Peggy Gordons New Plymouth Rangers welcomes Palmerston North Marist to Yarrow Stadium on Sunday for the opening fixture in the Lotto Central Federation League season. The new look Rangers team is fronted by Manuel Luque who has stepped up from coaching the clubs premier team in 2019. Luque has also been involved in the junior academy programme, the disabilities programme and junior development but he is relishing this opportunity with the clubs top team. He has compiled a team that looks exciting across the park with real depth. The goal will be to perform better than 2019 and push for a top three spot although every year the Federation League gets stronger.
The team welcomes some old faces back to the club with Luke Snellgrove and Ben Moore back after stints with other clubs. Snellgrove knows where the goal is, so much so that when he last played for Rangers he was keeping the goals out rather than smashing them in. He has a great record of goals scored over the previous few seasons and Rangers will be looking for him to add to his tally this year. Moore returns to Rangers having had a couple of seasons at Hamilton Wanderers as part of their national league squad, youth league squad and Northern Premier Squad. He has matured and developed into a strong central midfield player and is one to watch this season.
Making their league debuts for Rangers will be Eoin Murphy, Alfie Luque, Scott Casey-Wooldridge, Mark McGrath, Brandon Sumpter and Owen Smith. Smith has returned to New Plymouth from the USA where he is studying at Oakland University. Smith previously played with the Wellington Phoenix reserves and brings a composed head to the middle of the park.
Eoin Murphy is a tall centre back from Ireland here on a working visa for a year. He has settled in well adding something different to the team with his size and strength.
Scott Casey-Wooldridge has made the step up from the local premier league where he previously played for FC Western. Playing in the runners up team for the past two seasons has set him up well, looking right at home at the higher level.
Brandon Sumpter is a young goalkeeper with a lot of promise. Sumpter is an under 17 International with Barbados and played in the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2019. He will compete with incumbent keeper James Burroughs who has been between the sticks for the past four seasons.
Alfie Luque is back in Taranaki having completed his studies at St Peters School in Cambridge where he was on a football scholarship and playing under Ricki Herbert.
Mark McGrath is also from Ireland where he was playing in the Limerick Premier League. McGrath has already scored 7 goals in 3 preseason games and has formed a strong partnership with other strikers Taku Warren and Dom Squatriti.
The team will be captained by Matt Hastings who has a wealth of experience in the national league with Waikato FC and Hawkes Bay United. He played a few games for the prem team last year but has worked on his fitness and will be a real asset to the team and the club.
Not previously mentioned but also coming back for another season are the Niall Leggett, Devan Leggett, Sam Jiggins, Tre De John, Tyler Snow, Izaak Ryan, Oisin Ammundsen and Jeremy Hawkes.
Palmerston North Marist went through the 2018 season unbeaten but finished third in 2019 behind the two Hawkes Bay teams. They have recruited a professional coach and manager from Belgium to try and bridge the gap to the top and only time will tell if that move will pay dividends.
Peggy Gordons New Plymouth Rangers Federation League squad
Brandon Sumpter, James Burroughs, Eoin Murphy, Matt Hastings ©, Niall Leggett, Alfie Luque, Izaak Ryan, Tyler Snow, Ben Moore, Devan Leggett, Tre DeJohn, Scott Casey-Wooldridge, Sam Jiggins, Mark McGrath, Taku Warren, Dom Squatriti, Luke Snellgrove, Oisin Ammundsen, Jeremy Hawkes, Owen Smith. Manuel Luque (Head Coach), Richard Sumpter (Goalkeeping Coach), Oliver Jowsey (Strength and Conditioning Coach), Stephen Lett (Physiotherapist).