First training for new Phoenix Cunningham

KENNY CUNNINGHAM: Had difficulty adjusting to altitude, but will he be able to adapt to Wellington's weather and earthquakes?
KENNY CUNNINGHAM: Had difficulty adjusting to altitude, but will he be able to adapt to Wellington's weather and earthquakes?

The Phoenix's Costa Rican connection is now complete, with speedy striker Kenny Cunningham completing his first training session in Wellington today.

The Costa Rican international signed a two-year contract with the Phoenix after encouragement from compatriot Carlos Hernandez.

Cunningham only arrived yesterday after a long flight but looked sharp running on the right wing at Newtown Park.

The 28-year-old has played 10 games and scored one goal for Costa Rica, who are second in the Concacaf (North, Central American and Caribbean) section of World Cup qualifying.

''I'm happy to reach Wellington Phoenix,'' Cunningham said.

''I wanted to experience New Zealand and Wellington. Carlos spoke to me very good of the club. Beautiful team, a good team, a new coach and a strong league. It is important for every player to go to a good league.''

Cunningham thought the All Whites may end up facing Panama in November's home and away qualifiers - and he liked their chances of reaching next year's World Cup in Brazil.

''I think New Zealand and Costa Rica will go to the World Cup, 100 per cent. I want to go to the World Cup, that is the dream of every player, to go to the World Cup.''

Speaking through an interpreter, Cunningham said that things had not worked out at his previous club in Bolivia, The Strongest, because of the difficulties of adjusting to playing at a high altitude.

He had heard about the recent earthquakes in Wellington.

''No more.''

Hernandez said he was delighted to have his friend join him and had no doubt what he would bring to the team.

''Goals,'' Hernandez said.

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said Cunningham had the ability to switch between the left and the right flanks.

''He's a very fast, attacking striker who plays predominantly on the wing but comes inside also,'' Merrick said.

''He adds pace to our forward line.''

And, given Cunningham's limited grasp of English, how would Merrick get his messages across?

''Carlos interprets for him, he's got the handle on Scottish accents.''

The Dominion Post