Perth Glory's pursuit of David Beckham has overshadowed the club's A-League game against the Wellington Phoenix at nib Stadium tonight.
Glory owner Tony Sage is revelling in the limelight and plans to sweeten a A$2 million package by approaching Beckham in person at the opening of the Spice Girls' musical in London next month.
Whether Beckham, who will leave the LA Galaxy after the December 1 MLS grand final, has any interest in playing in the A-League remains to be seen.
But the Phoenix won't mind the distractions in Perth as they slip in under the radar after a season's best 3-0 win over the Jets in Newcastle. Wellington's understated goalkeeper Mark Paston found the saga amusing.
"Obviously some of the media are going a little bit crazy, but whether he comes or not, personally I've got no idea," said the 35-year-old.
"I can't really see him coming to Wellington and training at Newtown Park so I think that's definitely out of the question. He'd [coach Ricki Herbert] need a big wallet by the sounds of the money that's being thrown around."
Of more pressing importance is tonight's round-eight game, which is the Phoenix's first visit to Perth since losing last season's dramatic playoff match.
Herbert is expected to retain the 4-3-3 formation which worked so well at Hunter Stadium and the return to fitness of Stein Huysegems is his only selection headache - and a welcome one at that.
Huysegems missed the Jets game with an ankle injury, but has trained freely this week.
Paul Ifill and Jeremy Brockie are certain starters, so Louis Fenton will probably drop to the bench if Herbert recalls Huysegems.
The Glory have included captain Jacob Burns, who has recovered from a quad injury, and All Whites striker Shane Smeltz, who missed the 1-0 loss to Western Sydney because of a pressing family matter, in their squad.
Paston said the addition of Vince Lia to a midfield also including Manny Muscat and Alex Smith gave him a lot more comfort in Newcastle.
"Yeah definitely, you could tell from the first 30 seconds of the game - they didn't know what to do. We matched up really well against them formation-wise and also how we did defend when we needed to was also good. I don't think they really had too many chances during the whole game. Hopefully that's the case this week and if we want to win football games, we're going to have to not concede too many at the back."
Paston said gaining revenge for last season's finals exit was part of the motivation but building on Sunday's win was more important. "Obviously we were in a little bit of a hole after losing three on the trot so the boys are really happy with how things went last week.
"Last year is always going to be in the back of your mind, but more so it's just building on what we did."
Paston has been able to hold off the challenge of fellow All White Glen Moss so far this season and said "the old body is rattling along as usual".
The Glory, last season's beaten grand finalists, start clear favourites and hold a 6-2 win-loss record over the Phoenix at their Western Australia fortress.
But the Phoenix have been lying in wait in Perth since Monday and Paston thinks the win against the Jets might have marked a turnaround in their fortunes.
"You look at the group that we've got and a lot of guys have been there, done that. So we definitely knew we could grind ourselves out of a three-game losing streak.
"Now we're in a good position, if we get a good result, of coming back home and have a good crack against Western Sydney, with hopefully a couple of good results under our belt."
- The Dominion Post
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