Focused youngsters ready for Gwelup test

The PGFC Academy First Team return to NPL WA action on Saturday with a tough trip to Gwelup Croatia and Head Coach Richard Garcia insists that his young charges are relishing the challenge.

Gwelup, who were among the pre-season favourites for the title, downed Glory 5-0 before the campaign was halted and subsequently re-set due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Garcia believes that his side will use the memory of that defeat to spur them on this weekend.

"The boys were almost shell-shocked by that," he said, "and it gave them a harsh reality check.

"You could see they were hurt by it and they don't want to have a repeat of it.

"They are going to be continually tested this year by these kinds of teams that have a lot of ex-Glory players and that's fantastic - you want them to come up against the best that WA has to offer and that in turn will help them get better.

"The fact that they were so disappointed with that first result is a positive because it shows that they don't just want to play, they want to win."

The Academy First Team head into the game unbeaten since the restart having followed a first-up draw at Balcatta with a resounding 5-0 win over Rockingham City and Garcia has been pleased with much of what he's seen so far.

"The boys were disappointed to only come away with a draw from that Balcatta game in Round One which shows how eager they are to win matches of football and that they are holding themselves accountable," he said.

"It's fantastic to see them wanting to take responsibility for their performances in that way and great to see that some of their hard work is coming to fruition with the goals that we scored last Saturday against Rockingham.

"They will have to show more improvement again this weekend at both ends of the park.

"We'll need to continue the good form going forward, but be a bit warier in defence.

"Gwelup have got some formidable attacking weapons - the Stynes brothers are always a handful - so we'll have to be at our best defensively to keep them at bay."

In terms of team news, six Academy First Team regulars will be available for selection having missed the first two games after being drafted in to train with Hyundai A-League squad.

But according to Garcia, the returnees will not automatically slot back into his starting eleven.

"Those players will come back into contention," he said, "but it'll be a hard team to get back into as both of the performances have been good.

"It's fantastic when the whole squad is vying for a place in that starting team."

One player who has remained with the Hyundai A-League squad is Cameron Cook and Garcia is pleased to see the promising goalkeeper receiving extended exposure to the senior environment.

"It's fantastic that a young player is going along with the First Team," he said.

"Cameron will gain some much-needed experience at a good level regardless of whether he gets any game time or not.

"Just being in and around the First Team will be be great for him."

The Under-18s will get Saturday's action underway at the Croatian Sporting Complex at 11am, followed by the Under-20s at 1pm and the First Team at 3pm.

#OneGlory

(picture courtesy of Tom McCarthy)