It's been a long time, but today football will be back in the headlines for the right reasons.

After an awful six months for the sport in this country, with all kinds of upheaval and drama caused by Andy Martin and Andreas Heraf together with some inept governance from the New Zealand Football Board, the Chatham Cup final this afternoon (3:30pm) will bring some respite.

It's always a day to mark on the calendar, though this year the game promises to be extra special.

Western Suburbs and Birkenhead are both laden with young New Zealand talent, guided by progressive coaches that prioritise an attractive brand of football, bringing swagger as well as steel.


Birkenhead, with their strong community ties, with also draw half their suburb along to QBE Stadium, making for a tremendous atmosphere that will invoke memories of their historic Cup triumph in 2016.

And for Western Suburbs it's the climax of a journey for a talented generation of players who have risen through the ranks with coach Declan Edge.

Some have already departed for overseas, and more are expected to go in the coming months.

Edge has been at the epicentre of talent development in this country for the last five years, though he has been mostly ignored by NZF.

His single mindedness can rock the boat, but it was mainly due to the direct, English oriented approach at Albany, led by Martin and former All Whites coach Anthony Hudson.

Heraf's philosophies, with a defensive, limited style, also contrasted with Edge's modus operandi.

That needs to change under the new NZF regime, to allow New Zealand's potential to be fully realised, a point recognised by Birkenhead coach Paul Hobson.

"They are a great team," said Hobson. "Declan does it better than anyone in New Zealand for developing players. The academy at Ole is the one above all that produces the best players. He gets them from a young age [and] they are a good team."


There's plenty of mutual respect, with Edge pointing to Birkenhead's outstanding record in recent years at Under-17 and Under-19 level, as well as the 2016 Cup triumph.

"Paul and Birkenhead are serial winners," said Edge. "They win trophies, they win cups, they go to tournaments. So we are wary and cautious of them."

While Edge recognises today's game is massive for the club, who haven't reached a Chatham Cup final in more than a decade, since they made consecutive deciders in 2006 and 2007, he's also quick to play down the occasion.

"Games like this are great [but we] don't want to get caught up with the event too much", said Edge.

"Winning the league, going to a Cup final, all the things that go with the Cup, that's good, [but] what we do at Ole and Western Suburbs, is about getting better and getting better. Winning cups and leagues is nice, but we are in the business of producing good young players so we can help them progress."

In the Football Foundation Kate Sheppard Cup final (12:00pm kickoff), favourites Forrest Hill Milford United take on Dunedin Technical. Forrest Hill are aiming for their second title in three years – and knocked out defending champions Glenfield Rovers in the semi finals – while Dunedin are the first team from the lower South Island to make the final.​