Words: ACFC Media
Friday 23 July 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Albert Riera returns to Auckland City FC for the first time since taking up the reigns as West Coast Rangers FC coach but thats as far as the sentimentality will stretch when the teams meet tomorrow.
Riera was named OFC Champions League player of the tournament in 2011-12 and he won an impressive four OFC Champions Leagues, two ISPS Handa Premiership grand finals, five ISPS Handa Premiership league titles and two NZF Charity Cups during a trophy laden stay at Kiwitea Street.
But now the 37-year-old finds himself in a relegation dogfight with Northern Rovers and Manukau United as the Northern League seasons heads into the final stretch.
Rangers 2-0 win over Melville United lifted Riera's team off the bottom of the table for the first time this season and if they are to stay up then anything gleaned from a trip to Kiwitea Street will be gratefully received.
ACFC TV - The Kiwitea Street Experience— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) July 22, 2021
Come with us as we go behind the scenes with club stalwarts and players to gain some insight into the Kiwitea Street experience
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The last time the two sides met City devoured Rangers 4-0 at Fred Taylor Park but since Riera's appointment there has been a marked upturn in fortunes for the new club.
Coach Figueira understands the emotion of a club legend returning to his old stomping ground.
"It's a poignant afternoon because Albert is one of Kiwitea Street's most famous sons. His ability as a midfielder was second to none and he'll always be welcome here at Kiwitea Street.
"The last time we faced Rangers, Albert was in charge of their U-23s and has since taken control of first team matters and it is no surprise to see they have risen off the foot of the table for the first time this season and are breathing down the neck of Manukau United in tenth place.
"Rangers results have been very positive in recent times with a couple of eye-catching wins over Melville United and Western Springs which means we have to be on top of our game if we're to continue our own good run of form," Figueira said.
In U-23 action, the Navy Blues face a must win match against bottom of the table West Coast Rangers at the Croatian Cultural Society in Te Atatu at 12.00pm NZDT.
The Northern League match kicks off at 3.00pm NZDT at Kiwitea Street.
Saturday 24 July 2021
Auckland City FC v West Coast Rangers
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT
AC: 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Mario BILEN, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Reid DRAKE, 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 15. Aidan CAREY, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 19. Myer BEVAN, 20. Addison STEWART, 21. Ilham HAMEEDI, 22. Kristoff MULLER, 23. Alfie ROGERS, 24. Cam BROWN (GK).
COACH: José FIGUEIRA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GK COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
TEAM MANAGER: Keith COTON
S&C COACH: Adria CASALS
ANALYST: Jarrod WALLACE
ANALYST: Dan GORDON
Saturday 24 July 2021
Birkenhead United v North Shore United
Shepherds Park, Beach Haven - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT
Eastern Suburbs AFC v Manukau United
Madills Farm, Kohimarama - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT
Bay Olympic v Northern Rovers FC
Olympic Park, Auckland - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT
Auckland United FC v Hamilton Wanderers
Keith Hay Park, Mount Roskill - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT
Western Springs v Melville United
Seddon Fields, West Auckland - kick-off: 5.30pm NZDT
ABOUT WEST COAST RANGERS
West Coast Rangers was formed through an alliance between Norwest United and Waitakere City. Norwest United's record in Northern League football was modest with just three seasons spent in the senior ranks in 1992, 1993 and 1995. United finished fourth in the Northern League Fourth Division in 1993 bookended by a seventh and sixth place finish respectively. The senior partner in the relationship made a massive impact on New Zealand Football history with Waitakere City winning the National League in 1990, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1997. City also won the Chatham Cup in 1994, 1995, 1996 and achieved a runners-up finish in 1999, 2004, 2013 and 2016. City's Northern League title roll call reads impressively with two Northern League First Division titles in 2002 and 2016, a Third Division title in 1994 and a Fourth in 1993.
THE WEST COAST RANGERS STORY
West Coast Rangers was formed by two well-established community clubs that have a rich history of delivering quality football at all levels. However, operating sporting clubs in New Zealand has become increasingly challenging. The time and cost associated with compliance and administrative activities has increased, competition for players with other sports and activities in the Auckland region and nationally continues to grow, and volunteers who are vital to the operation of any club are hard to attract, retain and to manage. In addition, Covid-19 has brought and will continue to bring challenges, and it is anticipated that sponsor and grant revenue will be more challenged in the short to medium term, impacting on the financial and operational sustainability of clubs and others in New Zealand.
v. West Coast Rangers FC (A) won 4-0 (Addison STEWART, Joshua ARMITT OG, Angus KILKOLLY, Yousif AL-KALISY
v. Western Springs (H) lost 1-5 (Ben HUTTER)
v. North Shore United (H) lost 0-3*
v. Birkenhead United (H) lost 0-4
v. Melville United (A) lost 0-3
v. Auckland City FC (H) lost 0-4
v. Auckland United FC (A) lost 1-4 (Kwame NORKU)
v. Bay Olympic (H) drew 3-3 (Ignacio MACHUCA, Josh JONES, Kwame NORKU)
v. Manukau United (A) lost 2-3 (Ryan CLARKE 2)
v. Northern Rovers (H) won 3-2 (Jason HICKS 2, Kwame NORKU)
v. Hamilton Wanderers (A) drew 2-2 (Jason HICKS, Ben GALLAGHER)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) lost 0-4
v. Ngaruawahia United (A) lost 1-2 (Ignacio MACHUCA) - CHATHAM CUP
v. Western Springs (A) won 2-1 (Kwame NORKU, Ben GALLAGHER)
v. North Shore United (A) lost 1-4 (Ignacio MACHUCA)
v. Birkenhead United (A) lost 1-3 (Joshua ARMITT)
v. Melville United (H) won 2-0 (Kwame NORKU, Joshua ARMITT)
*Fielded an ineligible player
PLAYER TO WATCH - Kwame Norku
23 year old Kwame Norku has caught the eye in the second half of the season with five goals to his name. A well-travelled striker, Norku has previously played for Eastern Suburbs AFC, Western Springs, Team Wellington, Western Springs and Waterside Karori.
KIWITEA STREET CONNECTION
Apart from head coach Albert Riera and assistant coach Angel Berlanga, West Coast Rangers feature several former Navy Blues in goalkeeper Luca Taylor, Kwame Norku, Jason Hicks and Ben Gallagher. Josh Jones is another former National Youth League player who featured for the Junior Navy Blues.