great to kick off the season with a great fixture against our local rivals Eastern Suburbs.
"Its an interesting draw and for obvious reasons slightly different to previous campaigns what with their being two less teams and four less regular season games so for us we're really focused on hitting the ground running.
"The mood in the camp is great. We've been back together a week already now and in all honesty its as if we've never been away. The players have got a real sense of excitement," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
INTERVIEW - Jose Figueira eager to hit ground running— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) October 12, 2020
Figueira discusses transfers in & out as #NavyBlues open up the new season where we left off with the last - a #Lilywhites #GridlockDerby.
https://t.co/j0cLmuw8ct (full interview here) pic.twitter.com/2xq4K4wMTu
The impact of Covid-19 means the ISPS Handa Men's Premiership season will be truncated with Tasman United and Southern United falling in behind Canterbury United Dragons meaning the league becomes an eight team competition with just 14 regular season games before a one-off semi-final and one-off final.
Figueira acknowledged the shortened campaign but highlighted the enthusiasm bubbling through the Auckland City FC ranks.
"Everything that 2020 has brought us and continues to bring us certainly in a Covid-19 climate has had a massive impact on football and across sport so its a fantastic feeling to be back in action and back on the grass with the players," he said.
With travel restrictions in and out of most countries and the requirement for expensive quarantine protocols player movement at the club has been limited with most of last season's squad returning.
But Figueira said he expects there to be one or two changes of personnel on the way.
"As with any season and certainly our competition there's always a little bit of movement from season to season.
The draw is out for the 2020/2021 @ISPSHanda Men’s Premiership...— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) October 12, 2020
"For us there will certainly be at least one significant departure from the squad but the wheels are already well in motion to address that and bring a replacement in which will be looking to announce very shortly," he said.
Auckland City FC kicks off its ISPS Handa Premiership campaign on November 15 with a Gridlock Derby against Eastern Suburbs AFC.
Sun 15 Nov 2020, Kiwitea St, Kick-off: 4pm