Gareth Morgan's vision for a footballing school of excellence at the Wellington Phoenix moved a step closer to fruition today with the announcement of its first participants.
Eight young players were invited take part and all accepted which delighted Morgan, who is one of the Phoenix ownership group.
"That was very encouraging because it shows they have the ambition to be successful within the game," Morgan said.
Morgan said that from the moment he became involved with the club it was obvious a youth development programme was needed.
"It was quickly apparent that there wasn't a pathway between amateur and professional football in New Zealand," Morgan said.
"Young players had to look beyond New Zealand which wasn't the best situation.
"What we are establishing is a two-way street. It gives the Phoenix a pool of talent and enables young players to become familiar with the Phoenix training methods and the team structure.
"It also exposes them to a high level of coaching and is a win-win situation for everyone.
"What amazed me was that football is the biggest code in the world and the largest participation sport in New Zealand yet the All Whites have been so lowly-ranked internationally.
"Anything that helps to change that is good for football in this country."
To find suitable candidates for the programme the Phoenix has gone through a rigorous selection process, consulting coaches from throughout New Zealand, along with national age group coaches and ASB Premiership head coaches.
Some of the players have been selected with an eye on the specific positional requirements at the Phoenix.
The group selected is the start of an on-going programme to ensure there is a dedicated pathway for young players who have a strong desire to make a career in professional footballers.
Players selected for the Phoenix footballing school of excellence are:
SCOTT BASALAJ, 18: 2011 New Zealand U-17 World Cup goalkeeper emanating from Lower Hutt and St Pats Silverstream. Capable young keeper who has attracted interest from clubs in Europe.
LUKE ROWE, 20: Former Birmingham City youth player. Had a fine season with Team Wellington last year playing at left back.
ALEC SOLOMONS, 18: Centre back from East Coast Bays. Strong candidate for the 2013 Under 20's national team. Alec was also a part of the ASB Challenge team from 2010-11.
TOM DOYLE, 19: Left sided midfield player who was previously with Auckland City. Came to Wellington to study and play for Miramar.
JUSTIN GULLY, 19: Versatile midfield player who has come through the federation programme, alongside Stop Out. Joined Team Wellington in the summer and was a vital part of the team that reached the Grand Final.
TOM BISS, 19: Out of Hawkes Bay United and a product of their academy, Tom has matured into a midfield player with a good range of pass and ability to impact at both ends of the field. Tom has recently been playing in Perth's Premier State League.
LOUIS FENTON, 19: A local Boy from Tawa, more recently playing in the Victorian Premier League, Melbourne. Louis is becoming a dynamic and creative midfield player with an eye for goal as he displayed playing for Team Wellington in the ASB Premiership
TYLER BOYD, 17: The youngest player in this group, Tyler is an attacking player either wide or central. He spent last year plying his trade under the watchful eye of Declan Edge at Waikato in the ASB Premiership