WELLINGTON Phoenix FC has received a huge boost ahead of its match against Perth Glory on Sunday with confirmation that star striker Paul Ifill will remain in black and gold till at least the end of the Hyundai A-League 20011/12 season.
The British-born Barbadian international has been a revelation for the Phoenix this season after joining the Wellington club from Crystal Palace, stamping his mark on the Hyundai A-League with a series of sublime performances that have propelled the Phoenix into a playoff position.
The 30-year-old has scored four goals in 12 matches for the Phoenix – the most recent in his side’s 3-0 midweek demolition of the Newcastle Jets – and has laid on plenty more for his teammates with his canny skill and high work rate.
Ifill said the decision to activate his one-year option and to extend his contract by a further year was a simple one.
“It was very straight-forward and there was very little to talk about. It wasn’t a case of more money; it was more about securing more time in Wellington and I’m really pleased that it’s done.
“There were other clubs in the market but the Phoenix showed faith in me and, given my injury record in England, brought me here. I want to reward the club for that faith by staying in Wellington and playing a role in getting the team into the playoffs this season. When the club let me know they wanted me there was only one place I was going to be.”
Ifill felt the move to Wellington and the Hyundai A-League had reinvigorated his game and his passion to play top-flight football.
“I’ve not enjoyed football like this for years. The last time would have been back in 2004 when I made the FA Cup final with Millwall. We’ve got a great bunch of lads here in Wellington and I’m one of the elder statesmen. It’s nice being able to help the younger guys like Costa Barbarouses and Marco Rojas. You can see the ability the young guys have got and it’s great for players like myself and Greenie (fellow British striker Chris Greenacre) to help in their development.”
Making the decision even easier for Ifill was how well his partner, Elle, and their three-year-old daughter, Romy, had settled in the New Zealand capital.
“They love it here and that makes my life so much easier. Elle looks after everything at home and all I have to go out and do is play football, so it’s not much to ask. The club’s made it so easy for us and I was conscious that if I moved I might not find a great bunch of people were have here, from the players and coaches to club management and the fans .
“From top to bottom, the club and everyone involved with the Phoenix been brilliant.”
With his playing future secured, Ifill is now looking forward to continuing the Phoenix’s superb run of form at home with a win against Perth. Victory will propel the Phoenix into the top four and cement their title aspirations.
“Now I want to concentrate of getting us into the playoffs. I’m pleased with my own form and the team is playing really well. We’ve got 14 games left, so let’s push into the finals.”
Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said Ifill was a player in demand by other Hyundai A-League clubs but that his decision to re-sign was testament to what the Phoenix had to offer as an organisation.
“To be able to bring a player like Paul here and to see him enjoying playing in the Hyundai A-League is fantastic for the club and the competition. We had identified Paul as a recruitment target before the start of this season and (coach) Ricki Herbert and I spoke to him when we visited the United Kingdom.
“It took plenty of work but it was great to get him over here but he’s clearly shown his worth. Paul’s a player with that special X-factor, he’s settled extremely well and he’s shown what he can do – every time he gets the ball he’s exciting.”
Ifill gets his chance to continue his league-leading form when the Phoenix host Perth Glory at 5pm NZDST (3pm AEDST) at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.