Joondalup United is set for big year in the Football West State League under the guidance of returning coach Nick Jennings.
A difficult 12 months for club culminated in relegation from the National Premier League (NPL) but Jennings and the Executive Committee have worked hard in the offseason to lay new foundations for the club in what will be its 20th season.
Preseason wins over NPL side ECU Joondalup and Subiaco AFC, have given the playing group confidence ahead of this weekend’s Night Series kick off.
“The Executive Committee would like to quell the rumours that seem to have spread through sections of the football fraternity regarding the future of JUFC and the club’s financial position,” said JUFC President John Stone.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth and there was never any danger of JUFC going bankrupt and folding.
“On the contrary, the club is financially very well placed and will compete in Division One of the State League and are about to go into the Night Series with a clean slate and fresh look.”
JUFC’s first season in the NPL in 2017 resulted in a respectable ninth place finish but the departure of a number of key players meant that ‘second season syndrome’ was a distinct possibility from the outset.
“Like almost every club after a relegation, there tends to be a lull followed by uncertainty,” said Stone.
“However, to us our relegation was inevitable, mainly due to the circumstances of a lack of support from local council at NPL level to secure any long-term facilities.
“This left the club trying to compete in the 2018 NPL season with both arms tied behind our backs.”
JUFC have achieved a lot in the club’s short history and Stone says that he knew that there would always be a drop off at some point.
“We were under no illusion of the task we faced last season, and just getting to the end of the year was an achievement in itself,” he said.
Coach Nick Jennings felt the pinch more than most; having used a shoestring budget to build a squad capable of competing with clubs whose financial backing was considerably larger, he worked tirelessly to ensure that JUFC made it through the 2018 season.
“The club has been on an unbelievable upward journey over the past few seasons, our rise through the leagues has been well documented, and everyone is aware of the rail crash of the NPL 2018 season,” he said.
“The painful relegation, the first in the club’s Saturday football history, really hurt me, as an individual who cares about this special club.
“However, with the severe restrictions we were operating under I believe even Sir Alex Ferguson would have earned his knighthood by avoiding the drop!”
The fallout from the bottom place finish had its effect on Jennings as much as it did on the playing group but has committed to club for another year.
“As I’ve stated previously, I seriously considered joining the majority of the playing group and leaving the club for pastures new,” he said.
“Following meetings with the club and having been informed of the restructuring and plans for the club moving forward, the prospect of being the man to lead the club back to the top-level of WA football was a challenge that I couldn’t walk away from.”
With just a handful of players remaining, Jennings and his coaching team began the rebuild of the playing group, targeting a mixture of hungry young players, experienced campaigners, and those who love a challenge.
“As a coach I pride myself on the talent I have identified from lower levels of football and those within the u18 and u20 systems, who I have then given opportunities to play in my first team,” said Jennings.
“I am also realistic that these talented boys will be headhunted and subsequently move to so-called bigger clubs with big budgets.
“Like all coaches I’m still on the lookout for players to add to my new squad as we really ramp up our preparations firstly for the Night Series and then the real business of the league program in the highly competitive and quality State League Division One.”
JUFC’s first game in the Night Series takes place this coming Friday with Swan United providing the opposition at Wanneroo.
Wanneroo City and Olympic Kingsway are the other two sides in Pool 4, with the top side from the round robin group stage guaranteed a place in the knockout stage.
“The 2019 season will be our 20th anniversary and with every other section of the club thriving, the committee has set about planning and rebuilding our State Teams for the future,” said John Stone.
“We now have a great junior base with a well-trained coaching group, paired with a structure in place to promote the younger players at all levels, giving every young player the opportunity to progress and compete for a place in our first team.
“The State teams will be back playing at Forrest Park and we look forward to the seeing the same support that the club enjoyed there in 2016 when we won the title.”
Overall, this promises to be an exciting year for JUFC with celebrations planned across the club for the next 12 months.
“In keeping with our strong culture, we are focused on what Joondalup United does well and are well on our way to competing again this coming season,” said Stone.