Hawke's Bay United coach Brett Angell will have Paul Ifill and Jamie Dunning helping him run the drills and call the shots in the national league this summer.

Angell says he has worked with the pair before and they are simply part of his management group to help the Thirsty Whale-sponsored Hawke's Bay franchise team in the quest to claim their maiden ISPS Handa Premiership crown in the 2018-19 season when it kicks off late next month.

The opportunity to work with Ifill again came about after the former Wellington Phoenix linchpin had assumed the mantle of player/assistant coach with Angell in the 2015-16 season before switching allegiances to Tasman United in the last two summers.

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"[Paul] brings a wealth of experience and knowledge which I know will support the management group, the same as Jamie, although it'll come more from a football background rather than a playing one," says Angell.

He believes Ifill's stature in the game in the country is as good as it gets, especially when it comes to adding value from his commendable stint in the A-League.

"Obviously having worked with him previously — looking at him more from the playing perspective from a couple of years ago — I think there's going to be a little bit more coaching and support around that than we previously worked as well."

While the Englishman, who turns 39 on October 20, has played for Wairarapa United in the Ultra Football Central League in the bygone winter, Angell reckons he'll take stock of how his body is up to the rigours of the premiership after some pre-season training.

However, the Brighton-born player, who runs an academy in Nelson and Masterton, reportedly indicated early this year it was likely to be his last as a premiership player.

Paul Ifill is returning to the Hawke's Bay United fold as co-assistant coach during the ISPS Handa Premiership this season. Photo/Photosport
Paul Ifill is returning to the Hawke's Bay United fold as co-assistant coach during the ISPS Handa Premiership this season. Photo/Photosport

Dunning enters the Bay United senior stable after serving three seasons as the coach of the franchise youth league team. The 42-year-old also stepped in as cover for Angell when referees banished the latter from the sidelines.

"I felt it was right to give him an opportunity to work consistently with the senior players ... rather than the youth environment," says Angell of the Napier Marist FC mentor whose side are usually in the top four of the Bay-based Computer Care Pacific Premiership.

He sees Dunning as a pivotal figure in creating and maintaining a pathway for continuity of youth making a transition to the senior level.


It'll be a win-win situation where Dunning will make a foray into the national league while helping Bay United.

"Jamie's input is going to be just as important as Paul's input."

Angell says they have identified a mentor to take over the youth position but cannot name the individual.

"Obviously that role was offered to Bill [Robertson] but he decided not to take up the opportunity to do it so we've identified another person to fill the role," he says of someone "coming into the region".

Robertson, last season's captain/assistant coach, has raised a few eyebrows after the franchise had announced he wasn't going to return to the fold of Bay United in any capacity this season.

"He feels that he can still play and I don't disagree with that but, obviously, from a squad perspective I've identified some players to go past Bill and that's what we spoke about months ago and I've just carried that through.

"I couldn't offer him starting positions. I think a man of his experience needs to be playing but I couldn't offer him that so that's why I'm duly looking at players to identify players to move past."

In identifying new players, Angell is hoping they will be able to fill the boots "and wear the black-and-white [colours] as good as anybody else who has played for Hawke's Bay United".

He feels Robertson's ability speaks for itself but as a coach Angell believes he needs a little more flexibility look at things slightly differently if facets of play weren't functioning that well last season.

"I found there was a little bit of inability within the group to do that and also accept that was what was going to happen but that has nothing to do with what Bill does and doesn't.

"It's just about my vision on what I would ideally like to play with and how to play ... and I've identified three players to fill that void."

Bill Robertson has found himself in a limbo after Bay United coach Brett Angell
Bill Robertson has found himself in a limbo after Bay United coach Brett Angell "looked past him" for the next ISPS Handa Premiership campaign this summer. Photo/file

The former English Premier League player says whether the trio are capable of cutting the mustard, only time will tell.

Bay United have yet to release names of their squad members but, like last season, even fewer players are returning to a franchise that relies heavily on overseas imports and players outside its region.

Angell believes the Bay United last season "fell a little short" as the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time in his five seasons.

"Possibly we didn't squeeze enough out of that player base, who knows," says the 50-year-old who reiterates that's why he's trying to identify new personnel he's familiar with and who can add value to the new squad.

A mitigating reason for why they underachieved, he feels, they conceded too many goals and also didn't score enough.

Bay United finished eighth in the 10-team premiership last season, winning five out of 18 games, drawing four and losing nine. They scored 21 goals and conceded 36.

"I know as a group we weren't consistent enough to actually achieve what previous groups I've been involved with did achieve.

"We, therefore, need to recognise the personnel need to be different to be able to support that or, between us, work harder to squeeze the juice out of the abilities of the player base we've got.

"We're endeavouring to do both but definitely there's going to be a different player base to last [season] purely and simply because we failed overall."

Angell says players' decision not to return is no different to any other season he's had here although there's also an element of identifying players who'll bring a little more to the park.

He expects training to start next week with just paperwork to be completed on signings.

An excited Dunning says it's great to start from the word go with the seniors rather than coming in after Christmas, as he did last summer.

He is hoping some youth talent will emulate the feat of Karan Mandair, Jorge Akers and Ben Lack.

"I just [bring] a different perspective and maybe a different point of view ... Brett's really good, you know, he asks me plenty of advice and hopefully I can give him as well," he says, itching to grow his portfolio under Angell and Ifill.