Refreshed Wellington Phoenix striker Jeremy Brockie is starting to score goals again and would like nothing more than to find the back of the net against West Ham at Eden Park tonight.
Part of that comes from being a Manchester United fan, but mostly he'd love a high profile goal to keep his resurgence going.
After scoring 16 goals in his first season with the Phoenix his touch dried up last season with just four goals in 15 appearances.
The 26-year-old doesn't shy away from that disappointing dip and he's just happy that he's getting back into the groove with a handful of goals in the Phoenix's unbeaten preseason campaign in Wellington.
The stakes go up dramatically tonight against a multi-million dollar Hammers lineup but that suits Brockie just fine.
He says he's feeling fresh, something he lacked this time last year as he accepted an offseason offer from Ryan Nelson to play for Toronto in the American league. That compounded into his subsequent Phoenix form, meaning that he played virtually three seasons on the trot.
"Mentally and physically it just caught up with me ... being away in the offseason and not having a bit of a break. I've had a good break this time, I'm nice and refreshed and looking forward to the new season," Brockie said yesterday after the Phoenix completed their last training at Eden Park.
"It's always nice to knock a couple in the back of the net early on in the preseason and build that confidence and hopefully take it into the [A-League] season when it arrives. It's obviously a wee way off but building momentum and gaining confidence is important.
"I'm really excited about this game. It's a good opportunity for me to test myself against some good strong defenders."
Those defenders include his All Whites team mate Winston Reid whom he has never played against.
"Obviously I know him a little bit. He's a big physical player and hopefully I can compete.
"I've been up against him on the training pitch but it's different to a competitive game. I'm looking forward to it, I'm sure there will be a bit of banter. But it's all about fitness and enjoying the game.
"I've been lucky enough to play a few good countries playing for New Zealand but this is the first time I'm playing a Premier League team. You always like to play the best and it will be a good test for us.
"And as a Manchester United supporter it would be nice to get one in the back of the net and down their confidence for the Premier League season," he joked.
Into the third year of his Phoenix deal, Brockie agreed that standards and expectations had to lift.
"Obviously we have been pretty disappointing in terms of the ladder the last couple of years," he said of finishing last and second to last.
"There were bright spots throughout last season but it's all about consistency."
The Phoenix have noted the height and size of the west ham players and at 1.82m, Brockie has the physical dimensions to match them. Now it's about his touch and finishing, something that all the Phoenix players will be wondering.
Coach Ernie Merrick admitted some of his young players would have "stars in their eyes".
But he wanted this to be a performance that had long-term benefits for his team.
"We have talked about playing football and playing a standard that we want to maintain throughout the season ... not changing it just for one game, where we park the bus and counter-attack. It's about trying to play good football and that means midfield play," Merrick said.
"We have to be realistic about winning this game. We will certainly play to win but it's about midfield play and having the confidence to keep possession against top level players and not being intimidated."
HOW THEY LINE UP
What: Wellington Phoenix v West Ham
Where and when: Eden Park, Auckland, 7.30pm tonight
TV: Sky Arena pay-per-view,
Phoenix (from): Glen Moss, Michael Boxall, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante (c), Josh Brindell-South, Manny Muscat, Albert Riera, Alejandro Gorrin, Kenny Cunningham, Tyler Boyd, Michael McGlinchey, Tom Doyle, Jeremy Brockie, Roy Krishna, Reece Caira, Jason Hicks, Alex Rufer, Lewis Italiano, Louis Fenton, Matthew Ridenton, Nathan Burns
West Ham (from): Mo Diame, Winston Reid, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Aaron Cresswell, Diego Poyet, Kevin Nolan, Carlton Cole, James Tomkins, Matt Jarvis, Dan Potts, Cheikhou Kouyate, Andy Carroll, Sam Howes, Mauro Zarate, Stewart Downing, Daniel Whitehead, Ricardo Vaz Te, Adrian, Matthias Fanimo, Mark Noble, Joey O’Brien, Leo Chambers, James Collins, Guy Demel
TAB odds: nfPhoenix $5.50, West Ham $1.50. Draw: $4
- The Dominion Post
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