When Doug Hesketh watched Stirling Lions take part in an historic Westfield FFA Cup match against Hyundai A-League side Brisbane Roar FC last season, he did so with mixed emotions.
Less than a year previously, Hesketh had been coach of the Lions, steering the club to the 2013 All Flags State League Premier Division title, before deciding to take a break from the game.
“I wasn’t involved in the FFA Cup game, other than being there to watch, but I was delighted for Stirling and for the people at the club,” said Hesketh, who has retained an affinity with the Lions.
“It was nice of them to invite me to the game and I did feel part of it. I just didn’t have to feel responsible for it.”
These days, Hesketh has plenty of responsibility as coach of Mandurah City, who take on high-flying amateur side Gwelup Croatia in a Westfield FFA Cup preliminary quarter-final at Hyundai Stadium on Saturday.
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Andy Brown, who captained the Lions against Brisbane, has been reacquainted with his former Stirling boss, while former Perth Glory midfielder Jeff Bright is another of Mandurah’s quality pick ups.
Hesketh, who spent some of his time away from the game working on his Heskstat coaching app, has been delighted with both the calibre and attitude of the players, who have steered Mandurah to within a point of All Flags State League Division One leaders Joondalup United.
“I think we do have a great squad,” he said. “We can improve but they are a fantastic group to work with. They’ve been getting good crowds. People want to come and see us because we’re playing decent football.”
WA’s two Westfield FFA Cup preliminary finalists will qualify for the national Round of 32, which means quarter-finalists are just two wins away from a potential clash with Hyundai A-League opposition.
If Mandurah progress, Hesketh could even find himself up against his son Steven, whose Rockdale City Suns have already qualified from New South Wales for the Round of 32.
But Hesketh is taking a pragmatic, one-game-at-a-time approach.
“We’re not playing dummies here,” he said of facing Gwelup, who are Consolidated Energy Amateur League Premier Division leaders.
“They are a very good team and they’ll get the same respect as any other team we play. This is going to be a tough game for us.”
Former Perth Glory midfielder Steven McGarry is crucial to Gwelup’s hopes of progression, while former National Premier Leagues WA attacker Benny Kouakou is another threat for the visitors.
Westfield FFA Cup, WA preliminary quarter-finals
Cockburn City v Bayswater City (3pm, Dalmatinac Park)
Perth SC v Subiaco (3pm, Dorrien Gardens)
Mandurah City v Gwelup Croatia (3pm, Hyundai Stadium)
Sorrento v South West Phoenix (3pm, Percy Doyle Reserve)
For all the latest Westfield FFA Cup fixtures and resullts head to www.theffacup.com.au