Ignore the critics: Pride’s young guns need loyal support
FROM a season laced with frustration and recent unfair criticism, Western Pride coach Andrew Catton leaves with a measure of satisfaction.
He is aptly proud of his young players while also knowing the immense challenges they faced each week in this year's disrupted Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL) season.
After a painful 7-0 loss to competition frontrunners Logan, Pride's patched-up but ever-enthusiastic side swamped Souths United 7-1 in their final game.
Catton is standing aside next season with a baby on the way. However, Saturday night's win was another example of what his side of all but one under-20 player can achieve.
"It's a testament to them that they come out and produce that last night because it would have been really easy to drop their bundle after last week,'' he said.
Among the most pleasing aspects was teenage goalkeeper Joshua Boyle becoming the latest in the Pride young brigade to make his senior team debut.
Boyle came on with about 15 minutes to go after regular custodian Jace Hudson left the field with a side strain having played cricket that afternoon.
Footballers like Boyle are Pride's future. He is the first player to come through the Ipswich club's SAP program and make his senior debut.
His 79th minute appearance followed the previous week where the under-18 premiership-winning goalkeeper got to sit on the senior team bench for the first time.
Having last year trialled with A-League club, the Central Coast Mariners, Boyle represents the outstanding development work being done at Western Pride.
He is the latest of more than 10 under-20 players Catton has injected into his side this year.
In his first season as head coach, Catton supported all the young guns having worked with some at Ipswich Grammar School and noted the incredible potential in the others.
That's why he felt annoyed at what some keyboard warriors had to say after last week's hefty defeat.
"I've been a bit frustrated this week because I've seen a few things on social media and stuff that people have written, that allegedly support the club, and say that big change is required and these players aren't good enough,'' Catton said.
"They are good enough. They've just got to keep improving.
"They still need another year or two and there's going to be some very good players in this group.''
The way the Pride youngsters bounced back on Saturday night highlighted their determination.
"It was actually a very good performance, which was good,'' Catton said.
"They are young players.
"They want to prove that they belong at this level but they're going to have ups and downs and when there's no senior players available, there are going to be more ups and downs.
"It's never been more obvious than the last month when we've been without all our senior players.''
Catton was adamant the current group of players could achieve anything if they stick together like Pride's 2017 grand final-winning combination did under former coach Graham Harvey.
"There doesn't need to be massive changes,'' he said, defending his players.
"There just needs to be a bit of patience with them.
"It's no different to what Graham did a few years ago with the patience he showed in those players.
"The building blocks are in place. They've just got to have patience and belief shown in them and they will be okay.''
Golden Boot birthday boy
As Pride can take heart from his youth development, there was another shining moment in Saturday night's win at Wakerley Park.
Japanese recruit Yuta Hirayama was almost certain to win the FQPL Golden Boot award after scoring four goals against Souths United.
Celebrating his birthday, the speedster netted a hat-trick before halftime, adding another after the break to lift his season tally to 16.
Logan's Adam Edgar, on 13 goals, was the only player able to match or leapfrog Hirayama's feat in his team's final game against Mitchelton.
To win the Golden Boot is a major achievement for Western Pride, capitalising on the efforts of past players like current A-League striker Dylan Wenzel-Halls.
"He brings something different. He's dangerous in front of goal,'' Catton said.
"He's got to add a few other little things to his game as he develops but he is certainly fast and adds plenty in front of goal.''
Catton said he could have scored another hat-trick on Saturday night except for being replaced to give a teammate some game time.
Jackson Bray's 67th minute goal was the senior team's 400th since the club was founded for the 2013 season.
Pride finished the season in seventh place having been relegated from the National Premier Leagues competition last year.
"I'm at peace and comfortable with my decision,'' Catton said, after his final game as coach.
"There are a lot of good learning moments and a lot of good development opportunities last night.
"I'm just glad they finished on a positive note.
"That was the message before the game - to go home happy. Go into the break happy.
"I think most of them want to stick together.''
FQPL: Western Pride 7 (Yuta Hirayama 4, Will Orford, Nathan Yoon, Jackson Bray) def Souths United 1.