Ian Hogg has always seemed destined for professional football.
A trainee at Arsenal, as a 15-year-old, and a veteran of two Olympic Games' with the New Zealand under-23 team, the left-back's pace, tenacity and ability on the ball have always impressed people.
But, for whatever reason, it took until today for a professional contract to finally arrive.
The elated 23-year-old Hogg will now play out the rest of the A-League season with the Wellington Phoenix and then hope that he's done enough to earn a long-term deal after that.
"It's been my main goal," Hogg said.
"Obviously any professional contract's fantastic but to get one in your home country makes things easier and it's what I've been aiming for over the last few years."
Hogg will train with the team for the first time on Wednesday and be available to play from January 14 on.
That'll herald an intriguing battle with Tony Lochhead. Both All Whites, the duo were part of the New Zealand side that failed to win the Oceania Nations Cup in the Solomon Islands last year.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is the All Whites boss too, of course, meaning the Lochhead-Hogg tussle could have implications for club and country.
"Obviously Tony's been there for a number of years and done a great job; I'm just looking to come in and do well at training and if there's an opportunity make the most of it," said Hogg.
But he isn't in Wellington to watch.
"Oh no. I don't like sitting on the bench, so if I get a chance I'm looking to push on with it. I've definitely come to play and help the team push for the playoffs.
"Obviously I was in the Nations Cup team with Tony and we get on fine and everything like that. Competition is a good thing and it's going to make us both play better and it can only be good for New Zealand and the Phoenix."
Hogg had been battling away at the Portland Timbers MLS franchise in the United States. Immediately after the London Olympics he'd gone on trial at English Championship club Crystal Palace but, two days in, Portland called offering him an opportunity.
It sounded good, only for visa problems and a change of manager to make a definite contract at the Phoenix sound like the most appealing thing in the world.
There have been times during his national league career with Hawke's Bay United, Waitakere United and Auckland City when Hogg wondered if that would be his lot.
Many of the players he trained with for those few months at Arsenal went on to Premier League careers and here he was plugging away on suburban grounds.
It just didn't seem right for a guy of his ability.
"A lot of people have been saying that so now that I have got the opportunity, I can't let them down. It adds a little bit of pressure, but I'll be right."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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