By Craig MacKenzie
LANGWARRIN’S assault on the 2017 State 1 South-East championship will be powered by a raft of visa players.
The Lawton Park outfit will throw down the gauntlet to local clubs Mornington and Casey Comets and cashed up Greek-backed opponents Malvern City, Clifton Hill, South Springvale and Caulfield United Cobras by backing the quality of its imports to take the league by storm.
Central defender and former Macclesfield Town youth team captain Kieron Kenny has agreed terms with Langy and should arrive within a fortnight.
Kenny, 23, is currently on the books of Congleton Town in the Hallmark Security League, which is the former North West Counties League in England.
Kenny is a friend of Langy defender Andy McIntyre and looms as an ideal replacement for 2016 Langwarrin captain Alex van Heerwarden who quit the club recently and joined nearby rival Casey Comets in a move that caused ructions at Lawton Park.
“I want players that want to play for Langy and any players that leave the club I’m confident that we can replace them with better players,” said Langwarrin senior coach Gus Macleod.
The canny Glaswegian will be at the helm for a record 19th straight season having joined Langy near the end of last century, a remarkable feat in a sport renowned for brief coaching tenures.
There was a buzz about the club on Thursday when pre-season training started and Macleod is looking forward to seeing his new signings in Langy colours.
Kenny has played in the Swedish Second Division with Gaellivare Malmberget and figured prominently in a 2-2 draw with AFC Liverpool in September.
The significance of that league clash is that two more Langy imports featured for AFC Liverpool, 23-year-olds Connor Belger and Paul Speed and they are due to arrive in Australia with their partners in mid-January.
Belger and Speed are former teammates at Formby and have been recommended by ex-Langy marquee player and former England youth international Kevin Townson.
Belger is a midfielder while Speed can play in midfield or up front.
Towering central midfielder Mat Luak, 25, is another Langy capture and was prominent in Thursday’s training game.
The 194cm Sudanese powerhouse from Morwell Pegasus has silky skills and is a former Altona Magic star who also has played college football in the US.
Macleod has been in charge of the Scotland team in this year’s All Nations’ Cup, an annual tournament held at Egan Lee Reserve in Knoxfield, and he’s snapped up two more visa players in Scotsman Aaran Currie and Englishman Alex Metcalfe.
Currie is a teenage winger who has been involved with Hearts, Hibs, Livingston, Hutchison Vale and Preston Athletic and joined Moreland City in Victoria’s NPL 2 for the back half of last season while 22-year-old Metcalfe is a left-sided player who has had stints with Hull City, Scarborough Athletic, Harrowgate Town and Ossett Albion.
Former Brighton and Hove Albion and Pagham defender or midfielder Alfie Bunker, who has been playing with Doncaster Rovers in Melbourne, quicksilver forward Nasser Mohammad from Casey Comets and teenage Kenyan midfielder Sulieman Ahmad Mahfudh from Hampton Park United also are on Langy’s radar.
“We’ve been stable for the last few years so now’s the time to give the supporters and the whole club something to cheer about,” said Macleod.
“I’ve won championships with every club I’ve been with so I know what it takes.
“It’s about getting the balance right and just remember we’ve got a lot of younger players who now have first team experience, guys like Solly, Brandon, Kurt, CK and Dylan.
“We’re going to give this title a good shot. Last season we competed with the top six but bringing in more quality players means it’s time we started beating these types of teams.
“I’d like nothing better than to be in my 20th year here with the club in the NPL.”
Entrance to Victoria’s elite National Premier League setup is the carrot being dangled in the faces of State 1 clubs in 2017 and this has sparked a signing frenzy.
However, one player unlikely to return to Lawton Park is Warragul United captain Thomas Ahmadzai.
One of the gun central midfielders in the competition, Ahmadzai has been courted by both Langy and Mornington among others but is likely to remain with Warragul.
If Macleod can retain Robbie Acs, James Foster, McIntyre, Nick Thorogood, Boris Ovcin, Johnny Guthrie, Grant Lane, Sam Scott, Caleb Nicholes and Nabil Mozaffaruddin he may have assembled the strongest squad in the club’s history.
Koray Suat and Chris Driver have retired while Anthony Selemidis is believed to be pursuing business interests.
Langy’s war chest has benefitted from increased sponsorship from former player Greg Kilner, the principal of Premier Builders’ Group, and another former player in Craig Hosie, managing director of civil construction company LOJAC, who recently joined Premier as a main sponsor.
Macleod’s support staff again includes assistants Neil Collyer and Robert Mathieson with Robert Mathieson senior as team manager.
Tanya Wallace has stepped down after two successful years as club president, a role once more in the capable hands of John Heskins.