Ipswich football entertainers receive top advice
FORMER international footballer Gary Wilkins has offered a sound piece of advice as Western Pride enter the state league finals for the first time.
"Just do what we've been doing,'' the loyal club patron said, having supported the men's side since it was admitted into the National Premier Leagues competition in 2013.
"They have proven themselves and they don't have to prove (what they have achieved) to anybody else.
"Just continue what they have been doing in the last half of the season.
"Even the start of the season they were a bit unlucky with five draws. Lady luck has turned the corner a bit.''
The high-flying Western Pride combination tackles Gold Coast in Saturday night's NPL Queensland semi-final showdown at Palm Beach.
Wilkins, a leading Queensland football administrator, is delighted to see the Ipswich-based club rewarded with its top team finishing third this season.
"It's pleasing to watch,'' the former Australian player and Queensland captain said.
But having been with the club since the start, Wilkins never doubted Pride's development program would yield rewards.
He acknowledged the dedication of people like general manager Pat Boyle, president Kym Wickstein and their committee for steering the club, well supported by a focused coaching team led by Graham Harvey.
"They are in there for one thing and that's the Pride,'' Wilkins said. "They deserve every success they get.
"When I first went there, I said it would take a couple of years and the fruits of sticking with the young ones and the excellent training that they have had is coming to fruition.
"It's gone really, really good.
"I did say we needed a couple of experienced players. In saying that, the boys that we got back from the Roar (like Cam Crestani, Harry Sawyer and Joe Duckworth) have filled the void.
"I'm really chuffed, I tell you.''
A feature of Pride's rise this season has been the skilful and entertaining style of football the men's team has showcased all season, especially remaining unbeaten since June.
"They are playing some fantastic football at the moment,'' said Wilkins, who also has a long association with A-League club Brisbane Roar.
"It reminds me when (Besart) Berisha first arrived at Roar, the football that we played was fast, attractive football and there was someone to finish off at the end.
"It's all because of the speed they are playing at.''
Pride head coach Harvey said his squad was ready to go, strengthened by having Jacob Minett and Jordan Lambi available to join the squad after recent injuries.
Although his team outlasted Gold Coast City 1-0 a fortnight ago, he was mindful of their ability having beaten Moreton Bay United 1-0 in the midweek FFA Cup match.
"Saturday is going to be a totally different game,'' Harvey said. "We have to be respectful of how good they've been.''
As a player, Wilkins led the Queensland team in 34 of his 35 matches between 1967 and 1974.
He represented Australia 22 times on his way to being chosen in Australian football's Hall of Fame.
After retiring as a player, Wilkins was a valuable official working with Lions and Brisbane Roar.
Now his focus is on helping the five-year-old Pride club continue its incredible progress.
He was also stoked to see Pride's under 18 boys side win the premiership this season, the first for the growing NPL club.
"I've seen a lot of their games this year and there are some wonderful young footballers in there . . . and this is what's needed at the club at that age group - the 20s, 18s - and the 16s aren't going too bad either,'' he said.
The match that lifted Pride to new level
FOOTBALL fanatic Gary Wilkins said one of his favourite games this season was Western Pride's 2-2 draw with Brisbane Strikers at Perry Park on May 27.
Pride scored a late goal to seal one of their spate of draws in the first half of the season.
"We were very, very unlucky to draw,'' Wilkins said. "That was some of the best football I've seen played by both sides.
"It looked like we were going to lose at 2-1 but we snuck a goal in the last minute.
"I said to the people (that night), 'if we continue to play like that, we'll make the finals and give them a shake'. And the boys have just continued on from there.''
Wilkins also watched Pride beat then-competition leaders Gold Coast City 1-0 in their clash a fortnight ago.
The teams clash in Saturday night's NPL semi-final.
With Pride coming off a comprehensive 8-0 win over Northern Fury, Wilkins urged the Pride players to avoid the physical confrontation style Gold Coast plays.
"It will be tough this week,'' he said. "They are a big, tough team this Gold Coast and they try to bully teams.''
That was shown in the recent clash where Coast players received six yellow cards compared to Pride's two. "Our boys just got on with the business,'' Wilkins said.
"It's going to be very hard (to beat Gold Coast again) but I'm confident.
"If they continue to play the way they are, it wouldn't surprise me at all if they win it.''
NPL semi-final: Saturday (7pm) - Western Pride (3rd) v Gold Coast City (2nd) at Duncan McKenna Field, Mallawa Complex.