An exodus of star players at Hakoah Sydney City East will not stop them from being NPL NSW Men’s finals football contenders according to head coach and Scottish Legend Gavin Rae.
Hakoah will go into this season without arguably it’s five best players from last campaign with Mitchell Stamatellis, Michael Kouta, Anthony Frangie, Anthony Bouzanis and New Zealand international Andre De Jong exiting the club.
Despite the big name departures, Rae, a former Rangers midfielder and Scotland international, has backed his new squad to continue the Easter Suburbs side’s incredible revival which has seen them feature in back to back Waratah Cup finals, as well as the knockout rounds of the FFA Cup in 2017 and 2018.
“It’s been a big offseason of change at Hakoah but that is nothing new for us,” Rae said.
“We were in exactly the same situation 12 months ago and managed to reach similar levels despite the turn over in players.
“I know from my career in football that players coming and going is just part and parcel of the game.
“We have managed to re-sign 15 players from last seasons squad and bring in a few solid signings. We have also promoted a few of our talented players from the youth teams so I think we definitely have the quality to improve in 2019.”
Filling the void will be NPL NSW veteran striker Hristijan Tanoski, NPL 3 standout midfielder Addison Sayan and Brisbane Premier League journeyman Steven Chester.
While Rae admits it will be hard for their new signings to completely replace the talent they have lost, he expects the club’s younger players to step up and help share the load.
“It is true, there will be a lot of pressure on players to take leadership of this side but that’s just the nature of football and I have full faith in our players to do that,” he said.
“Last season we paid the price for being unable to finish of matches and there were five or so games which went against use in the dying minutes.
“That will be a big focus this campaign. We have come a long way as a team with success in cup competitions but we’ve lacked the composure required to reach the level we want in the league.”
Preseason training began for the Eastern Suburbs club at the back end of 2018 and with a run of trail matches ahead, Rae is confident his young team will be fit and firing come round one.
“The challenges facing Hakoah this season are nothing new for this club,” he said.
“We are always evolving as a team and this club pride’s itself on giving players an opportunity.
“There is a good feeling at the club and I’m sure we can turn that into results come the start of the season.”
Key player movements
Incoming: Ryan Norval (Sutherland), Hrisitjan Tanoski (Sutherland), Steven Chester (Centerary Stormers – Brisbane), Addison Sayan (Rydalmere Lions- NPL2), Shohei Okuno (Albion Park White Eagles – Illawarra)
Departures: Mitchell Stamatellis (Sydney Olympic), Michael Kouta (APIA Leichhardt Tigers), Anthony Bouzanis (Sutherland), Anthony Frangie (Marconi), Andre De Jong (Eastern Suburbs AFC – NZ)
-By Nick Houghton