Football: Fenton and Boyd need a decent chance

Louis Fenton. Photo by Getty
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 confidence.

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 feet.

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.


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