As the club begins it’s journey, Henry Romeo looked to his nation of Montserrat for players to lead the club early and for inspiration from his brother who was turning Ideal SC into a top club in the country. Reaching out to a popular name in the United States for any advice with building a foundation at a club, Jimmy Conrad gave plenty of advice to young Henry Romeo and out of passion for the beautiful game he guaranteed he would be the assistant coach for Arutanga Sports Club at least until 2022 as the foundation was built.
One Permanent signing and one loan in was made shortly after the regular season started:
Dopson Noi – What I suspected would be a very solid defender for the club, his most notable trait is: Under-performing.
Geroges Wakanumune – New Caledonian Loanee for midfield, really solid with the physicals for the league, just provided a reliable starting player in the middle.
The Regular Season
July – December
With the 2021/22 season starting so soon on the 18th of July and only friendlies against our Reserves and U20’s played, our season opener was away against Avatiu in the Round Cup Season, a side that hasn’t won the league since the 90’s.
The manager, Theresa Tatuava, was out to show that they had a very good group of players assembled for the coming season and they did so coming back from being down 0-1 in the 12th minute to win 3-1…
That would become a rarity in the coming season.
The season is as much a story about Arutanga SC as it is about Paul Stevenson, scoring his first goal in the match against Avatiu at 15 years and 300 days old he was certain to become a force within our squad. He was able to continue to prove his good potential into the next match against title favourites, Tupapa Maraerenga where we were able to thump them 4 to nil in the first home match of the season in front of a whole 60 spectators. Youngsters Stevenson and James Inia scoring a goal each and Marcel Romeo bagging a brace showing that his quality CAN be there, but he would tend to not frequently do so as the season progressed.
The team was able to hold around second and third in the league just mixing it up with Nikao Sokattak and just lagging behind Tupapa Maraerenga up until the end of October where a 4-3 victory over Avatiu vaulted the club to the top of the table.
Even with the run of 5 wins in a row, we were just unable to draw any gap to separate from the chasing clubs. Paul Stevenson was able to score a total of 18 goals in the 17 matches he played during the season, an incredible feat for the young striker, although he did not win the golden boot for the league!
The final day of the season came to a match against Matavera, 3 points ahead of Tupapa Maraerenga and losing 0-6 to Matavera was nearly disastrous as the team just disintegrated as we ended tied on points and only 1 ahead in goal difference to win the Round Cup!
OFC Champions League
January – February
With winning of the Cook Islands Round Cup season, we qualified for the OFC Champions League which started it’s preliminary round in January. In which the champions from the following nations, Cook Islands, Tonga, American Samoa, and Samoa compete in a group to go into the full group stage, only playing each team one time.
The American Samoan, Pago Youth, team blitzed the group winning all three matches, we were able to secure second to advance to the group stage with the teams from Samoa and Tonga going out with 1 point each. Paul Stevenson ran the preliminary stage with 5 goals at the conclusion!
We had a very difficult draw for the Group Stage for the Champions League, getting Lae City from Papua New Guinea, Henderson Eels of the Soloman Islands, and Eastern Suburbs from New Zealand. On paper I put Eastern Suburbs as the toughest competition in the group, but it would turn out that they would be the only club we would beat.
Lae City would run away with the group, and eventually the whole competition as neither team from New Zealand managed to get out of the group stage!
As a first year in the competition, I cannot be too disappointed, but with the performances through the whole year, I expected more, now to be sure we qualify again…
Spring Cup Season
January – May
Simply put, competition was light. The Cook Islands Cup ended up with a lot of teams rotating heavily, playing unproven players as I tended to stick with my best eleven, tending to be younger anyway. It was an easy cruise into a nice small cash bonus of $3.8k NZD and continuing to develop our talent and to also try out some of our new youth intake players, which two really have stood out so far…
Billy Trego – (AM) A player I will be teaching to play as a deeper midfielder, with his impressive vision, passing and technique, I am looking forward to what he can do!
Mark Manuel – A player that can play in a variety of positions, he will be a good utility player and even more depending on his development! Big downside is the lack in technique and strength.
Meanwhile Stevenson and Inia were pivotal once again, with Stevenson scoring 17 goals in 11 matches with the latter with 3 goals, 3 assists and plenty of great play-making moments in 12. Both being called up to the Cook Islands National Team and really showing that they are two talents for the future of the Cook Islands.
Transfers for 2021
With the plans to move to a 4-2-4 system with 2 strikers, we made 5 big ‘signings‘ as we head into the 2021 regular Round Cup Season, one having been signed in January for the Cup run the season prior:
Rey Nalagon – (GK) A Filipino goalkeeper I can feel like I can trust between the sticks. He played 12 cup matches and allowed only 8 goals, so he has definitely gained my trust as we head into the second season.
Geosah George – (CM) Midfielder I am looking to orchestrate with his great passing, physicals and decision making, a fine addition to the club as there are more offensively minded midfielders to pair with.
Alphy Ngire – (ST) As we switch to a 2 striker formation to simply continue to improve our attacking, we have grabbed the golden boot winner from last season to pair Paul Stevenson, with a backup…
Jermaine Sione – (ST) Striker from Pago Youth who we were beaten by in the Champions League at only 18, another great prospect hopefully to have good rotation as we head into a hopefully stronger year.
Roy Ladoux – (AML) Winger from American Samoan club Pago Youth, with great pace and solid crossing and other technical attributes, he can be a good addition for the attack!
In addition to these 5 big signings, utilization of the youth intake players that have come in will be a big focus, along with our new Head of Youth Development and increased youth coaching!
This is only the first season, if you feel I should provide more details, more character focus, or anything that may be more engaging please let me know, I am open to all feedback!
Once again, thank you very much to @ScootR for the blog space, and to @Chris_ANZFM for the great kits. Check out our great assistant coach Jimmy Conrad‘s content too, former USMNT player and fun streaming content!