Head coach Danny Halligan reviews a season of learning

Christchurch United’s first team head coach Danny Halligan has reviewed the Mainland Premier League 2020 season in what was an accumulation of lessons learned for the boys in blue.

After earning promotion from the Canterbury Championship League the previous year in dominating fashion, United’s expectations for the MPL were not massive or significant, Halligan said.

"Our goal this year was to cement ourselves in the MPL. No coach doesn’t want to win the league, but it was really a season aimed at cementing our place in the league and focusing on what we need to do to improve."

The squad’s results were inconsistent throughout the year, but Halligan believes a lot was learned and the side is now in a much better place because of it.

"Winning the MPL was not the be all and end all of this season," he said.

The team’s most challenging moment of the season came against Western, when they went 4−1 up before conceding 3 and drew what looked like a sure win.

"We won’t forget that in a hurry," Halligan said.

As well as cementing a place in the MPL for next season, another highlight of the year was the development of a number of the club’s young players as the games progressed. Players like Jyrel Bojang who Halligan describes as a "centre back with a big future" despite suffering a serious shoulder injury and missing a number of months, proved a hidden gem. Rhys Williams also "performed excellently week after week in a number of positions" and both showed they will continue to be significant players for the club.

Another aspect both Halligan and the club are proud of is the graduation of a number of young players from the club’s Academy into the first team.

"The number of young lads getting first team football is great to see, four or five from the Under 17s played, which is a big part of our philosophy. They are still a couple of years away, but that’s what we’re all about and that was a significant highlight for us to get them first team football," Halligan said.

The biggest problem for the Rams over the course of the season was a massive injury toll which ranged from minor to major ankle, knee and ligament injuries. Despite this, as well as some inconsistent results, the morale and environment of the team stayed positive, something Halligan was also very proud of.

"Consistency is something we did not achieve this year. That’s the biggest lesson learned from the year before when we went unbeaten in the CCL. The MPL is tough every week and consistency is something we need to apply next year. The club is all about the big picture and we’re also looking five, six, seven years ahead. You make mistakes but you learn from them as quickly as possible and we’re putting things in place to make us a much better club.

"The morale of the team was always positive and that’s not always easy, and we finished the season in a really good space."

With rumours circulating around a potential club based format for the national league in 2022, the club is now focused on building strong systems and structure with more ambitious goals for next year.

"Next year we need far more success and to attract better quality players, and make a significant step towards that 2022 season. We’d be looking at being in the top two in the MPL next year, that’s the goal for us," Halligan said.