PGFC Academy Preview: First Team in a good place ahead of NPL WA season-opener

Head Coach, John Walmsley, believes that his PGFC Academy First Team are in a good place heading into Saturday’s 2024 NPL WA season-opener against Inglewood United at Inglewood Stadium (kick-off at 3pm).

The youngsters warmed up for the new campaign by finishing the Night Series tournament with back-to-back victories which came close to securing them a place in the semi-finals.

And Walmsley is quietly confident about the First Team’s prospects this term.

“Pre-season, including the Night Series, was really good,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of player movement between the Academy and the A-League squad with so many lads getting their opportunity, which meant that we used 35 players during the Night Series.

“It gave loads of lads who played 18s and 20s last year the opportunity to perform and a lot of them took their chance which was really pleasing.

“I felt that even in the first game against Bayswater, the performance was excellent and we just didn’t control the last ten minutes when we went back to 1-1.

“The best thing was that in all five games, I was pleased with how we went and it was really good preparation for the season ahead.”

Despite a host of First Team regulars again likely to be unavailable due to their ongoing involvement with the A-League squad, the Head Coach believes that other players are ready to step in and fill the breach.

“It’s always difficult with the youth teams,” he said, “but that’s the beauty of the role.

“There’s always going to be movement and fluctuations in terms of players, but that’s what we’ve got to control.

“We’ve got a group that’s really ambitious with good footballers in it, regardless of whether they’re 2008, 2007 or 2005-born.

“It’s irrelevant.

“Their performance is the most important thing and the boys know that if we’re going to perform well as a group this year, it’s going to be important that we’ve got consistency in our performances.

“No matter who’s playing in the team, the way we press, the way we defend, the way we build up and attack the box, that will be the same regardless of the personnel.

“We were able to do that for the most part in the Night Series, which was good.”

Last season, the Academy First Team were the third-highest scorers in the NPL, but also shipped the most goals and Walmsley is seeking to redress that imbalance this year via better game management from his players.

“For this season, it’s about making sure that we maintain what we’re good at, which was going forward, creating chances and scoring goals, but also being a bit more consistent with controlling the match,” he said.

“At times last year defensively we were good; it was more the game state side of things that we needed to get better at.

“It’s difficult with the youth team because you’ve got young lads who haven’t got that experience of senior football and then you’ve got a team that’s never the same week to week.

“But as a group we’re well aware of what we need to do in order to perform in the league.

“So hopefully this year, it’s more of the same in possession and getting better at the other aspects so that we can get the results that we deserve from our performances.”

Glory were edged out 4-3 in last season’s corresponding fixture against Inglewood and Walmsley is anticipating another hard-fought encounter this weekend.

“We’ve got good players in the group who are hungry and have a point to prove,” he said.

“Inglewood have had a change of coach and quite a few players that have moved on and come in.

“I’m expecting a tough, competitive game and we know what they’re about, so we’ll be up for the challenge.”

Saturday’s opponents enjoyed mixed fortunes in the Night Series, losing their first four games before thumping Balcatta Etna 7-0 in their final group fixture.

Ahead of the First Team game, the PGFC Academy Under-18s and Under-20s will both be in action at Inglewood Stadium at 11am and 1pm respectively.

The very best of luck to all our teams for Saturday and the rest of the season!