Paul Ifill has not given up on playing for his beloved Phoenix again.
But at 34, and with running still months away, the off-contract striker is hedging his bets and making plans for life after football.
The Phoenix's all-time leading goalscorer was a spectator at pre-season training yesterday as he continues the slow grind of rehabilitation from the ruptured Achilles he suffered in December.
The club is helping with his rehab but Ifill is some way off returning to the pitch and pressing his claims for a new contract.
"I'm still looking at a few months yet before I can run and then get back on the pitch," Ifill said.
"There's also been a few problems with my injury insurance. I'm currently not being paid so I actually need employment. The players union are working on my behalf. The insurers are disputing the claim, which I find ridiculous, it was clear what I did and how I did it."
If he can't crack the Phoenix, Ifill plans to play in the national league and he is also setting up a football academy in Nelson.
He will continue living in Wellington but: "I don't want to be the guy who lends his name to an academy and is never there."
Ifill said he would fly down at least once a week but his involvement hinges on his playing future.
He would prefer to play in Wellington but Canterbury United coach Sean Devine is sniffing around.
Meanwhile, Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was impressed with his first look at new recruit Alejandro Gorrin yesterday.
"He can attack, defend or create, he's always available," Merrick said.
"His passing ability is first-class so we're really happy with him."
Fullback Josh Brindell-South has been re-signed on a one-year contract, bringing the squad size to 19.
Merrick had just nine contracted players when pre-season started last year.
"The standard of fitness was very poor, and we didn't have all the staff and pre-season schedule in place. We're so much further ahead this year."
But Merrick needs to land a high quality attacking midfielder and striker.
Talks with All Whites midfielder Michael McGlinchey are ongoing.
"He's the type of player we'd be after but Michael is contracted to two clubs at the moment [Vegalta Sendai and Central Coast Mariners].
"He is one of about five we're keeping a very close eye on. There's no guarantees and I won't make comment until we actually get a signature over the line. There are several good players on the radar and I'm confident we're on the right track."
Youngsters Hamish Watson, Justin Gulley, Tom Doyle, Andrew Blake and Tamupiwa Dimairo are all training with the first-team.
■ Western Suburbs coach Declan Edge has been banned for the rest of the season for referee abuse.
Capital Football chief executive Richard Reid said Edge and Wests had also incurred a "substantial fine."
Edge was sent from the sidelines during Wests' Chatham Cup loss to Miramar Rangers on Monday.
He abused referee Peter Linney after Linney had sent off his son Harry.
- The Dominion Post
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