Christchurch United tightens connection with Sydney FC

Christchurch United Academy Director Colin Williamson hopes the club’s junior teams will soon be lining up against their peers at Sydney FC.

Williamson on Sunday night returned from Sydney where he has been discussing a cooperation between the South Island’s leading football academy and Australia’s glamour club.

Christchurch United’s Academy boss had several meetings with Sydney FC’s Academy Director Kelly Cross and was hosted at their training complex at Macquirie Park where Williamson watched several age-group squads go through their training sessions.

“Sydney FC’s hospitality was astonishing,” says Williamson. “They were very open in sharing their in-house secrets and genuinely wanted to help to build a partnership with Christchurch United.”

Sydney FC four years ago launched their Academy programme from the Under 13 to Under 20 age groups to provide a development pathway for the region’s talents into their A-League squad.

Williamson says he noticed how strongly Sydney FC’s vision and goals aligned with those of Christchurch United and how similar the challenges were.

“Many of the issues we are dealing with in Christchurch were not that different in Sydney,” says Williamson.

He says both clubs have teams that often dominate their local age-groups competitions and would welcome some different opposition, but both have similar budget limitations to make those games a reality.

The two academy directors discussed the possibility for Christchurch United teams to travel to Sydney to play the Sky Blues and other strong clubs in their age-groups.

Earlier this year, Sydney FC hosted a few Christchurch United talents for a trial and Kelly Cross said he was happy to invite more Christchurch United youngsters who needed to test their skills in a professional environment.

Cross also wanted to explore the prospect of taking Sydney youth teams to New Zealand to play Christchurch United, and was interested to hear about the success of the Christchurch International Cup.

While at Sydney FC, Williamson bumped into several familiar faces, including Han Berger, a fellow professional Dutch coach, who acts as Sydney FC’s Technical Director but is also the Technical Director at the Dutch Football Federation.

The two crossed paths in the Netherlands when Williamson worked at Eredivisie club Roda JC and Berger was tasked with a technical review of the club’s development systems.

The Christchurch United coach was also introduced to former All Whites striker Shane Smeltz who this year ended his active career and started his coaching career with one of the youth teams at Sydney FC.

Williamson got a taste of all levels of Sydney FC, including watching the A-League team beating cross-city rivals Western Sydney Wanders at the Olympic Stadium.

“It was great to see the entire club from their under-13 squad to experiencing the first team play live on the big stage,” says Williamson.

“They are clearly a huge club in Australia and we are humbled they have opened their arms to us to help us develop the best possible players in New Zealand.”