Louis Fenton. Photo by Getty
Paul Ifill's ankle injury has given Wellington Phoenix
coach Ricki Herbert a gift-wrapped opportunity to give an
extended run in the starting line-up to two lads he calls the
future of the club.
Louis Fenton started the season with a stunning goal as the
Phoenix beat Sydney FC 2-0 in week one, but has omitted from
the starting line-up in recent weeks.
He and 17-year-old team-mate Tyler Boyd need to be injected
into the side to face the Central Coast Mariners this weekend
and they should be persisted with.
The pair are going to make mistakes but Herbert needs to give
them time to assert themselves on the A-League and let them
find their way.
Ifill is likely to be on the shelf for four to six weeks and
his nagging ankle injury could have been why he has looked
short of a gallop this season.
So often in the past the former Barbados international has
been the lifeblood of the Phoenix attack but he hasn't been
himself this year, a thought echoed by Herbert.
"The injury has obviously been affecting Paul's form and
rather than wait till the end of the season I felt it best to
get it done now," Herbert said of Ifill's surgery.
"It is in his best interest, and ours, to have him back to
his best for the rest of the season."
At a time when people - including part-owner Gareth Morgan -
are calling for the Phoenix to play a more attractive brand
of football Ifill's lack of form has hurt the side.
Cue Fenton and Boyd, the first graduates from the club's
school of excellence to earn fulltime contracts.
Boyd has made 11 appearances this season - all from the bench
- and has been impressive with his pace and workrate around
the park and a starting chance would give him plenty of
He still isn't old enough to buy a beer - he turns 18 five
days after Christmas - and you had to feel sorry for him as
his last-gasp penalty was brilliantly saved by Eugene
Galekovic in last Sunday's 3-1 loss to Adelaide.
Boyd can play as a winger or striker and there's a bit of
mail that suggests he will start against the Mariners on
Saturday night, but the key point is that he and Fenton need
to be given that extended run.
Herbert isn't known for promoting his youngsters and it was
remarkable to see the strides Kosta Barbarouses took when he
was given his opportunity at the Brisbane Roar after playing
only sparingly in Wellington between 2007 and 2010.
If Herbert does persist with his 4-3-3 formation a frontline
of Boyd, Jeremy Brockie and Stein Huysegems has a diverse
look to it, while Fenton should be commissioned to play out
left in the midfield.
Despite being a 19-year-old rookie, Fenton shows no fear in
taking on defenders and is dangerous with the ball at his
Herbert keeps saying the two young guns are the future - now
he needs to embrace that and let them loose.
Given the Phoenix are seventh on the A-League ladder after 11
rounds, things can't get too much worse.