Wembley Park football spectators should feel very privileged – the 2019 Lotto Federation League champions are coming to town tomorrow afternoon.
What's that, you say, the League runs until August 24, so how can we already know the title-winning team when everyone's played only three or four games out of the total of 18 rounds?
That's the crux of why a number of clubs from Taranaki down to Manawatu, including GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic, have been put out by the pernicious press the unbeaten Havelock North Wanderers have been receiving in their own patch from the Whanganui Chronicle's sister publication Hawke's Bay Today.
Now, local newspaper articles can draw controversy when they give voice to statements the subjects are making themselves – just last season then Versatile Wanganui City coach Kelvin Francis earned a rebuke from Central Football after he blew up publicly about the refereeing in an extra time Federation Cup loss in Napier.
But in this case, it has been the scribe's own flippant dismissal of the Wanderers three prior opponents, who do have a collective 11-5 score against them, being made in Hawke's Bay Today's match reports which has been adding fuel to the fire.
After defeating a noticeably under strength Wanganui City 3-1 at Guthrie Park last week, pulling clear with their third goal in the 58th minute, the bold assessment was that it is time to "hand over the Central Federation League crown" to Wanderers.
"For what it's worth, barring an upset of gargantuan proportions, it's safe to say Havelock North's competition hasn't started yet.
"Ironically it'll begin at the end of the winter when they play the Central League qualifying matches against the Capital One victors."
This grandiose statement followed the opening home League match where New Plymouth Rangers were comfortably beaten 4-1, but criticised for a "frivolity" that "well and truly robbed the Federation League football match of its sheen".
"Now if the visitors' robust three cheers and equally loud fluorescent pink strip were the yardstick of success, than the villagers [Havelock] wouldn't have had a show in their blue and gold colours.
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"It is harsh first up, but it becomes difficult to justify New Plymouth's presence in the League, if that's the best they can do this winter."
Athletic coach Jason King is no Rangers apologist, having had plenty of ding-dong battles with the Taranaki lads in recent seasons, but having worked as a football writer himself, he echoed the retorts made recently by the bemused Palmerston North media in response to Hawke's Bay Today .
"It was like, 'are you having a laugh', how can you pick them on this'?
"That reporter, they've certainly lost one of their eyes," King said.
"What these articles are doing, that's not the players fault, but I'm sure they're enjoying the smoke being blown up their proverbial at the moment.
"It's coming from a team that didn't even earn their spot in Central League last year.
"They came second [in qualifiers], got thumped. Got their spot because Team Taranaki folded.
"They got up there, and didn't do so well, and got pushed back down to this League.
"They're a good team, let's be honest, but you're only the best team at the end of the season."
For their part, Athletic (1-2-1) have finally got their feet under them after last Saturday's 3-2 win over Massey, but are having to reshuffle the deck tomorrow without the services of Ryan Holden, Steve Burney and Jai Stephens.
Ideally for King, the team will show the character of his very first game in charge of them back in 2017 — when they drew 3-all with Havelock North after being three goals down at halftime, coming back to tie with the team who destroyed them 12-0 the previous season.
"Havelock North have special place in our hearts.
"This week, this game is going to be about the heart of [our] team.
"Despite them having a yo-yo to Central League, they still got a season in Central League, so they know the standard to aspire to.
"We've just got to show better heart than them."
It's going to be another hard weekend on the road for City (1-1-2), who head down to Skoglund Park to meet former leaders Red Sox (2-1-1).
City will have to do without leading goal scorer Zane Robinson and co-coach Anthony Bell, who is in Australia till midweek.
"It just means we have to adapt to that and put a few people in other positions," co-coach Latham Berry said about depletion of his quality forwards.
Both teams are coming off disappointing trips to Hawke's Bay, as Red Sox were upended 2-0 by the rapidly improving Napier Marist (3-0-1).
"Three hours on the road is never easy," said Berry.
"Red Sox are going to be a hard game, regardless.
"They've got a solid team all across the pitch.
"Them losing last week, they're going to come out with something to prove."
Both Federation League games kickoff at 2.45pm.
In the Horizons Premiership, the GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic Reserves will take on the table-topping Red Sox Reserves at Wembley Park, with a 12.30pm kickoff.
And on Sunday in the Women's Federation League, Team Ritesh Football Whanganui are at home at Wembley against Massey FC Women, with a 1pm kickoff.