Even in Hong Kong, Ipswich's final teams backed
WESTERN Pride's talent-rich youth sides have received some welcome encouragement from a familiar ally, now enjoying success in Hong Kong.
Former head coach Graham Harvey was happy to cheer on Pride's under-20 and under-18 teams he previously oversaw as they prepare for Saturday's National Premier Leagues grand finals.
Pride's under 18s tackle competition leaders Brisbane City at 2pm before the Ipswich club's under-20 side face the same opponents at the same Newmarket venue at 5.30pm.
Both Pride teams finished the season in the top three and advanced to Saturday's grand finals after tenacious victories over Brisbane Roar teams last weekend.
"I sincerely hope that the hard work and dedication of the players is recognised by the wider Ipswich community and from those within Western Pride itself this week as it is a truly remarkable achievement by such a young club and continues another record-breaking year,'' Harvey said.
"Throughout the program there are numerous examples of young players being given the opportunity to play up at higher levels and experience new challenges. Rather than recruit and spend large amounts of money mid-season, Pride continued the ethos of promoting within which is firmly what the NPL should be for.
"Given the continued constraints facing this group of players and staff both internally and externally I think they deserve huge credit for how the season has gone. It also goes to highlight how the senior program culture is driven by the players themselves guided by hard working committed staff members. Their grit and resilience to adversity has been quite pleasing to view from afar.''
Last year's grand final-winning coach praised two men he mentored - Reggie Davani and Jordan Manning - for their outstanding efforts since he began his coaching role in Hong Kong in June. Harvey had three memorable seasons at Pride before accepting his international opportunity with Eastern FC in the Hong Kong Premier League.
"I think the achievements of Reggie, Jordan the other staff and players in the senior program is nothing short of exceptional,'' Harvey said.
"Pride are the only team in the NPL to have all three senior teams make the finals (the club's top side lost 2-1 to Olympic in last Sunday's semi-final).
"I believe Reggie deserves considerable recognition for taking on the head coach role mid-season in trying circumstances. He has shown that he has the potential to develop into an elite coach at the higher level.
"Huge credit goes to the first team and senior players within that group for how they responded mid-season and stepped up in leadership roles but also showed how their game understanding has developed over the past two seasons.''
Harvey said Western Pride have a future professional coach in Manning.
"They (Pride) should be doing everything in their power to keep a young astute coach involved for next season and beyond,'' he said.
"Jordan is organised, professional and methodical in his work, which are fantastic attributes to have at his young age as a coach. He not only coached the U18s to the premiership last season he has now coached a far more challenging group this season to a grand final. Not bad in two seasons as a senior coach.
"Anyone who doubts or questions this kid's ability as a coach will be watching TV in 20 years time with a tinge of embarrassment when they see him in the A-League.''
As for his first-season stint in Hong Kong, Harvey has settled in well.
"Things are going great in Hong Kong,''' he said. "I am thoroughly enjoying my work and being back in a full-time environment and I am delivering coaching in all sessions which is great.
"The club has been magnificent in how they have assisted my transition between countries (particularly the coaching staff), very professional, diligent and caring so I am very happy.
"Sessions are of a high standard and we enjoyed a very successful pre season going undefeated during games in Hong Kong and our tours of China and Korea.''
As for the language barrier, Harvey said he was learning Cantonese.
"Sessions are delivered in both English and Cantonese as many of the staff and players speak both,'' the former teacher said.
"Another interesting dynamic is some of the Brazilian players have limited English so often coaching points and conversations are translated from English to Portugese by other Brazilian players.''
Eastern FC started the season with a last-minute win last Sunday.
"So that was an experience but good to get three points on the board,'' Harvey said.
"I wish all players and staff in the U18s and U20s the very best at the weekend and I will be watching with interest in Hong Kong.
"Finally, for the senior boys particularly, thanks for the journey.
"Diamonds are forever.''
NPL U18 grand final: Saturday (2pm) - Western Pride v Brisbane City at Newmarket.
NPL U20 grand final: Saturday (5.30pm) - Western Pride v Brisbane City at Newmarket.