India 'good bonding' for Wellington Phoenix
You wonder about the merits of it all, but Wellington Phoenix striker Paul Ifill says their two-week preseason tour to India had its upside.
Cricket teams go to India, not football ones, but the Phoenix have completed their draining exercise and sound a little wiser for the experience.
Clearly shattered by the 50-hour trip home, Ifill said the tour had been a good bonding exercise and thrown up a couple of young players for A-league consideration, notably youngster Louie Fenton.
Ifill suggested fans can look forward to a more adventurous approach from the Phoenix this season after they trialled "knocking the ball around a bit more".
They won three of their four games, the surprise loss coming in the final game when they were downed 3-2 by Shillong Lajong.
"Any preseason trip brings the boys together," Ifill said.
"At times it was tough but it was definitely a good experience and I enjoyed most of it.
"The travel was pretty tough but it will stand us in good stead for the season."
It remains to be seen whether the Phoenix have been scared off returning to India by poor training facilities and playing surfaces.
The final two games were played on artificial turf but, before that, one ground was rock hard and the other flooded.
"It was good but if you could guarantee decent training facilities and pitches it would've been better," Ifill said.
The success stories of the tour appear to have been newly signed Jeremy Brockie and Phoenix Academy player Fenton.
Brockie scored seven goals and Ifill predicts a bright future for the former Newcastle Jets forward.
"His finishing was exceptional," Ifill said.
"We've come up with a little understanding between the two of us, which seems to be working. He is good to play with, if we make chances for him he will score a lot of goals this year."
Fenton has been likened to Marco Rojas by assistant coach Chris Greenacre, and Ifill did not shy away from that comparison.
"You can compare Louie and Tyler [Boyd].
"Tyler is only 17. Louie is a little more robust than Marco, but maybe not quite the same natural ability, but he works really, really hard which is a good thing."
The Phoenix open their A-League campaign with a home game against Sydney FC on October 6.
Meanwhile, Ifill said he was delighted that former Phoenix team-mate James Musa had secured a contract with English Premier League club Fulham.
Ifill, who spent time at English clubs Millwall, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace, singled out "concentration" as the key if Musa was to make a good fist of it.
"He has all the attributes to make it as a professional, so hopefully they can help with that.
"Having watched him at the Olympics [OlyWhites], I thought he had sorted that out [concentration] so good to luck to him. I hope it works out."
The Dominion Post