Paul Ifill running uphill in fight back to fitness

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014
RUNNING MAN: Proud New Zealand resident Paul Ifill is back running at Phoenix training, or in this case panting, but still working on his citizenship.
Kevin Stent/Fairfax Media.
WORKING HARD: Paul Ifill is on the comeback trail from an Achilles injury.

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Injured Wellington Phoenix fan-favourite Paul Ifill and his family became New Zealand residents this week, but that hasn't done anything to alter his A-League import status.

That would take full citizenship, which is still a fair way off despite the 34-year-old having been a proud Wellingtonian since 2009.

Ifill is without a club for next season and still not sure if his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon will heal to the extent that he'll return to anything like the form that made him a two-time Phoenix player of the year.

The first priority, though, is getting himself registered as a local.

''I'm probably going to go and get a solicitor to work it all out for me,'' Ifill said.

It would certainly be worth his while, given it might prove to be his best route back to the A-League.

''Obviously the club have got four [of the permitted five] import spots taken up, so if they get another one between now and the time that I'm fit then that's obviously not great for me. But I wouldn't want to put the club under any pressure because I don't know how fit I can get and whether I'm going to get back at all.''

Progress on the physical front has been steady, but not spectacular. Ifill is running again, which he's enjoying for a change, even if he feels he'd like to be further along in his recovery.

''I was told 8-12 months when I did it and, being a footballer, you think I'll take a month or two off that and I'll be able to do it in six or seven. That's what I told myself and I'm nearly at seven and still not right.''

But he remains hopeful of resuming full football training within the next two months, at which point playing will become the priority.

''I'm trying to agree with the insurance companies so I can play at ASB [Premiership] level. I could possibly train with the Phoenix and then play [for a side like Team Wellington].

''The problem I've got is that I'm not going to know how the injury is until I play, at least at some standard. It's all very well training, but you can never replicate those movements and just the sprinting you have to do in games.

''So if I can play in the ASB maybe for October, November, even December, then at Christmas make a genuine decision about things that would be great. Ideally I'd be looking at an A-League return in maybe December or January if all went well.''

He conceded a lot of cards needed to fall his way, but couldn't fault the support he was getting from the Phoenix and coach Ernie Merrick during this rehabilitation phase.

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- The Dominion Post

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