Team Wellington have completed the signing of former Wellington Phoenix star Paul Ifill for the remainder of the 2014-15 ASB Premiership.
The 35-year-old is ready to return to the park after recovering from an Achilles rupture in December, 2013.
The club’s all-time leading goal-scorer, Ifill still has aspirations of returning to the A-League and has been training with the Phoenix for several months.
But ASB Premiership rules made it impossible for him to turn out for the Phoenix’s reserve team given he does not have a professional contract and the rest of the roster is required to be filled with youth players.
Team Wellington swooped and will provide Ifill with the game-time he needs to impress Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick.
“There was a bit of interest but I wanted to stay local,” Ifill said.
“I’ve been a Wellington boy since I’ve been here and it just made sense to sign for Team Wellington. I let Ernie know what I was going to be doing. For me, my rehab will be complete when I sign a contract with the Phoenix. If my body doesn’t hold up or Ernie doesn’t think I’m good enough then at least I’ve given it a good go.”
Ifill said he could hold his own at Phoenix training but recovery remained an issue.
“The next day, sometimes I can hardly bloody walk so the Achilles needs to get stronger. I still can’t push off like I could before the injury so it might take a couple of games to get my confidence back.”
Ifill is targeting the January 25 home game against Hawke’s Bay United as his Team Wellington debut.
“I hope to make some sort of impact pretty quickly,” Ifill said.
“I feel I’ll be able to compete but when the season finishes I need to be able to say I’m better than that level.”
Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott was understandably thrilled with the signing.
“He’s probably one of the country’s most decorated footballers so it’s great for Team Wellington,” Calcott said.
“We hope for Paul’s sake that it’s only for the short-term and that it’s just one step on the ladder of getting back into the professional game. It’s a real coup. It’s exciting for him because an Achilles injury at 35 can be career-threatening. So to get back on the park is a huge achievement.”
Ifill’s signing is also a welcome boost for the ASB Premiership’s profile off the back of Auckland City’s surprise third-place finish at last month’s FIFA Club World Cup.
Story courtesy Team Wellington